Sunday, 30 September 2012

An End And An Opportunity: Wrapping Up The Follow-Swap Blog Hop

Well the Follow-Swap Blog Hop is officially over, and I am officially stoked at how it went.

See, it's on Facebook. Therefore it's official.

In the end there were forty-four blogs on the list (which is about forty-three more than I expected), hundreds of views on my three FSBH posts, and enough lovely comments to earn me a permanent, stupid grin. And for that I can’t thank you enough. :D

I wanted the FSBH to be a chance for everyone (myself included) to get a better idea of what catches blog readers and turns them into followers, so now I’m dying to know what you learnt from all your hopping about. What made you immediately look for a blog’s follow button? What sent you running for the hills? (Hopefully nothing short of a yeti bursting out of your computer screen but you never know). What was more important to you: content, voice or design? Or was it the person behind the blog which appealed more?

Being a master of thinking ‘til I’m cross-eyed I’ve already got a list of ideas, but I want to leave it open to you guys first. I’ve had loads of people who couldn’t make this blog hop ask me when it’ll happen again, so this is your chance to get in on what will hopefully be an even bigger and better event next time. I’m going to compile a post with all your feedback and links to you/your blogs, so leave a comment with your blog’s URL and we’ll see what we can whip up.

And while you’re at it (or if you just need to kick-start you thinking caps), check out these limited edition, FSBH posts: The Follow-Swap Blog Hop: Effective Content and Defective Stamp Collections and The Follow-Swap Blog Hop: Twitter Profiles That Don't Make Me Facepalm

Thanks again, everyone.

Katherine Amabel

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Twitter Profiles That Don't Make Me Facepalm

I’ve been getting a fair few twitter followers lately, and considering that I was always the nerdiest kid in the school library, that’s a big deal. (Seriously, I think that guy with the skin condition had more friends than me). Anyway, the problem with this is that I feel a rant coming on. A nice, Follow-Swap Blog Hop rant.

See, for a lot of people twitter is their first contact with potential readers, and it’s being wasted. If you follow me and I see your profile says "tea drinker", I facepalm so hard I don’t wake up for an hour. I mean I’m not one to stand between a person and a warm beverage but don’t forget that that brief twitter bio is your chance to sell yourself to hundreds of people, so you want to be aiming for some sort of unique selling point, right?

While we’re on the subject, people don’t need to know where you live either. Unless they’re a) your grandma or b) a murderous stalker, they’re not going to remember a thing like that, so why waste any of your valuable 160 characters on it? Besides, writers don’t even go outside, let alone go visit total strangers. It makes no sense!

And speaking of serial killers, if your profile pic looks like a prison mug shot, I’m going to have to join those tea-drinkers and drown my sorrows in an English Breakfast. Your portrait is the face (every pun intended) of your marketing strategy, so it needs to show a little bit of you, even if that means looking as daggy as this.

Finally, make sure you've got a few interesting tweets showing on your profile page. If you’re having a lengthy conversation with someone, switch to DM’s or even that old classic, email. Either that or try and follow people when you’ve recently posted an interesting link or tweet, so that when they visit your profile you establish your reputation as a valuable source of information or a master of the ancient art of status-box comedy. That way when they’re scrolling through their twitter feeds they’ll actually stop when they see your profile picture.

I’m sorry to be making a fuss, and I'm not holding this against anyone because we're all just trying our best. So I’ll quit whining now and instead say think about the twitter profiles you remember. The ones that made you laugh, made you curious, or made you check out their blog because it looked like it could be useful to you. They’re the sort of profiles you should be aspiring to, not Joe Bloggs, the accountant from that town you’ve never heard of, who likes tepid water, chocolate, and is "loving life". I know how hard it is to write a book, build an author platform, raise three dogs and a pet husband (don’t even get me started on the pet husbands) and just want to see everyone's efforts turn out as worthwhile as possible.

After all, that’s what the follow-swap blog hop is all about, and I’d really appreciate it if you helped your fellow writers out, and spread the word with me. And if you like seeing my head nearly explode, here’s  one of my most popular rants  for you. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Effective Content and Defective Stamp Collections

Greetings, bloggers and penguin enthusiasts, the Follow-Swap Blog Hop is live & gaining entries! It's your chance to showcase your blog, so today's accompanying post is all about effective content. I won’t rant (yeah right, my last post turned out to be about sea-birds and I’m not even sure how it happened), but I’ll try and at least be helpful.
1. First you have to decide what you want to write. I know that sounds obvious, but remember your followers don’t necessarily want to read a series on the week you spent at the community center learning how to arrange stamp collections. Don’t feel that just because it’s your usual blogging day you have to churn out any old thing to keep up the schedule. Wait another day or two and post something amazing, because even if you’re not ensuring that you only ever post your best stuff, someone else will be taking that precaution with their blog.

