Tag Archives: Cool Tools

I Gotcha’ Covered with Quotes

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My mother always told me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Wise advice.  I should have followed it more often. 

The Bible gives a good reason for keeping silent. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.”  To be successful, you should probably have a wise look on your face, not a scowl.

There certainly is a time to be silent.  

There’s also a time to speak:  to encourage, enlighten, or empower. If you don’t have anything nice to say, and there’s a need for wise words,  I have a Plan B.

Quote someone else.

Quotes are the rage of social media, with all the cool graphics  that make us laugh until we cry, and cry until we run our mascara. They make us want to buy a dog and/or a gun and read labels for fear of ingesting anything with lotsa’ initials. Most of the time we share them or like them because we were moved to emotion.

Quotes play a part on influencing humans.

  • invoke action
  • inspire
  • empathize
  • motivate
  • sympathize
  • advertise
  • celebrate
  • humor
  • convict

Why waste the energy on a lengthy discourse when you can cover the territory with a one-liner?

Today’s Cool Tool helps create your own graphics using borrowed words or your own words of wisdom.  Introducing Quotes Cover.

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At QuotesCover.Com click on CREATE QUOTES PIC in upper right hand corner.

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On the next screen you choose a QUOTE or PROVERB from their lists or type in the CUSTOM WORDING box.

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I’ve read the article,  “Get Thee to a Writers Conference” several times and wanted to use James Scott Bell’s quote.

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Five choices on the next screen.  I chose VIRAL STATUS UPDATES. I’m a Facebook junky.

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I chose SQUARE.

 

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The options aren’t like  Word’s environment, where you choose text font and size.  You click “NEXT” and they randomly change your image’s text and color.

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Are you ready to go viral?

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It automatically puts the text of your quote as your status.  If you want to add your own status update, save your graphic to your computer, then upload as you would a regular picture.

Want to make your Facebook Cover inspirational?

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They provide an easy to understand tutorial.

I’d previously blogged about two other quote-making Cool Tools, Quozio and Recite This,  and I’m sure you remember my very exciting tutorials. Quotes Cover has a feature they don’t, it allows you to upload your own backgrounds.

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Since  I’m all about using COOL TOOLS to make COOL QUOTES, I take pictures  of unusual things to use for backgrounds.  This pink ceiling is in a historic building in St. Augustine, Florida.

Pictures of fences, streets, brick walls, clouds, sand, stucco walls, asphalt streets, doors, and windows are filling up my files.  (Note to self: label pics as I upload to find them easily.)

When you upload your own photos, choose VIRAL STATUS then LANDSCAPE.

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My picture of a stairwell in St. Augustine.  Doesn’t everybody take pics of steps while on vacation?

Using  Bing,  I typed in “quotes about stairs” and clicked to http://thinkexist.com to choose.  Vance Havner is a man worth quoting, so this was perfect for my picture and my life goals.

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You can’t change the font size, but you can use the little boxes to manipulate text size and move the text box.

Tip for the advanced: The Quotes Cover environment only allows horizontal pictures.  It cut off most of my door because my picture is vertical. I used Windows Live Photo Gallery to rotate my picture first, then uploaded it sideways.

Of course, I had to tip the text box sideways, too, and lean over my computer to create these graphics, but it worked.  After saving, I simply rotated it upright and massaged my neck for a few minutes before finishing this blog post.

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Put an asterisk in front of words you would like highlighted.  When you upload your own background, they allow you to add special effects by clicking a button.

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It’s a random process of clicking until you’re satisfied.

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Quotes Cover helps you create a graphic to encourage, enlighten, or empower.

He Never Met a Metaphor He Didn’t Like

Are you a word-nerd who loves saying, reading, and studying words? Did you read a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia just for fun?  Yea, we are kindred spirits, aren’t we? 

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Today’s COOL TOOL comes from a word-loving North Dakota boy, yea, that’s where I was born, too, thanks for asking. We also attended the same college,  University of North Dakota, just not at the same time.image

Go Sioux!  Anyhoo, back to the tool.

