Tag: social media

social media

Social Media: Tonic and Toxin

 I’m in a love/hate relationship. With social media. I love connecting with people on various platforms. As an extreme introvert, I find too much face-to-face contact exhausting. Social media provides me with the distance I need to make social engagement engaging, instead of an exercise in “put on a happy face”. Social media also lets me keep in touch with geographically dispersed friends. Neither my budget nor my schedule let me go visiting all over the world. And, as much as I cherish handwritten letters, social media accounts tend to change less often than physical addresses. Finally, social media lets me connect with readers and reviewers. I have a day job so extended book tours are not an option for me. Social media is vital in promoting my books and building my audience. But, I hate the way a constant diet of social media makes me feel. Instagram’s not so bad; it’s mostly pretty pictures. However, a week of ingesting negative news and caustic comments on other platforms leaves me feeling worse than a corn dog-and-fried-Twinkies binge at the State Fair. Despite my good intentions to only post, and respond to, funny Episcopal Church memes and heartwarming stories of animal rescues and Mike Rowe, I get wrapped up in the stories of injustice and bigotry and discrimination and cruelty. I get angry at the state of the world and the unkindness of humans. My cynicism goes into hyperdrive and I end up feeling helpless at my inability to “fix” things. My ire paralyzes me. When I reach the righteous anger saturation point, I have to find a way to reset. Otherwise, I can’t function. I accomplish nothing. My to-do list goes ignored. Pent up frustration leads to restless, purposeless futzing. This past weekend was one of those times. I hit a wall. Fed up with humanity, I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a back corner in my closet and rock back and forth. Luckily, the community center came to the rescue with a screening of “Casablanca”. Watching an iconic story of self-sacrifice and redemption play out against a backdrop of ultimate evil convinced me—or, rather, reminded me—that even the most cynical among us may be harboring a “rank sentimentalist” inside and will manage to do the right thing when it counts.
 How do you detox from digital negativity? Did you sign off from social media? Do you limit yourself to certain platforms or type of posts? Block comments like a defensive linebacker?

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To Query or Not To Query: Alternative Ways to Find an Agent

 Once upon a time, if a writer wanted to find an agent, they’d have to send a query letter—in the mail at that! Although querying is still by far the most popular way to get a mentor, I’m happy to say that it’s not the only way. Now, to the joy of everyone—except maybe the Post Office—you can also find your agent through online mentoring programs and even Twitter! In fact, New York Times Bestselling authors like Angie Thomas and Tomi Adeyami both got their agents through these untraditional methods. Angie pitched her agent on Twitter and Tomi was a 2016 mentee in a mentoring program called Pitch Wars. Here’s a list of several fun alternatives to finding your agent through querying, including a couple I’m thrilled to say I help organize. Pitch Wars What is it? An annual program that pairs more established writers—aka mentors—with mentees, aka those emerging writers still looking for an agent. If selected, the mentors and mentees spend months polishing the mentee’s manuscript for the Agent Showcase—where, after reading a pitch and first 250 words, agents comment requesting more pages I was a 2014 Pitch Wars mentee and got my agent, Michelle Richter from Fuse, from the contest. In addition, my Pitch Wars novel was actually Hollywood Homicide (though under a different name), which was released last year by Midnight Ink. I believe in Pitch Wars so much that I’m Managing Director this year.  When is it? Our Mentor Blog Hop, where mentors share exactly what type of books they’re looking to mentor is going on now. Our submission window runs from August 27, 2018 through August 29, 2018 at 10 PM EDT. Where can you find more info? PitchWars.org or visit the #pitchwars hashtag on Twitter.    #PitMad What is it? #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. It’s run by the same committee that puts on Pitch Wars. When is it? Our next #PitMad is September 6, 2018 from 8 AM – 8 PM EDT Where can you find more info? http://pitchwars.org/pitmad/ #DVPit What is it? A two-day Twitter pitch even for marginalized authors and illustrators. Like with #Pitmad, agents and editors can like/favorite pitches they want to see in their inbox. It’s hosted by super-agent Beth Phelan. When is it? You’ll have to check the site to find out the dates of the next event. Where can you find more info? http://dvpit.com/ Nightmare on Query Street What is it? As the name suggests, it’s a Halloween themed contest run by Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and usually another agented/published writer. Mentors help unagented writers revise their query letter and first 250 words of their manuscript for agents to requests. Sticking with the theme, contestants must answer a Halloween-themed question in their submission. When is it? October! Obviously! Where can I find more info? Visit the website: https://michellehauckwrites.com/contests/nightmare-on-query-street/ or check #NoQS on Twitter Query Kombat What is it? Another amazing contest from Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and company. It’s such an interesting concept that I’ll just paste from the site: “Query Kombat is a bracket style competition where 64 query letters and first pages are matched against each other until only one is left. There are six rounds of competition that last the entire month of June and our expert judges leave notes and determine the winners. Agents request from the entries between the 1st and 2nd round, but there’s a catch. No agent requests are revealed until an entry is knocked out of the competition. Entries are known by their fun nicknames. Surviving entries are allowed to revise twice over the six rounds.” When is it? They just wrapped their 2018 contest. Submissions will probably open around May of next year. Where can you find more info? You can find more info on Michelle’s site here: https://michellehauckwrites.com/contests/query-kombat/ #AdPit What is it? Much like #PitMad and #DVpit, #AdPit is a Twitter pitch event—except it’s just for Adult and New Adult manuscripts. When is it? You’ll have to check the site but the most recent #AdPit was in April.  Where can I find more info?You can find more details on Heidi Nerrod’s blog here: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit/  Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective.  The first, Hollywood Homicide, won the Agatha, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and is nominated for Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She now works for a leading media company and serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime as the organization’s Publicity Liaison.  You can learn more at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com.        

