Blank Out Poetry

You might have heard about black out poetry before. It’s a fun way to stretch your creativity and create something fun.

Start by getting an old book that you don’t like or want to read anymore. Or, head to the second-hand store and find a battered copy of something classic that’s not going to break your heart to draw or paint in.

Now, flip to any page. You can rip out the page if you want, but I prefer to leave them in and do all the pages eventually. That way I’ll have a whole collection eventually.

As your looking at the page, try to create a poem out of words that pop out at you. Mark your words lightly with a pencil.

Once your poem had been discovered, we’re going to blank out the rest of the page. There are no ends to the ways to do this, and it’s my kids favorite part. You can circle the poem words with pencil and scratch out the rest. You can draw or paint an image that compliments the poem you found. Or you could use scrap paper to cover everything, leaving just holes to let your poem stand out.

This is a great project to do with your kids if they’re spending too much time zombifying themselves in front of the tv this summer. Shake their brains up a little.

I really want to see any blank out poems you guys make! Please feel free to tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you share yours.

The best thing that’s happened all year!

Today I have an awesome announcement for you. It’s something that I’ve been sitting on for some time, working behind the scenes to make sure that everything was ready before I let all of you know.

Starting Chains, book two of Woven is coming out on September 8th!

And I can hardly believe that it’s happening! As you know, I celebrated the four-year anniversary of Woven on the 20th. Now, the story will continue.

After years of war between Montelair and Septa, the two thrones are united by family. Victor’s nephew, Morgan, is sharing the throne with the last heir of the royal line, Jacob. He and Lenore decide to travel o Montelair with their newborn daughters to help broker peace.

But peace among their own people is harder to achieve. The city is tormented by a terrorist who calls himself The Tinker. He and his group of anarchists plant bombs through the city and call for the death of the new kings from every street corner.

Meanwhile, in Calistar, Sultiana and Devon are marching to war with Kussier. The ancient hatred between the two countries is sprung anew when Sultiana is declared heir to the Calistar throne.

Waiting at the border, though, is a much darker enemy. A force from legend threatens to consume both countries, and possibly the world.

Pre-ordering will be available when we get a little closer to the release date. I’ll let all of you know.

If you’re in Butler, PA, I’ll be hosting a book signing to celebrate. If you’re not, never fear. I’ll be hosting a Facebook launch party! Stay tuned for details. There’s going to be guest hosts, party games, and some other fun things.

Stay tuned for more details, and mark your calendar for September 8th.

Be Your Own Biggest Fan

Who is your book’s biggest fan? Your mom, your spouse?

It should be you. No one should ever love your book as much as you do. And you should always show it.

Don’t fuss about the details.

I know that there are things that you don’t like about your book. How do I know that? Because there are things that I don’t like about my book. A lot of them. I swear I went through that manuscript fourteen times, I was sure that I had gotten everything. Then I go through the book when it arrives, and of course, I found a typo!

But I try not to obsess. And I’m hardly going to go complaining about it or badgering my own book in public. No, that was a tirade that only my family heard.

I’m trying to let it go.

Don’t talk bad about your book.

Did you know that Stephen King doesn’t like Carrie? His own book! He says in On Writing that he only wrote it for his wife. He hates the main character and has no connection with her.

I felt betrayed when I read that. I loved Carrie so much I wore out a copy. And it downright hurt to find out that she was the least loved child. Now if he’d have said he hated the Dark Tower series I’d have been on board.

Don’t do this. I understand looking back at work you’ve written and realizing that it wasn’t your best. I’ve written some short stories that I wish I’d never put out. But I wrote them, and some people liked them. So I won’t insult someone by saying that I don’t like a story I wrote.

People will be as excited about your book as you are.

When I write a short story or publish a book, I get loud! It’s like I’m at a Pens game when the scrolling marque says ‘Make some Noise!’ I literally behave as though it’s the best news in the world.