2. Next, think about your blog’s target audience, and what they want and have come to expect from you. That doesn’t have to dictate what you’re going to write but at least let it set the tone, and don’t forget to keep up your writer’s voice, too. Whether it be funny, whimsical, thought-provoking or heartfelt, building loyal followers is all about consistency.

3. Got it worked out? Then write the thing! Try and include links to other relevant posts too, either by working links into your article or having a list of similar links at the end. It’s all about having a captive audience, and that means never letting them view one thing without tantalizing them with another. Grab an image or two to break up the text, being wary of having so many that your page takes ten minutes to load and gives everybody a migraine, and you’re done.

4. Finally, when you go to publish your blog post, take a long, hard think about the title. I know, I know, that seems rich from someone with such ridiculous and frequently irrelevant titles as On Cover Design, DIY Marketing and The Personification of Butt Cheeks…or Better than Bingo at a Knitting Club Tea-party: A Review, but hear me out. Your title will only be accompanied by your actual article for as long as it takes to fill your blog’s home page with posts. After that it’ll be nothing more than a link in an archive, so you had better make it stand out, and given that there won’t always be room in your sidebar to display the full title, you’ve got to hook us on the first words. (P.S. How’s that for walking the walk from step 3?) Plus, the more interesting your titles are, the more interesting your tweets about them should be, and the more traffic you’ll get.

So try it out now. You could even blog about your adventures in the Follow-Swap Blog Hop, because when your followers see what you’re up to and join in, and their followers see what they’re up to and join in too, then that’s just more potential followers for everyone.

It’s like a pyramid scheme, only legal.

And there's my accompanying picture. See, no pyramids here.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Penguins & Blog Followers: Come Showcase Your Work!

Blog followers are like penguins… aka, totally awesome. On the other hand, follow-for-a-follow-back systems can be a different story. See the trouble is if a potential follower happens to land on a page where the most recent post is “Why I love plain toast: an essay”, there’s no reason for them to keep reading. They’ll complete the obligatory follow and then move on to other blogs without properly exploring the one they’ve landed on. They may even form a mental note – subconsciously or otherwise – that the blog itself isn’t worth reading, and so when they do start receiving the emailed posts they’re highly likely to delete without even looking. And if the next post was, for example, “The Life and Habitat of Penguins”, then everybody misses out.
To make things worse, let’s say they stumble upon an interesting post from that blog in the future, maybe via twitter and so on. They might read it, even enjoy it, but it could still be perceived as an unusually interesting post from ‘that boring blog’. In other words, it won’t necessarily be enough to change that delete-without-reading habit.

So how do we, as bloggers, fix such a thing? Content! It seems obvious, but I’m sure we’ve all seen some ridiculously boring posts out there. What we need to ensure is that no one lands on our blogs without being entertained – informed – mystified – whatever, about our content. And in light of that, I’ve got an idea.

Everyone, get your best posts ready for... The Follow-Swap Blog Hop!

Grab the badge! (Link below).

The aim is simple: you can link to whatever page of your blog you like, but be sure to make it your best content so we can‘t resist following you. This is your chance to show off; to teach your potential new followers that when you email them a post, they sure as anything better open it up. And while you’re here, check out the other blogs, follow the ones you like, and even post them a comment to let them know what they’re doing right.

The blog hop will run all week, so you’ve got plenty of time to continually polish your posts and build a wow-worthy website. And with new blogs signing up as we go along, don’t forget to check back whenever you can to find more potential followers to interact with. 

Sound good?


It sounds like penguins.

UPDATE: Now check out The Follow Swap Blog Hop: Effective Content and Defective Stamp Collections, and The Follow-Swap Blog Hop: Twitter Profiles That Don't Make Me Facepalm - a special FSBH post just for FSBH-ers!

P.S. To add the badge to your blog, go through your blog's design options to add a gadget, select the HTML/Javascript option, and paste in this code:

<div align="left">
<a href="" title="Beyond The Hourglass Bridge" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Beyond The Hourglass Bridge" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Saturday, 15 September 2012

I Have The Fashion Sense Of An Op-shop Mannequin.

Hey, guys. Writer, blogger and show-er instead of teller Rhiann Wynn-Nolet of A Nest Of Words just awarded my blog a Reader Appreciation award, so I get to reveal seven things about myself and pass it on. Here goes!