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Writers, Politics, and Social Media

 In June, the New York Times ran an article  (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/books/review/david-lynch-elin-hilderbrand-best-seller.html) that started, “Though it probably gives their publicists heart palpitations, some best-selling novelists are choosing to enter the political fray on social media.” It went on to site Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and other best-selling authors. I wondered how mid-list authors who aren’t already on the New York Times best-sellers list were handling the same dilemma, so I asked my talented writing colleagues, the Miss Demeanors these questions: Are you giving your publicist/publisher palpitations by making political comments on social media? Whether you have decided to jump into the political waters or sit on the shore, what was the basis of your decision? If you’re neck deep in political hot water, do you have a strategy for containing your involvement? Do you fear offending readers? If you’ve chosen not to enter the political conversation on social media, do you have concerns you may be criticized or that? Michele:            When I was an adolescent, I angrily challenged my father about why Americans seem to stand by silently during the Holocaust. He tried to explain how communications were different then and how later many people were horrified by their own ignorance and apparent indifference. That conversation lingers in my mind and is the reason I will speak about issues that affect the rights of human beings, especially children, on social media. I try to limit my comments to substantive conversations. Jabbing at someone’s hair color, etc. does nothing. I also try very hard to actively listen to what others are saying. I think the reason we are having so much discord today is because we don’t really take the time to listen to each other.  Cate:I have lost followers when I have posted political opinions on Facebook.  However, I think some issues (such as separating little children from parents seeking asylum in the U.S., the need for gun laws that prevent people with histories of violence and mental problems—often reported to police by family members—from legally purchasing semi automatic weapons, and the importance of having a functioning fourth estate) are too important not to say something about. Some things go beyond politics and are about who we are as human beings and who we hope other people are too. And silence can be interpreted as tolerance of things that are dangerous to our kids or flat out in humane.  Paula:I do a lot of social media, but I stick to what interests me: books, writing, writers, publishing, literature, dogs and dog handlers, cats, wildlife, nature, yoga, the art of happiness, and to a lesser extent, architecture and interior design, as we’re remodeling an 18th century Colonial.I try to avoid politics, simply because for me it’s a rabbit hole I choose not to go down. I’m at my happiest and most productive when I’m calm and rational, and calm and rational do not describe the current state of political discourse. I’d rather read The Paris Review. Tracee:I agree with Cate, that surely there are many things which are beyond politics and in the realm of humanity. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, any comment about the news of the day will likely fall into the realm of politics. So be it. That said, I don’t think of my online profile as a place for politics writ large. I do comment occasionally and I’m sure people can suss out my affiliations and beliefs if they care to. I have a deep distaste for the politicization of everything. In the past how someone voted didn’t put them in a friend or foe box and I think this is dangerous and the political noise shuts people out to the words of those they feel are in opposition. I’d like to believe we can share beliefs and values and not always agree. Although I am am beginning to think that is nostalgia talking.  