Dr. Mardy was described on his website by Chiastic Quotes winner Bill Porter.

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Other people grew up collecting spoons, bells, model cars, and stamps, Dr. Mardy grew up collecting words.

He has two specialties – relationships and words. Early in his career as a  therapist and marriage counselor, his words helped heal relationships.  When his interests shifted into using his words to improve business relationships, he became  a pioneer in “business therapy.” His passion for words and relationships led to the creation of new words, because this field is now called Executive Coaching and Team-Building.

He’s not only a genius with words, he shares his genius. I can’t actually give away a doctor on my blog, but I can give you his two free COOL TOOLS.

Yep, two.  Two-for-the-price-of-one, which is still FREE.

You’re going to love this brand-new baby, hot off the press January 1st by Dr. Mardy,  a Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations. 

Can you believe he compiled such a work of heart?

I.

Stand.

Amazed.

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On his website, Dr. Mardy says, “Metaphorical thinking is at the heart of the human experience…when great writers or thinkers have attempted to describe or explain something in a compelling or unforgettable way, their chief tool has been metaphorical phrasing. It is the key to elevating human language from the prosaic to the poetic.”

Index of Topics is here.

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Would most of you women type in “love” first? This is what you’d get.

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For any male readers, I typed “war” in the search bar.

Were you enticed by the topics on writing?  You’ll have to click over there to read them yourself.

Dr. Mardy  explains three “superstars” of figurative language represented in his lists:

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As if avid readers and writers don’t already say “didja’ know?” enough, this COOL TOOL  will load you with an arsenal of wisdom to launch at your next office party, dinner date, or to that captive audience in the elevator.

This is such a big deal to the cyber-world and the literary world, Dr. Mardy is already getting some loud shout-outs.

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Click on the box to read the article written by Richard Nordquist, Ph.D. in English, professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University and the Grammar & Composition Guide for About.com.    About.com is the online source of all wisdom you should use instead of Wikipedia, but since my kids don’t read my blog, I’ll have to remind them in person.

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Click on the box for the article that shows The Huffington Post is also impressed.  Michael Sigman says, “your search for the perfect metaphor may be (almost) over.”

So, two really smart guys and one not-so-smart blogger enjoy this tool already.

Remember I promised you a 2fer?  Two-fer-the-price-of-one? (That’s MinneSOtan, ya’ know.)

Here’s the COOL TOOL I’ve used for a few years, his free weekly email newsletter.

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Check out his archives here, in case you can’t take my word for it. Reading his newsletter is like wrapping up in a cozy, literary fuzzy and drinking a warm cup of inspiration.

So, there ya’ go, two free COOL TOOLS so you can hang out with the brilliant guy,  Dr. Mardy, who loves sharing his collection of words.

NeverismsIfferismsI Never Metaphor I Didn't LikeViva la ReparteeOxymoronicaNever Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You

(Click on each book to read more.)

Click to Tweet:

Dr. Mardy never met a metaphor he didn’t like.  Meet them all in his dictionary.Tweet

Becoming a Character Who Creates Unforgettable Characters

 

I’m always amazed that talented authors will share their writing secrets.  For free.

I  attended a few sessions of the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland, WA in November. Image tables of books, hordes of writers and workshops with all the information you need to become an overnight best-selling sensation.  OK, everything is true except that last part. I made that up because we all have that dream, right? 

Success doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen quickly.  Writers must always learn, grow, and improve. 

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My Cool Tool for today was shared  by Darlene Panzera, author of several titles including the Cupcake Diaries, in her workshop “Building a Novel.”

Novelists should  develop unforgettable characters that become friends with the readers and become a part of their favorite memories. The task shouldn’t be too hard for a people group considered by others to be “characters.”

Darlene said, “Great characters have impact on the world around them and cause change in others.” Those changes become subplots.

Darlene Panzera

To develop her characters, Darlene creates Character Cards. Each main character has their own colorful card with pics and critical details. That way you don’t accidentally change someone’s eye color, the name of  your heroine’s cousin,  or the kind of car she drives.

She provided a list of details that can be included while creating your characters.