1. I have the fashion sense of an op-shop mannequin. My favourite outfit? Mum jeans and a sensible t-shirt. Isn’t that what all the twenty-three year olds are wearing?

2. I became the nerdiest eight-year-old in history when I decided I wanted to be Prime Minister. I even wrote a list entitled ‘My Marvellous Morals’, featuring the principles I would uphold while governing the country. (No. 1. Make all the roads purple with pink stripes. That was my dress sense in the making).

3. I proceeded to grow into the nerdiest teenager in history; so much so that when I started high school I always sat at the front of the room because I thought I would learn more. Yeah, I know. I can’t work it out now either.

4. I feel bad for inanimate objects. Overstuffed pencil cases – I’ll half empty so it’s easier on the zip. Half-closed laptops – I’ll either close or open it, just to take the weight off the hinges. I even feel bad for the computer we all remotely access at work – we’re leeching its life force away!

5. Thanks to my years’ of telemarketing experience I’ve been known to answer my phone with “Hi it’s Katherine calling on behalf of… oh, sorry, um, hey,” or even finish calls I’ve made to a customer service line with “is there anything else I can do for you today?”

6. I have a terrible habit of singing my thoughts aloud. When my computer is having one of those days you’ll often hear me singing to myself, “just hurry up and work, you-total-piece, yeah!” (That’s right; it’s not a decent song unless it ends with a cheesy, “yeah!”)

7. I’m obsessed with marketing, ads, and any creative way to sell. It’s been observed that when I sit down to watch TV with anyone I end up working through the show but stopping to watch when the ads are on (and much to my companions’ delight, I’ll provide running commentary on what works and why while I’m at it). It’s so much of a passion for me that I invite any author, blogger, random-stranger-with-a-big-idea to contact me if they want to work on promoting something. As long as we can come up with an interesting way to market it, I’m in. (And there’s a nice little Dragon’s Den pun for anyone else as obsessive as me).

8. I can’t count. :P

And now, on to my nominees: 

Utsav and Brighton of Pineapple Lightning – Because they used the word ‘happenstance’ in a disclaimer on their recent pitch contest. Respect.

Dr. Margaret Aranda – Because her blog gives you a medically-approved excuse to spend hours playing with that fish widget.

Raewyn Hewitt of Dreaming of Other Realms – Because I sent her about seven chapters of my MS recently, asking for feedback only on the first, but she read them all anyway. Nawww.

Lisa Terry of Lisaslanding – Because her blog is littered with lovely bits of writing and I reckon they deserve a few more comments.

And finally Donna Hosie of Musings of a Penniless Writer – Because she self-published an awesome book after almost getting an agent for it, then landed an agent for another series. Perseverance, people!

Congratulations to my nominees on their awesome work. And last but not least, thank you so much Rhiann for nominating me! You should all check out her blogA Nest of Words, because she writes beautifully and portrays amazing imagery in just a few words. I can't wait to read more from her!

P.S. Nominees, here are the rules for you.

1. Identify and show appreciation to the blogger who nominated you.
2. You must add the reward logo to your blog.
3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5-10 of your favourite bloggers for this award.
5. Inform your nominees that you nominated them.

Have fun!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Happier Than A Nerd In A Library Full Of Star Wars Toys: Review of Scribendi Editing Service

I’ll start today’s post with a warning. This is a lesson I recently learnt the hard way, and I never want the same thing to happen to you. OK? Here goes.

Don’t forward emails in gmail, as chunks of text are likely to send in purple and you are likely to look like a lame, twelve year old girl.

Got it? Now on to the post. :P

A while ago, while naively certain I was ready to query my MS (ha! I haven’t felt that stupid since my childhood belief that cars plugged in and had bonnets full of retractable, vacuum-cleaner-style power cables), I decided to try out an editing service, and today I thought I’d outline the process for anyone considering it too.

Firstly I researched editing services and found two companies offering free samples for your first few pages. However one company’s homepage was so heavily plastered with pictures of hot women in office uniforms (a hallmark for any trustworthy website) that I chose only to try out Scribendi.

The Scribendi site boasted easily accessible quotes and a quick, simple process for submitting my work, which included an opportunity to note any existing concerns I wanted my editor to watch for. Within three days (not bad for a free service, and the paid version can be even quicker), they sent back three documents. The first was a clean revision with generic notes for both good and bad things which stood out as they were reading. The second was a tracked-changes document, which focused on grammar and punctuation and included the comments from the clean revision so I didn’t have to alternate between two files. The tracked-changes document shows you what isn’t working and includes suggestions on possible wordings to fix it, and I was given plenty of punctuation explanations to help me learn the rules for next time, which was particularly helpful given the difference between Australian and American standards (apparently ‘g’day mate’ isn’t a commonly used salutation in the US. I know, I’m surprised too. :P).