Robin:I actually raised this with a publicist not too long ago. I do step into the fray on Twitter, particularly around issues involving cyber security matters in a post-2016 election world. I watched the run-up and see the aftermath happen in real time (I was one of many, many people who helped try to stop it before, and rectify it after). What I continue to find surprising is that I gain followers when I shoot my mouth off (via keyboard). The only followers I’ve lost have been bots. The publicist said what people are probably reacting to is my authenticity. So, do I go on long tirades? Not on Twitter, no. But, I’m not going to stay silent about human rights abuses, or keep certain bits of knowledge to myself if sharing can help keep people safe, or at least raise awareness. But it is a very conscious balancing act. Susan:I’m very active politically in person, but I tend to tone it down a bit on social media, mainly because I don’t think it does any good. Twitter has become so strident.  It’s much more exciting to me when I connect with someone from a different part of the country and a different background and I can feel like maybe by having a conversation, I can influence her opinion. Vote by vote.  My minister always says he’d rather make a friend than be right, and I subscribe to that. Susan Alexia:I try to keep my politics to my personal page. I use my author page to share news about topics related to my books (at least tangentially), promote my books and fellow authors, and share information about conferences and literary news. I’m used to compartmentalizing my life because my day job has certain limits on what you can and can’t do. My political views are personal so I feel my personal page is the place to express them. I also keep the politics to the personal page because my posts are limited (not public). Not because of fear of offending anyone, more out of fear of bringing the extremist whack jobs out of the woodwork. I’ve been (unpleasantly) surprised by some of the views expressed by people I thought I knew. I want to avoid the social media crapshow many people find themselves mired in. It’s counterproductive. When I find myself getting angry at the way the world seems to be moving, I can let off some steam on my “friends only” personal page then try to live a life that leaves the world a little better than I found it. I am so impressed with the intelligence, insight, and thoughtfulness of my fellow Miss Demeanors! Nice to hang out with smart women.Michele  

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My Well Runneth Dry

 More than 300,000. That’s how many new titles were published in the U.S. in 2013, according to UNESCO figures reported in Wikipedia. Add in all titles published in a year and the number doubles or triples. That’s a lot of books competing for readers’ attention. Authors have to create ways to gain notice. In this modern, social media-connected world blogs, newsletters, and Facebook pages have become standard ways to build a platform to attract readers. Posts and newsletters, brief pieces offering readers writerly advice, funny or poignant stories about the writing life, and insights into how one’s work speaks to the human condition, come out more frequently than novels or short stories. They require frequent trips to the creative well. Once in a while, the well runs dry. An idea for a blog post hits you then you remember you used the idea six months ago. You stare at the blank newsletter template and realize you have no news. You’ve already described your writing process, your inspirations, your journey to publication, your tips for completing a first draft. You’ve got nothing but a deadline. What do you do? The blog has to be posted, the newsletter mailed. A goats in sweaters video or cute cat photos won’t cut it. You pick up your pen or pull your laptop closer and borrow a page from Seinfeld; you write about nothing. Or you find an idea you’ve used in the past and rewrite it until you’ve said something new. You keep going, writing about nothing or reworking old news, until you’ve got a few hundred (possibly rambling) words that you didn’t have before. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out how to tie what you’ve written to a picture of a goat in a sweater. How do you overcome a shortage of new ideas when confronted with a looming deadline?