I can’t expect anyone to be more excited about my book coming out than I am. Maybe someday when I have thousands of fans anxiously awaiting my next release. Not right now. Right now I have lukewarm interest at best. So I’ve got to be out there cheering on my book.

Talk it up all the time!

Which is why I talk about it all the time. I go to signings and talk about it. I tell the barista at my coffee shop that the book is coming out. I tell people at the Y, people I pass on the street! I absolutely think that this is news everyone needs!

Love your story first.

I wrote Broken Patterns for me. I wrote a fantasy story that I would want to read. The same for Station 86. I didn’t add in elements that I didn’t enjoy to please someone else or because I think it will help the book sell. I wrote the story that I wanted to write. Because if I’m not in love with the story, why the hell would anyone else be?

Modern Ms. Manners: Asking other Authors For Help

I’m still enjoying my 30 Days, 30 Authors event. I hope you’re enjoying it, too. I know my reading list swelled!

I’ve also made connections with some fantastic indie authors. There are some really great people participating in this event, and it’s been nothing but a positive experience for me.

Not every experience I’ve had with other writers has been the same. Sometimes people are just rude.

But sometimes people just aren’t sure how to behave when interacting with other authors. I know that before I started talking to other writers I was hugely unsure of how I should behave. But the more I’ve done it, the better it’s been. And it is absolutely essential that we as indie authors help each other out.

If you are worried, though, here are some guidelines for working with other indie authors.

Remember, you’re a professional and so are they.

So behave as such. I speak with other indie authors the same way I’d speak to a co-worker, editor or agent. This is someone with whom you intend to have a professional relationship with. So things like politics and religion don’t have a place in this relationship. I don’t have to agree with your politics to like your book. I also will probably not be telling another indie author about the date I had the other night with my husband. Unless we’ve developed a personal friendship, I don’t share things about my personal life.

Always ask, never expect.

Often I ask for help from my fellow authors. I’ve been asked by fellow authors to help them. Most of the time this involves book launches or relaunches. We ask each other to post on our blogs, support our social media campaigns and conduct interviews.

Sometimes we just don’t have the time, though. Sometimes we’re just too busy. Indie writers have jobs, families, school. We also have our own books that we’re working on. We might also just be flooded with other commitments. There’s any number of reasons why you might ask an author to help you out and they might have to say “No, sorry.” So don’t take it personally, and don’t mope about it.

And I’ll tell you now that an author who insists that I do something is an author that’s going to hear no a whole lot from me. Now and probably as long as I remember them being rude.

Remember, other people are busy

So if you are given a deadline, meet it. If you need to get information to someone, get it there. If you get an email from them, try to respond within a day or two.

At the same time, don’t expect direct responses. A day or two is an acceptable time frame in which to get information back from someone.

Also, if you need something from someone quickly, maybe don’t expect that to happen. I know that it would be difficult for me to post something tomorrow if you’re giving it to me today. I might be able to, but I don’t really know.

Just, respect other people’s time is what I’m saying.

Share others work when you can.

I like to scroll through Facebook and Twitter looking for indie books that look interesting. It takes about three seconds to share that tweet or post. I don’t do it every day, but it’s something that takes no effort to do. So it’s an easy activity while I’m watching tv.

I really don’t expect anything in return, but sometimes I get a thank you. Even better, I’m putting more indie books in front of people who might like to read them. Remember, it’s not all about showing love to other writers. It’s also about helping people find books they want to read.

Offer help in return.

I post about other indie writers here on PBW. I also include at least one indie book in each issue of PBW Update. (Click here to subscribe, comes out every other Monday.)

I do this because I want to introduce you to other authors, but I also do this to help them out. I do it whether or not they’ve helped me in the past. Because it’s a nice gesture. It shows good manners.

Above all, don’t be scared! I recently had the bright idea to contact some of my favorite indie authors directly and ask them to read an upcoming book before it came out. These were people who wrote books I’d read and loved. I was terrified!