Name:
Age:
Job:
Role in Story:
Archetype:
Single/Married/Divorced:
Hair:
Eyes:
Face:
Build/Figure:
Imperfections:
Mannerisms, Habits:
Self Image: I am __________
How do Others View Character?
Brief Past History:
External Conflicts:
Internal Conflicts:
Strengths:
Weaknesses:
Biggest Fear:

What will be your character’s arc over course of story?  How will character   grow, become wiser or change?
What motivates character?  (Core value)
Goal: What does the character want?
What is the character’s problem or need?
How does she feel about it?
Why must character reach goal, come to decision, or find new insight?
How does character view others?  Attitude?
Who are friends and why?
Who are enemies and why?
Where does character live?
Home – Interior and Exterior:
Education?
Religion or lack of it?
Favorite food/color/music?
Vehicles?
Hobbies/interest/special skills?
Pets?
Most embarrassing incident in past?
Best thing happened to them?  Worst?
What influences of history would bear directly and indirectly on the character’s daily existence?
What are the major events or attitudes in the character’s life that have made him react to life in specific ways?
What is their family like? 
How much influence do they have on the character?
What is their favorite spot in home or town?

After you’ve created your characters in your imagination, they may take over in ways you hadn’t imagined.

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Readers live vicariously through believable characters and overcome obstacles, heal  hearts, and fall in love.  And, when they close the back cover and step back into their real worlds, they’ll bring those experiences with them.

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A collage is another visual Cool Tool Darlene has used. This is great start for the brainstorming stage of your novel. Cut and paste to create the world your characters will live in, using news headlines, locations, cars, houses, hobbies, and bits of interesting dialogue. It spurs on creativity during each stage of the writing process.

Imaginary friends aren’t just for children – they’re unforgettable characters created by novelists.


Cupcake     Cupcake p. 2

For further study:

Rock Your Facebook Social Media Tabs

 

My generation liked  matchy-matchy.  If we were styling brown shoes, we had a brown belt and purse. We would never  *gasp* wear brown boots and carry a black purse. The  wild colors and un-matching accessories of today can be hard on my 80’s sensibilities.

Today’s young women look fashionable and amazing – but I just can’t do it.  Pink pants and a lime green shirt?  Uffda.  Wait, this must be how my mom felt when I wore white sandals after September 1st.

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Anyhoo, today’s Cool Tool helped me transform my Facebook Author Page to be all matchy-matchy.  Remember the criteria for my Cool Tools?  They have to be free and easy enough for this old lady blogger to figger out.

image See the new coordinating look on my social media tabs?  They all sport the same vintage typewriter.  It started out by finding Joie de vie blog.  She introduced me to Woobox.  Yes, this little place on the internet  wooed my heart by promising to make my Facebook page all matchy-matchy. 

 

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Using Microsoft Word I typed up my titles using Courier New, the  most old-fashioned script, font size 99.  Yep, I lugged my vintage typewriter outside and posed it on table in the Redneck Grill, my backyard fire pit area made of weathered gray wood. This is the  same gray wood you see all around my social places.

I stood on a lawn chair, because I am too short for aerial view, and shot from different angles to see what I preferred.  When the photos were  scaled down to create the tabs the letters were too small to read, so I cropped them in Windows Live Photo Gallery, a free download from Microsoft. Yes, I blogged about that Cool Tool, too.

I used photographs for my custom tabs, but use your creativity to show your personality and interests. You could create images in Quozio, Ribbet, or  Recite This.

Then, I clicked over to Woobox.

 

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FREE!  Is that not music to your ears?  Start at  Woobox and scroll to the bottom to find this green starting place.

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You want to find Static Tabs at the top of the next screen.

 

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Click Create a New Tab  on the top right side of the screen.

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It drops down and Woobox offers you these choices.

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I clicked on Pinterest and this dialogue box that popped up.  Click to enlarge if you’re old and infirmed like me and can’t read those little letters.

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Click on change to bring you to your  photos.  Choose the one you want from your own files and save.

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Ta Da!  A customized Facebook Fan Page everybody is sure to love, especially those from the 80’s!