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Better Left Unsaid

I follow several writers, some published, some unpublished, on social media. Many post news of book deals, tweet about signing with agents, and ‘gram photos of awards. Friends and followers like, “heart”, and share the good news over social networks. Some writers also share their disappointments. A series is canceled, a manuscript doesn’t sell, an agent query is rejected. Friends and followers virtually gather ‘round to show support, offer encouragement, and share advice. Fortunately, most writers limit themselves to these common uses of social media. However, a few writers take up their smartphones, not to seek congratulations or commiseration, but to excoriate those they blame for, in their view, thwarting their literary ambitions. You’ve read their posts: the “stupid” publishers don’t understand them, the “opportunistic” agents pass up the Great American Novel because it’s not marketable, the “idiot” editors insist grammar matters, the readers who leave negative reviews are—you fill in the epithet. These writers do not take rejection well. As they see it, their manuscript is perfect; everyone else is wrong. The “story” is the only thing that matters (they sneer at punctuation and spelling) and anyone who doesn’t agree their novel is brilliant enough to warrant the expenditure of 300,000 words is a “moron”. Or worse. Advice, or anything other than wholehearted endorsement of their vitriolic screeds by friends and followers is treated to the same burn as the offending agent (or editor or publisher) and to the ultimate social media act of retribution—a block. Please don’t be that writer. Nobody enjoys rejection. No one expects anyone to be happy about rejection. But letting the whole world (and posting to social media is akin to letting the whole world know, regardless of your privacy settings) is not the way to handle it. Rant and rage if you must but do it in the privacy of your home or car or broom closet. Make sure no one but the cat/dog/goldfish can hear you. They won’t talk; humans will. Pin the rejection letter to a cork board and throw darts at it. Stick any leftover pins in a voodoo doll with the agent’s name scrawled on it in blood. But don’t snap photos to post to Instagram. Keep your anger to yourself. Agents, editors, and publishers are on social media, too. They’re the original networkers. They networked before it was cool. You may not follow any of their accounts but at least one of your followers does. And publishing people follow each other. You know that caustic email you sent to agent X informing them how dense they must be not to recognize your genius? Well, agent X just tweeted a screenshot of your email to the Twitterverse, which includes agents A through W and Y and Z. You just been branded “difficult”. You’ve just been branded a lot of other things that aren’t repeatable in polite society. Think anyone’s going to represent you now? Nope. You think agents are morons; agents think you’re a toxic jerk. Editors and publishers agree with the agents. The same goes for your foaming at the mouth social media posts. A screenshot of a flame goes viral. Consider yourself quarantined. No one will come near you. They’d rather have measles. Are you really surprised people in the publishing business (business, not hobby, not charity) want a manuscript that’s marketable? As one writing instructor put it, agents live on commission and need to earn enough to pay rent in New York. Editors and publishers have to pay rent, too. And maybe at least one or two of them has a point. Maybe your novel really isn’t a good fit for them. Try someone else. Maybe your novel isn’t as perfect as you think. Even manuscripts that are sold need editing. Maybe no one appreciates your story because it’s harder to decipher than a teenager’s emoji-laden Instagram caption. Maybe you should listen when they say your 300,000 word thriller stopped being thrilling at 120K. Maybe you can look past your hurt and find the nugget of good advice buried in the “no”. If you can’t resist firebombing bridges and insist on refusing all advice? Self-publish. 

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A Writer's Choice: Politics and Social Media