But you know what? All of them responded with such positivity and courtesy. I can’t say enough about how wonderful they all were. So don’t be scared.

What this all comes down to is just treating your peers with respect. But if you’re adhering to these rules, then there’s no reason you should fear contacting other authors to help you with your books.

Woven’s Fourth Anniversary

Every year on this date I get pretty excited. That’s because it’s the day that I created Woven.

I’m sure you’ve heard my story before. If not, here’s links to last year’s blubbery crying blog post about my anniversary. And the one from the year before that.

I started writing Broken Patterns in 2013 before I started working at the current day job or got married. In the last four years, I’ve written four books, taking my characters through hell, putting them away, and beginning a journey for a whole new cast in the same world.

I’ve had the first book traditionally published. It’s out there for the whole world to read and enjoy. And through it all, I’ve been blogging here on PBW. It’s taken four years to get this far, and I have ten books I want to write still in the series. It’ll probably take another ten years, but that’s okay.

I can’t imagine what I’ll do when the series is all done and out there. I might just die right there.

Anyway, I want to thank all of you for following along on this awesome, wonderful, terrifying journey. I do it for me, and I do it for my kids.

But I also do it for you. So thank you, all of you, for caring.

Modern Ms. Manners, social media and signings.

I have a real issue with rules of etiquette. I think it’s because I’ve had some bad experiences with them. Most of the rules tend to have a sexist slant. I grew up hearing a lot of this.

Don’t order messy food on a date.

Don’t finish a meal on a date.

Don’t put on makeup in front of anyone.

Don’t raise your voice.

Don’t swear.

Don’t discuss religion or politics in public.

Don’t argue.

Don’t wear revealing clothing. Your clothes should always come to your knees and cover your shoulders.

Obviously, these aren’t really geared at men. They are all part of the picture of a lovely young lady who’s not difficult, not easy and probably didn’t pay for dinner. I ignore all of these rules and have lived quite a happy life because of it.

Some of the advice I received about how a lady behaves is just good advice for everyone. At least, I follow these rules any time I’d like to be taken seriously.

Sit up straight in a chair.

Don’t cross your legs. (if you ever meet me and I’m sitting down, you’ll notice that I cross my ankles.)

Don’t ask for anything when visiting. It may put your host in the uncomfortable situation of having to say no.

If you have a guest, be sure to offer food, drinks or medicine if your guest seems unwell.

Now that I’m teaching my girls to be members of larger society, I’m thinking about how I want them to behave in public. And it also got me to thinking of how we, as authors behave, both online and at signings.

So here are some suggestions for polite behavior online and when attending an event as an author. Mind you, these are only suggestions. But I tend to think well of people who behave this way.


When discussing politics or religion online, remember that insulting people is going to make them shut out your message. Display facts, not personal insults. Unless your political or religious opinions are part of your author brand, don’t bring them up on your public accounts at all. That’s what your personal Facebook page is for.

While honestly is always good, try not to complain on social media. No one who likes you wants to hear it. Anyone who doesn’t like you is way too happy to hear it.

Don’t talk badly about anyone in the business. It only serves to make you look childish.

Polite arguments over sports are appreciated. Being an asshole over sports is not.

When possible, respond to people who reach out to you online. You might not be able to get everyone and don’t spend your whole day on this, but make an effort. They made the effort to talk to you, after all.

At signings

You are a guest in that bookstore or coffee shop. So behave as such.

Don’t take up more room than you need.

Don’t assume that everyone is here to see you. This is a place of business, and some of their business doesn’t care about you at all.

Thank the staff courteously. They have to do extra work to deal with your signing.

Don’t strut. Be thankful for the time they’ve allowed you to be in their place of business and always voice your thanks.

That’s it for my first Writers Manners. I’m sure I’ll have some more of these, since being super nice to people while not being a pushover is something I pride myself on. Let me know in the comments below if you have any manners tips, or if there’s something you’d like me to discuss.

