Daily Tao ☯ 6.13.17

I got upset with Facebook this morning for the ridiculous way they “serve” me to the people who have liked and follow my official J.T. Ellison page. I don’t normally pop off but it’s been really bad this past week, literally a fraction of people being served the posts, so I complained—and more than quadrupled the past few post's engagement. 

It made me wonder… yes, Facebook wants me to advertise, but on a more personal level, I see this happen elsewhere. I post something happy and inspirational, and get a lovely, but intimate response. I lose my temper or bitch about something, and it’s like opening the floodgates.

Are we all so dissatisfied with our worlds right now? Or is it something else entirely—people are so ready to comfort, to jump in and say hey, you’re going to be okay, it’s all good? 

I prefer the latter, and it certainly feels that way to me. 

I loved that the majority of the comments today were “I see you.” In a fast-paced world with a ton of distractions, it was very cool to not only have people comment, but to use that particular phraseology.

Sometimes, it does feel like we aren’t seen. We’re talked to, we’re preached to, we’re forgotten. To be seen, to really be top of mind to a virtual friend—it takes effort, on both sides. 

I see you. I see all the comment, the likes, the messages. I am glad to hear you see me, too.

Fun writing day today — great progress on THE BLOOD CABAL, the outline is officially submitted and the story is working well—and edits on a new short story I will have in your hands pretty soon! (How’s that for a tease???)

Sweet, non-grumpy dreams!

Author Assistant 101: The Best Tool I Use to Create Images

Hey, peeps! It’s me, The Kerr. Welcome to June. (yes, June—I’m not sure how it happened, either)

Today we continue my Best Tools series for author assistants and other communicators. So buckle up, buttercup!

Since we spoke last, I bet you’ve organized your life into beautiful To-Do lists. Perhaps you went a step further and transcribed your To-Do lists onto color-coded Google Calendars. Maybe you’ve gone to the full organizational dark side and are now the proud owner of a label maker. 😱

Or maybe you thought Wunderlist was for the birds. That’s okay, too. We can still be friends.

At any rate, let’s grab a cup of coffee and talk about . . . images.

o rly sloth is fascinated with my post

We all have social media accounts (or at least 94% of Internet users do). You may have noticed that almost every post has an image attached—a photo, some words, a combination of both. There’s good reason for this: we humans process images in 13 milliseconds, which is much faster than we can process text. As much as we humans love words (because if you’re on this blog, you undoubtedly do), there’s no denying at heart (at brain?) we are visual creatures.

This is good for you, fellow communicator. Why? 

Because it’s never been easier to create beautiful, shareable images for your author’s social media platforms.

For this I thank you, Canva.

 

Canva is a (free!) tool that helps anyone create a beautiful, shareable image in just seconds.

Seconds, I say. I’m not even joking.
 

Why do I use Canva?

1. It's easy. The Adobe Creative Suite is daunting—I don’t know the jargon and capabilities of each program. Do I have time to learn them? Not at 10:37 a.m. on a Thursday, when I learn one of J.T.'s books is having a flash sale and I want to shout it from the rooftops ASAP. I want an image with all the details her readers need—and quickly. With Canva, I can do just that. 

Don’t overthink it, y’all. This is coming from a classic over thinker.
 

2. It's fast. Canva is intuitive—it has a clean interface with drag-and-drop capabilities. This means you can create a fabulous social image in thirty seconds. Maybe even fifteen. Ten, probably, though don’t get crazy.
 

3. It's fun! Because making images on Canva is easy and fast, this also means Canva is fairly stress-free (aka you won’t say many four-letter words when you’re using the program). 

Stress-free = you can play around with features. 

And play = fun.

Ergo, by law of the transitive property, Canva = fun.
 

These are my favorite Canva features:

1. Templates! Savior of busy assistants and social media marketers everywhere, Canva has templates for each social platform (correctly sized, dear reader! 😭), and then some. Can you say game changer?

even more templates below!


 

2. Magic Resize! Full disclosure: Magic Resize is a paid feature. But if you’re juggling a variety of social platforms, this will save you oodles of time. With the click of a button, you can create correctly-sized images for each platform. 

more magical than Hogwarts!


 

3. Image library! Canva stores each design draft, and all of the images you upload into its database (don’t quote me on this, but I don’t think there’s a data limit). This is super convenient if you’re creating a variety of images for a book campaign, of if you’re creating branded content for a series (like this one!).

Visual Image Library FTW!


 

4. Save images in different formats! Whether you need a low-res or print-quality image, Canva’s got your back. I haven’t tried making a gif in Canva, but I'll play around with that soon!

save an image in different formats!


 

Bottom line: Canva has saved me countless hours. Once upon a time in 2015, I was still using Microsoft Publisher to make images and memes, and softly weeping each time I did. 