  Like many Americans, I awoke this morning charged by the results of the U.S. Senate election yesterday in Alabama. No, I am not going to rehash the politics, the results, or the implications. You have CNN, CBS, ABC, and FOX to do that for you. You also get to jump aboard social media. That’s what I want to talk about.            Should writers take to their virtual pens and express their personal political beliefs on social media? Or should they contain their opinions where they can be conveyed privately?            There is considerable advice on this topic, not surprisingly, much of it found on social media. There are experts who suggest that there is little to be gained and much to be lost when a writer tweets how she feels about a particular candidate or issue. They warn people will not buy your book, the buzz will be negative, and you will be buried with comments more hurtful than your worst review. Play it safe and restrict your Facebook comments to what you made for the dinner last night. Why invite disaster and undermine the work you have invested in your book?             Why? Robert Stribley offered six reasons in his Huff Post article, “Why I Talk Politics on Social Media.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-i-talk-politics-on-social-media_us_587ceaa9e4b094e1aa9dc824  1. People do change their minds. 2. The value of expressing solidarity. 3. Some taboos exist for the wrong reasons. 4. Combatting misinformation. 5. Silence can be construed as acquiescence. 6. Change never happens without friction and disagreement.           The last two reasons resonate with me the most. I’ve spent my entire professional life dealing with conflict between people as a mediator and a lawyer. While I will concede there is nothing more exhausting and depleting than engaging in conflict, the process is conversely awakening, energizing, and often enlightening. Without conflict, there is stagnancy, silence, and a  complacency that can become dangerous.            That my own silence might be construed as acquiescence disturbs me, particularly when I am able to communicate in a reasonably competent manner. I remember when I was in high school studying history asking my father how Hitler became so powerful that he could murder so many people without the rest of the world speaking out. He struggled to answer and I was still left wondering how an entire world remained silent.            Whether a writer chooses to speak out on a single issue or has a platform filled with them, I don’t care. I respect his or her right to write wherever and whenever seems fit. I can make choices of my own. I can read or not read. I can respond or not respond. During the past presidential election, I read many Facebook posts that conflicted with my own personal political opinions. One particular poster was particularly condescending about those who disagreed with her, confident that she “knew better.” Apparently, she didn’t. While I was offended by her superciliousness, I respect and would defend her right to express her opinions. I never responded to her comments. Instead, I set forth my own.            I have made the choice to speak publicly about issues I care about on social media. Does anyone care about what I think? I don’t know. That isn’t the point. The point is that I cannot be silent about matters that concern me. I will still tell you what I ordered for dinner at a restaurant and wish you happy birthday. But when I believe something is important to stand up for, you’ll see me standing. If I sell a few less books because of this, it’s worth it.            What are your thoughts about expressing political opinions on social media?                                                        

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End of the year. Time for on-line presence and social media audit?

Soon people will start talking about New Year’s resolutions (which I don’t do). However I am a fall and spring clean out person. Closets, attic, you name it. Time to weed out things I don’t love. This seems like a bad segue into all things internet and social media – I don’t want to give the impression that I want it to all go away! However, I’ve recently realized that I’ve updated some profiles, but not others (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook…. my personal website…. where does it stop!) So…. I’m about to undertake an audit of my online presence prompted by the release of my newest book in early February.  Technically the prompt was the marketing department at my publisher….. a very nice email with links to every place in the universe where my books can be purchased. Wish I could just say Google my name and your favorite book seller, or visit the store, and order one! Apparently that’s not enough.  Anyway, prompted to update these links I am now working my way through with a checklist, making sure everything aligns and is current. Photo, current books with links to sellers, contact information, directions to other pages, links to…. you get the picture. I’m afraid that I run the risk of going down the dark hole of the internet and investing too much time. But I think that a thorough (clean out the attic but don’t repaint it) look is needed. Anyone else out there thinking about an annual audit?     

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The New Social Media Frontiers

We all know about Facebook, Twitter and (hopefully after my last post) Instagram. But what about all the other ways to interact with readers online? How do we reach readers on new platforms?  Today, at 4 p.m., I’ll be doing something that I never tried before. I’ll be participating in a Ask Me Anything interview on Snapchat. I am hoping that the questions will focus on my books and the writing. But, it’s Ask Me Anything, so we’ll see.  According to one of the organizers of the Snapchat AMA, Author Joe Clifford, that last AMA they hosted resulted in 51,000 tweet impressions and 12,700 video views. That was nearly 6X the engagement that the author usually received from tweets.  I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are some must follow book snapchatters that I learned about this morning, courtesy of BookRiot. On their list is MyBookBath, a snapchat by a Vancouver book blogger who takes videos and photos of beautiful book swag and bookshelves. BookRiot has a snapchat too that’s made lists on blogs such as iDiva. And, if you’re joining the snapchat book community, there are some lenses to try that will spruce up your posts. Barnes & Noble recommends “Rotting Pig Head on A Stick” (It’s a Lord of the Flies reference) and Book Cover Face Swap (which puts your face on your favorite book cover).     