Building a social media tracker in your bullet journal

I shared an image of my social media calendar on Instagram earlier this month. I thought it might help some of my fellow authors to keep better track of their social media reach and habits.

Now I’m in the middle of this awesome 30 Authors, 30 Days event. And it’s all about learning how to use social media better. I’m having a ton of fun with it, and I’m making contact with some awesome new writing friends.

I’ve learned that if I have a set plan for what I want to share on social media it frees my brain. Because I often fill my Buffer account in the evenings after a day of writing and day job and kids, my brain is often not working. If I’m not careful, I’ll just fill up my whole Buffer with Tasty videos and songs by Lindsay Stirling. Anyone who follows me on any social media knows that to be true.

So I wanted to do a breakdown of how I create my social media spread in my bullet journal. It’s actually going to change now that I’ve learned so many new tricks. Lots of love and credit go to Lucinda Moebius who wrote a wonderful book for writers who want to see their work, suggested many of the social media techniques I’m going to talk about in building my SM spread. Here’s a link to her book, if you want to check it out.

Deciding what to share

The thing that has helped me the most with my social media is to make a list of things to post. This enables me to be on auto piolet when I’m making my lists.

Your list is going to look different than mine, of course. But here’s what I do. Again, many of these were suggestions from Lucinda.

  • Post a writing prompt.
  • Post a promotional tip.
  • Share an image.
  • Link to a good article that I’ve enjoyed and found helpful.
  • Ask a thought-provoking question that will encourage other people to respond.
  • Post a link to my book.
  • Post an inspirational quote.
  • Post a WIP excerpt.
  • Share a quick poem or tiny snippet of a writing example.
  • Share an inspirational image.
  • Share an image of my WIP.
  • Link to my newsletter signup sheet.
  • Ask for reviews of my book.
  • Give a progress report for my WIP.
  • Do a Twitter share thread.
  • Give a writing tip.
  • Do a Facebook fan share thread.
  • Link to my book.
  • Link to a video I’ve enjoyed recently.

So with that list in place, I can just go right down it and post just that.

Deciding where to share it

I definitely suggest not spreading yourself too thin with social media. You don’t need to be everywhere. First of all, you are going to get more traction from posting more often on one SM account than posting infrequently on seven. For the most part, I post on Facebook and Twitter. While I do post on Instagram and Pinterest, I do that more because I enjoy those formats and they take less time.

If you’re not a fan of social media, pick one that you can tolerate and commit to it. When you get accustomed to that, or if you use Buffer and can post to two accounts at once, do that.

Deciding when to share

For Twitter and Facebook, this is easy. Buffer will figure out for you when the best time to post for your area is, and schedule your posts accordingly. The big thing, then, is to decide how often to post.

I generally post five times a day to Twitter, three to Facebook. I also try to take one Instagram picture a day, excluding Sundays.

Building the spread

Finally, the fun part. This is how I build my Bullet Journal spread, complete with mock-up pictures. For the sake of this post, I’ve designed a nice page in my bullet journal full of fake info. Enjoy.

First, we’ll set up the page just the same as if you were starting a new month in your bullet journal. I do fit this into my monthly set up.


Next, I’ll schedule in all of my blog posts for the month. I try to at least know what I’ll be posting for the month before the month starts.


Then I’ll notate any days when I’ll be promoting a book launch for another writer, or announcing something exciting of my own. If I’m publishing fiction, that goes on the list, too.


As I publish posts and share them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest I’ll highlight the posts.


Finally, I’ll add three columns. They’re labeled SM, Buff and Insta.

SM stands for social media. That indicates whether or not I’ve shared my post for the day on social media.

Buff stands for if I’ve filled my Buffer feed for the day.

Insta is for if I’ve posted a picture on Instagram.

These can all be personalized depending on how you use social media.