Finally, my Scribendi editor sent a page of overall comments, with separate sections for story/plot, characters & characterization, narrative/prose, language/grammar, dialogue, word choice and final thoughts. Unfortunately they raved about my work so much that I couldn’t tell whether they were being honest or just trying to win me over as a customer. It’s no exaggeration that they were fangirling worse than a nerd in a library full of star wars toys and at first this put me off buying a sample, however their advice was still extremely helpful, and eventually I treated myself to a paid edit of my first chapter. At $32.71 for 1434 words you may say it’s a little steep, or you may say it’s worth it for a serve of editorial goodness, but either way I have a recommendation for you. Edit like crazy yourself first, so you get to know whether your editorial style is working, and so you don’t end up paying to perfect something you’ll only scrap later. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Pitch/Query Workshop - GUTGAA Blogfest.

Hi fellow GUTGAA-ers, I'm trying something a little different today as part of our workshop. For a start I’ve left the query til last because I already have so much advice on it that if I get any more I think my head will explode. (Not even kidding). Secondly, I've recently re-arranged my first and second chapters, so this is the first time these words have been considered as the opening words of my MS. Scary, huh? But I can't wait to hear what you think and don't forget - be as harsh as you like. Every little bit helps. Thanks!

Katherine Amabel
The Hourglass Bridge
YA Urban Fantasy
90, 000 words

First 150 words:

The lie was simple; the effect, staggering.
A piercing screech erupted through the drawing room with enough violence to shake the thatch from the ceiling. Pain exploded in Arthur’s temples. He attempted a spell to block it out but he may as well have tried turning a gnome into a nymph for all the success he had. Rosemary, his twin, was about to yell at him anyway when the noise died down to a hiss. It still felt sharp enough to drill holes into their heads.
“Excellent work!” their tutor, Mr. Begley, congratulated Arthur over the noise. “Try it again.”
“Do you speak truth?” Arthur demanded, directing his wand at Mr. Begley’s throat.
“Of course,” he replied, and his soft, Irish accent soothed the hissing away to nothing.
“Gosh,” Arthur said. “That was…”
“Horrid, I know, but Levina insists I teach you these things. She wants you to be safe.”

Query Pitch:

Dear Agent,

When an involuntary daydream during history class leaves Diamond sleep ranting about a plot against evil, she thinks the worst is over at being scolded by her favourite teacher and giving her bullies more to laugh at. However that’s before Arthur, a breathtakingly chivalrous teenage wizard, pulls her into sixteenth century Wales, expecting her to save his life.

Convinced he’s got the wrong history buff, Di is ready to suggest he stick his head on a pike and stay there – until she learns the truth. Arthur is about to inherit the legendary powers that protect his hidden, magical civilization. Malicia, an immortal witch whose looks can kill and whose temper shatters mountains, intends to destroy him for it. And a cryptic message says if Di can’t protect him, she and her twin brother will be next.

Determined to keep her brother safe, even if he is a pain in the butt who probably deserves time on the rack, Di agrees to hide Arthur in the modern world until he is powerful enough to fight. Caught in a double life of sword fights, covert magic lessons, and near death (by embarrassment) experiences as she involuntarily swoons all over him, she refuses to acknowledge the destructive forces growing inside her. But when enemy spies attack her ancestors, and her brother develops saintly new powers which make him the most vulnerable target of all, Di realises she must decipher the ancient secrets of her bloodline and finish the war her daydream may have started – even if it means succumbing to a darker side of herself.

Writing, Wedgies, and Hollywood Slugs...

Hey guys, Robbie MacNiven just tagged me in a special ‘Gearing-Up-To-Get-An-Agent Blogfest’ game of cyber tag, and I'm so excited that for once I'll save my idiotic ramblings from the start of the post, and include them in with my answers instead. Enjoy!

What is the working title of your book?

— The Hourglass Bridge. (I’ve also got the working cover, the working blog, the working movie trailer and even the working camera angles and theme song for the final scene in the working finale of the working series. Some say I’m obsessive… I say leave me alone, I’m working).

Where did the idea come from for the book?

As I touched on in my #GUTGAA meet & greet post, I woke up seeing a girl find a magic book and unknowingly summon a young witch and wizard into her room. But I had to ask, why was the book there? A: Because someone put it there. But why? A: Because they needed her. But why? (Yeah, I was one of those kids. Even I want to give young-me a wedgie). Anyway eventually I changed the book to an hourglass and developed an entire plot… as well as a debilitating crush on an imaginary sixteen-year-old from the sixteenth century.