Not so with Canva. It’ll stay in my toolbox for a while.
 

How do you create social images? Let’s chat about it in the Comments!
 

P.S. Looking for royalty-free stock images? Check out Pablo by Buffer!

On Lent, and Doing Good Things for Ourselves and Others

It’s that time of year, when I give up social media for Lent. For the next six weeks, I will be turning inward, and stepping back from all things online.

I’ll still have blogs here, and since I have a release in two weeks (!) I will certainly pop up to say “Hey, buy mah book,” but otherwise, I will be silent.

Lent is just that for me, a time to reflect, to go silent. To look away from the world. It is incredibly difficult for me, which is why this is my Lenten abstinence of choice. I’ve given up Starbucks in the past, smoking, wine, chocolate, but none of those things (outside of smoking — that was a good one, it stuck) truly feel like a sacrifice.

Social media, on the other hand, does. I don’t like not having ready contact with people. I don’t like missing out on photos and news. I certainly don’t like not chatting with folks about books.

Which is why this is the right thing for me to give up. It really does affect me, puts me in a different mind space, where I can contemplate life and creativity and my spiritual nature. I was raised Episcopal, which is why I celebrate Lent in the first place, but over the years I’ve brought a number of tenets from various religions into my daily life, especially Buddhism. I’ve always felt everyone is right, and every religion and belief structure has something worth exploring.

So the weeks stretch ahead of me, unformed, open. There will be a lot of yoga, and meditation. And writing. Of course, there will be writing.

Whether you celebrate or not, may I offer this blessing for your next six weeks? That you have moments of quiet gratitude. That you are showered with kindness from strangers, and in turn have some to spare for others. We have all been put through the wringer over the past six months, and I can only hope that things calm down, that everyone feels less threatened and upset, and we can all work together to keep making our lives, and the lives of others, wonderful.

Blessed be!

Sea Changes, Part Two

Sea Changes, Part Two

To read Part One, click here.

Since I’m reworking many of my habits this year, I thought I’d continue on the theme of Sea Changes. 

Now that I’ve decided to start leaving my iPad downstairs, I’ve made another change, this time in how I consume my social media.

I’ve been systematically turning off straight retweets in my Twitter feed.

It didn’t feel like a major idea, but once I started, it’s become a rather big deal. 

How does this work? Whenever I see an organic retweet, meaning the person I follow has simply clicked the retweet button, I go to that person’s page and turn off retweets. If the retweet comes with a message from my friend, then I see it, but if it’s just a regular click-to-spread thought, I don’t. 

Simple. And mind-blowing. 

It’s been a really interesting exercise, and one which has given me great pleasure, because I’m seeing posts from my friends again! I purposefully keep my follow count low on Twitter so I can actually connect with people there, and this has been one of the best things I’ve done in ages.

I’ve also noticed that people have a tendency to retweet things they may believe but would NEVER say themselves. Interesting, right? I know I’m guilty of doing that, too. But from here on out, if I’m retweeting, I’ll be commenting as well, so my followers know why I want them to pay attention to the post. Intentionality. I think it will help my interactions tremendously, because Twitter stopped having a lot happy feels for me a while ago.

And on Facebook, I’ve been doing some housekeeping as well. On my personal page, if I see a post from someone I don’t know (vestiges of my 5000 friend days — I moved everyone I didn’t know over to the fan page years ago, but there are still some I missed), I hide it. Especially if it’s something incendiary. I am a believer in democracy. I took an oath to protect and defend this country, one that I still take seriously. And I have faith in our people to make their own decisions. Some of the posts I’ve seen lately have been obscene, and hateful, and even though I’m not thrilled with the way of the world right now, I respect the process of democracy.

Now, if someone I know and like says something I don’t, no big deal. I firmly believe in free speech, and seeing my friend’s different opinions isn’t an issue for me. I might make a mental note to tease them a bit the next time I see them, or even comment, but in general, I read and try to understand where they’re coming from. I learn from my friends with whom I don’t agree 100% of the time. This is a good thing. I like a good clean debate, well-reasoned arguments, and being exposed to new ideas. I actually don’t know many people who don’t.

But strangers clogging up my feed with hate get unfollowed. Simple as that. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, either. 

Now if I could just teach Facebook to give me the most recent posts ALL THE TIME…

What Does An Author Assistant Do? (besides wear yoga pants)

Hi, guys! Amy here.

You may have seen my name floating around here for the past couple of years. I know I seem like the Phantom of the Opera, creeping around the rafters while J.T. shines brilliantly on the stage. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering, Who is this Amy person, and what does she even do?

That’s a fair question, dear reader. 

Simply put, I’m J.T.’s assistant/business manager/right-hand/co-publisher.

See. I told you it was simple.

Long story short, my job is to make sure J.T. has as writing much time as possible, so she can continue to flood our bookshelves with thick, fat novels. I think it’s a noble calling, don’t you?