If you update your tabs, please leave a link in the comment section to add to the inspiration!  I’d love to see what others create.

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?

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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. 

 

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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.)

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

 

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

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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.

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

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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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?

 

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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.

 

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

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

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I especially love the old ads. 

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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It will take you to a page with your quote.

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Now click on your bookmarklet icon.

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Choose the picture of the quote.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

Replace Tired Clichés with the Art of Surprise

 

In October 2005 I was in the HYPER HELL stage of  thyroid cancer treatment.  My  thyroid gland and about 30 lymph nodes had been scalpeled  into medical waste. I had been a science-fiction freak in the hospital, undergoing radioactive iodine treatment.  I was kept in the hospital for three days until the Geiger counter read less than 4mc of radioactivity. The final stage is six months of taking the highest amount of thyroid hormone as you can without hurting anybody.

I took the three kids I was homeschooling and drove to Montana.At 40 years old, I still needed my Mommy and Daddy. 

While reading the Helena Independent Record,  I found this ad.

 

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I wasn’t just recuperating from my present cancer, I was instant replaying my past and adjusting to the reality of my future.  I loved the hubby and the six kids.  I loved the rest of my life, minus the part about puking my guts out in the hospital and wearing a scar that looked like I almost got decapitated.

The only thing unfulfilled in my life was writing, and the Festival of the Book was offering me a chance to change that.

The first workshop I attended  was the “Art of Surprise” with  Deirdre McNamer, novelist.

I think I stared with my mouth wide opening, absorbing her wisdom.  I also know I wiped away more than one tear.  How could I begin to express the way the Lord led me to that time and that place? 

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So, my free Cool Tool today is the “Art of Surprise” as introduced by McNamer so many years ago.

She described our imaginary  cliché’ drawer, an inexpressive place we  reach in and grab what’s quick and easy, but she begged the room full of novelist-wannabes not to use tired and predictable language.

It’s easy to spot cliché phrases. I even knew that as a beginning writer, but she dove deeper than I’d been challenged before with personal anecdotes and advice,  quotations from writers and examples in writing.

Metaphor:

Metaphors are  small surprises in a reader’s experience.

 

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“When writing is successful, the reader senses that the climax is coming and feels a strong urge to skip to it directly, but cannot quite tear himself from the paragraph he’s on.  Ideally, every element in the lead-in passage should be a relevant distraction that heightens the reader’s anticipation and at the same time holds, itself, such interest – through richness of literal or metaphoric language, through startling accuracy of perception, or through the deepening thematic and emotional effect of significant earlier moments recalled – that the reader is reluctant to dash one.”       John Gardner in The Art of Fiction.

She illustrated with  Bryan Di Salvatore’s description of Merle Haggard’s walk, “…and as he swings his arms and bends his legs the effect is of an almost fluid lurch, as if he were forever taking his first step off an escalator.”

The Unpredictable Word:

When you use a surprising word, especially at the beginning, it signals more surprises and keeps the readers at a higher level of attention.

“Chloe had red-gold hair, hazel eyes, an illegible smile, face like a doll…” Chronicles by Bob Dylan.

“Carry a notebook and write down all the details and description as you see them,” said McNamer. I haven’t been without a journal and a pen since then.

 

The Unpredictable Character:

McNamer encouraged writers to break assumptions people might have about our characters. “A kind woman with an obnoxious voice surprises you and creates tension, a sweet voice doesn’t always indicate kindness.”

Points of Surprise in a  Plot:

She used  Penelope Fitzgerald’s description of a good plot as one that “makes you want to interfere.”

McNamer said, “If the plot is too plain or clichéd you lose people, if it’s too wild you lose people.”

Other great quotes I scribbled on my college ruled notebook paper:

“In the end the reader should feel the world has opened up.”

“Even the writer should be uneasy (creatively).”

“Don’t storm around about how YOU feel – bring them there.”

I drove Montana for relief and help at the end of my healthy life and found the beginning of my writing life.

I’d say the Lord practices the Art of Surprise even better than McNamer.