Just my luck.

What genre does your book fall under?

— YA historical urban fantasy with a mystery bent and a hint of romantic suspense, written to outsell 50 Shades of The Hunger Games and be made into ten movies. (Now, if I could just pitch that to an agent, they’ll be thrilled...)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Johnathan Rhys Myers as my crush’s tutor. Steven R. MacQueen as the MC’s twin brother. Gary Oldman as an important old guy I don’t have room to explain here. Daniel Craig as the king. Ian McKellan and Michael Gambon as the time keepers. Eva Green as the antagonist, and so on...

Not that I’ve thought about it, though.

What is the one-sentence short synopsis of your book?

Hauled into sixteenth century Wales, a shy, teenage history buff must embrace the destructive powers she never knew she had, to protect her ancestors from a war she doesn’t know she started.

Also, there are slugs.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

— Depends whether you mean in my mind or in real life. :P Haha in all seriousness I’ve only sent out about four queries so I’m hoping for an agent, but I am extremely passionate about marketing (hence building this entire blog around book marketing and promotion) so I’m working on my author platform and look forward to the challenge of self-publishing if that’s the way life takes me.  

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

— Five months, and as soon as I finished and read it I decided there was more to tell before those events, so I threw it away and started another, which also took five months. I did all this in between travel, university, playing in a band and having a job, and by the end I had broken the Guinness world record for being the first person to go without sleep for one year straight. I’ve since spent two years editing, and slowly going insane.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um, I thought everyone would have been sold on the slugs. No? Geez, tough crowd. Ok, how about the last line of the entire book? You ready? You sure? Well here it is…

The end.*

And now, time to tag three more GUTGAA-ERS! I pick…

@abswrites from over at
@julianalbrandt from over at

and finally… I’ll pick from whoever tags themselves here today in the comment box. OK? Go!

*Disclaimer: Not actually the last line. Sorry. I was counting on the slugs.

And The Dodgy Spy With The Awesome Prize Is...

If yuo can raed this cdoe it maens yuore an ecxlelent spy…

Either that or its fine, and I’ve just lost my glasses.

Anyway while you’re all milling around looking inconspicuous, it’s time to announce the dodgy spy with the awesome prize. And the winner, in no particular order (except backwards for extra secrecy), is…

F .ardnassaK

Congratulations! I’ll get in touch with you to arrange your prize!

Monday, 3 September 2012

My Superpower: Making a Fool of Myself on Cue. e.g. This Post

One girl...
One novel...
One blog...
No life.

Sounds like a lame t-shirt, doesn’t it? In reality it’s me in a nutshell (a nice, cozy, claustrophobic one), and I’d like to welcome you here as part of the Gearing Up To Get An Agent blogfest. I’ve never done this before (participated in a blogfest, I mean. I have squishy, nutshell-parties all the time), and I’m kicking things off by joining in the meet and greet. Leave me a comment with your blog link so I can visit you back, and feel free to say g’day on twitter, @katherineamabel.

Where do you write?
--Anywhere, as long as it’s sunny. (My brain shuts down below room temperature).

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
--My left hand. (Sorry. My resume says I’m proficient in dad jokes).

Favorite time to write?
--At 2:00am, whilst drinking mead alone and listening to epic orchestral soundtrack music. (I’m writing historical fantasy so really it’s only a little bit creepy).

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
--I woke up with the inciting incident playing in my head. I was lying on some cardboard which thought it was a mattress in a dump which thought it was a hostel, in Luzern, Switzerland.

What's your most valuable writing tip?
--Rejoice in editing. Every time you don’t, the devil creates another lolcat. (IZ IS SRIOUS, GYZ).

If you had a super-power, what would it be?
--I already have one – the ability to make an idiot of myself wherever possible. (examples: this post/losing a race in primary school because I was “waiting for my chums”/throwing up during every excursion I’ve ever been on/falling asleep in my armchair just now and only waking up when I choked on my own spit/and so on.) I’d also love to have telekinesis, but mainly because I could levitate the dirt out of my carpet.

See what I mean about no life? I mean, welcome! And since I've done nothing but ramble about myself instead of writing and blogging, (which is kind of what this whole thing is about), I'm throwing in the links to some of my most popular posts so far. Enjoy!

Better Than Bingo at a Knitting Club Tea-Party: A Review
On Cover Design, DIY Marketing And The Personification Of Butt Cheeks...
A Spot of Bother For The Web-less Blogger
My Novel Went To Slovenia And All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post