Okay, Amy, so how do you make sure J.T. writes all the books we love to devour? What does that look like?

I could make this metaphor with yoga pants, because I love them. And I wear them all the time. But for ease of visualization, let’s stick with hats, shall we?

Honestly, my job looks like a closetful of hats. Throughout my day, I wear about three or four of them, just take one off and put another on, for whatever the day entails.

Ever owned a small business? Are you a mom? You know what I’m talking about.
 

Here are a few of my most Frequently Worn Hats:

  1. Website Builder/Maintenance/I.T. Support
    In college, I majored in English. I minored in French. Nothing really prepared me to be in web design or maintenance, but here I am, captain of J.T.’s web properties! When J.T. asked me to build web pages for Two Tales Press and The Wine Vixen, I said, “Sure!” And then I sat at my computer and got my master’s degree in Google Searching, which I still use to this day. Thank goodness for Squarespace, savior of non-techies who need websites. If I can use Squarespace, anybody can use Squarespace.

     
  2. Social Media Scheduler/Meme Maker
    J.T. and I like you people a lot. And we enjoy talking to you! A big chunk of my job is to take the cool stuff we find online and make a home for it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Pretty pictures, funny pictures, inspirational quotes, nerdy book articles, Q&As on Wednesday: we talk about our favorite things, then I put them online for you to enjoy along with us.

     
  3. Idea Bouncer Off-er/Editor/Proofreader
    This is one of the most fun parts of my job. I get to be one of J.T.’s first readers on just about everything: books, blog posts, fun little pieces she writes around book launches. When I was four years old, I used to climb into my box of books and sit there and read for hours, dreaming of my favorite characters and wondering how I could read books for a living. Four-year-old Amy? She loves this part of the job. It’s as fun as it sounds.

     
  4. Co-Publisher
    In a past life, I was an editor for a Big 5 Publisher, and I still enjoy putting books together. Thankfully, I still get to do that in my current job. While I worked in a variety of roles at said-publisher, nothing could’ve prepared me for playing all of a publisher’s roles at the same time: acquiring editor, numbers-cruncher, content editor, production coordinator, salesperson, and marketer. There are unique skills to each of a publisher’s jobs, so it’s been fun to try my hand at everything.

     
  5. Media/Events/Marketing Coordinator
    If someone wants to book J.T. for an event, their first stop is yours truly. And as the resident Rain Man when it comes to dates, I make sure all of our five calendars (yes, five) are up to date, and that we’re on track to hit our target goals and deadlines (a consummate professional, J.T. needs no help with staying on deadline—that one’s for me).

     
  6. Frequent Post Office Visitor
    Oh, if you only knew how much mail book people send. I’m serious. When I was a publicist for said-Big 5 Publisher, I had at least one huge mailing (I’m talking 100+ books at a time) a week. While (thankfully) J.T. and I don’t send that kind of volume at once, I’m still at the P.O. a couple times a week. I wish they had punch cards; I could’ve had a dozen free sandwiches by now. 

     
  7. New Gadgets Tester
    There are a few personality traits I’m glad J.T. and I share: we both keep honing the way we work, we’re never completely satisfied with our status quo, and we enjoy being early adopters. This leads to us testing a new program or gadget at least a couple times a month, something we think may help us do our work better. Most of what we try gets rejected, but every once in a while we come across a diamond in the rough that makes our lives easier. I still think the best one we ever found was Vellum. What used to take days now only takes ten (!) minutes.

     
  8. Fellow Wine Enthusiast
    I owe my burgeoning wine obsession to J.T. Before I met her, I could point to a Moscato and say, “I like that because it tastes like Kool-Aid,” but that was about the extent of my wine knowledge. My boss has opened my eyes to all kinds of varietals and vintages, and how wonderfully wine can pair with food and company.

     
  9. Cat Wrangler
    I only wore this hat one time, over Christmas 2015, when Jameson the Silver Mackerel Tabby decided to eat, what is to this day, a mystery piece of green plastic. J.T. the Mama Cat was traveling and much to Jameson’s chagrin, I had to catch her, put her into cat carrier (which she despises more than anything), and take her to the vet. She didn’t speak to me for a while, but we’re okay now.

     
  10. It’s a Secret
    Sorry, I’m sworn not to talk about this one just yet . . . but it’s pretty freaking cool.



Thus ends my tour of the hat closet. And before you say it, I know: I hit the job lottery. 

I’m going to start shedding my Phantom persona, and you may see me a bit more often around here, talking about life behind the scenes (shelves?) as an author assistant, my favorite tools, and maybe even TV (because, y’all, I love TV—I love it so much). If you’ve got something you want to ask, feel free! Leave me a comment below, and I’ll take a blog post and answer it sometime.

See you later!
Amy/The Kerr