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10 Bookstagrammers To Know

Bookstagrammers are the life blood of the social media book community. Found on Instagram under the hashtag #bookstagrammers, these literature-loving individuals read, review, photograph and spread the word about books that they love (and, sometimes, hate). Some wonderful bookstagrammers even supply casting recommendations for films.  At last count, there were 1.36 million posts by #bookstagrammers on Instagram. Here are some #bookstagrammers any thriller or mystery author should know.   BookSugar. Maria has more than fifty thousand followers on Instagram, which means a ton of exposure if you make her must read list. This Canadian book blogger’s tastes range skew literary (Jane Austen, anyone?) but she does include the occasionally mystery, thriller, or suspense novel on her list. Wendy Walker’s Emma In The Night made the list recently. Crime By The Book. Bookstagrammer Abby started out with a cup of coffee and passion for thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels. Now she has 47,000 followers (and growing) and a major book marketing career! Though she works for Dutton, the opinions on her blog and Instagram account are her own. Her reviews are insightful, well-explained, and sought-after. She also clearly knows where to get the prettiest cups of joe in the city.     SuspenseThrill. Avid bookstagrammer, blogger and reviewer Chelsea Humphrey had 4,588 Instagram followers as of Nov. 7. She’ll probably have more before this post runs tomorrow. She is a top reviewer on Goodreads and her blog is followed by English-speaking mystery and thriller fans the world over. On top of all of this, she takes some beautiful book cover shots.  Texas Girl Reads. Texas Girl, Sarah, sure does read. A book or so a week, by my count. She also takes visually arresting images of the suspense novels and mysteries that she loves and shares her heartfelt reviews on Instagram. Sometimes, she’ll share her kids’ favorite picks too. She shares detailed reviews on Instagram, where she has 1,044 followers, and on her blog.   GareIndeedReads. Gare is a dedicated bookstagrammer that not only reads a new book seemingly every few days, but also provides in depth reviews on Instagram and on his slick, professional blog. On top of this, he also casts many of the books he reads, sharing his vote for the Hollywood stars he could picture playing parts of different characters. The photographs of the books that he takes along with his reviews, and the images of the celebrities that he sees starring in the one-day-film version make for some visually arresting book evangelizing. He has over 750 followers. (I also had the pleasure of meeting him at a recent book event and he’s a very thoughtful reader and all-around friendly person).    Kourtney’s Bookshelf. Kourtney is a dedicated mystery, thriller and suspense reader. Her Instagram and blog often feature new releases in the genre.  When she likes a book, this Texas girl will not only photograph it and share with her 1,676 followers, but she’ll often include favorite quotes from the novel.    Oh The Book Feels. You can truly feel the book love from this #bookstagrammer. More than 66,500 people follow this Kansas City reader’s Instagram account–and it’s not difficult to see why. Carmen’s photos are composed like works of art, which isn’t surprising given her book library.  She also has a cat that occasionally graces her posts, and knows how to pose perfectly on a book shelf ladder.   Angie’s Bookshelf is another thriller and suspense #bookstagrammer to follow. According to her brief bio, this avid reader of thrills and chills loves wine, coffee, music and books, which you know means she’s part of the thriller tribe. (Thriller writing and garage bands go together. Check out any conference for verification). Angie has 579 followers and a taste for travel, as evidenced by this beautiful book shot.  Who wouldn’t want to read whatever novel she put against that beach?  Prose and Palate. The alliteration in the name alone should tell you this #bookstagrammer appreciates thoughtful writing, and it shows in her Instagram posts. Stacy has more than 4,680 followers and a penchant for thrillers, historical fiction and Southern fiction. She takes beautiful photos and has a vintage typewriter that often peaks from behind the pages. She also is a regular Book of The Month Club judge and has the collection of coolest coffee mugs around. Check out her Instagram to see what I mean.  Books The Thing. Erika has nearly 1,000 followers (979 and growing as of this writing) and loves a good mystery. She reads all types: cozies, psychological thrillers, Agatha Christie-inspired, Sherlock Holmes’ updates. She also loves a good female sleuth, as evidenced by this post on her blog.    

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