I’d love to see your social media spreads on your bullet journals! Feel free to tag me on Instagram or Twitter to share. I’m @nicolecluttrell86 on Instagram and @nicolecluttrell on Twitter.

Writing Dark Poetry

Often poetry is bright. It’s a warm morning curled up in bed, or a piece of pie shared between two kids who normally fight nonstop. It’s a celebration of our bodies, or a glorification of the fleeting minutes in our lives. Poetry seems dedicated to the greatness of life, the depth of life.

Life’s not always great. Sometimes, life is horrible, dark, unhappy, depressed. That’s where Dark Poetry comes into play.

I love Dark Poetry, because I love honest poetry. I love a real moment, shared with someone else. And when you think about it, a dark poem is a quite intimate thing. It’s one thing to share your great, bright moments with others. That’s something we do all the time. Social media is full of the bright moments. The birthdays and big wins. The bright new lipsticks and after gym pics.

We don’t share the loses. The nights sitting in the emergency room, waiting for any kind of news. The bad test results. The failures.

It’s the lump your mother found and didn’t want to tell anyone about.

It’s the bottles of vodka vanishing faster and faster.

It’s a trip to the casino. Then another, then another.

It’s a bruise on your friend’s collar bone that she doesn’t want to talk about.

It’s a dog that’s getting older.

It’s a phone call to your wife that was sent to voice mail.

It’s the bills with red letters.

A dark poem is that thing you don’t talk about, don’t think about, don’t act on. Until it acts on you.

Don’t be afraid to write dark poetry. Because art is honest, before everything else. We, as authors of poetry or prose, need to be honest too.

The “I ran out of time” poem

Here’s a quick rhyme

I ran out of time

I was busy riding my home of grime.

My edits and rewrites

were stacked ten feet tall

So I couldn’t write anything new for you all.

Sorry for the crappy poem instead of a post. If I had time to write a good poem, I could have written you a story.

Seven Ways to Practice Hygge with Technology

Have you heard of Hygge yet? It’s this awesome new lifestyle concept that apparently I’ve been doing my whole life already.

If you haven’t heard of it, here are the basics.

  • Comfort and warmth are the cornerstones of this concept. So anything that is comfortable and warm is hygge.
  • Candles are a must. Since I’ve moved out on my own, I’ve had a candle lit in my house almost every day.
  • Baking is big, but not difficult baking because this is all supposed to be very soothing. My recently discovered butter cookies are working really well for this.
  • In the colder months (so not right now, that’s for damn sure) knitting and weaving are big things. Making it, wearing it. Cuddling up under blankets and reading.
  • Warm drinks like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, warmed wine. Hot chocolate mixed with red wine. These are all things that I love.
  • Warm food like stews and chili. Really any good meal cooked at home.

Really, there are only two things about hygge that I don’t love. One is the focus on fresh cut flowers this time of year. This one is personal for me. I’m a Unitarian, and we generally don’t believe in killing things without good reason. So I don’t approve of killing flowers just to brighten my house when I can buy silk flowers and be quite happy with them.

The second issue I have with hygge is the focus on lessening screen time. I’m a huge tech geek, everyone in my family is. And I couldn’t do any of my hygge things without my computer or tablet.

Here then are seven ways I use technology to practice hygge in my house.

Watching movies in bed on my computer with my kids.

I’ve always considered having a TV in my bedroom to be a very bad idea. Of course, I’ve only owned one tv at a time my whole adult life, two TVs total.

For the most part, my family is really happy with this decision. TV watching is a family event, no one in the house watches it alone. But sometimes I do want to watch movies with my kids in bed. While I don’t want that temptation to watch TV all night, I do like bringing my laptop into my room, cuddling together, and watching something on Netflix.

Attending church service online.

As you may know, I’m a Unitarian. There isn’t a Unitarian church around here, so recently I found an online service.

This has been wonderfully cozy. We watch service, with a candle lit for our chalice, sitting together on the couch with my computer on my lap. While it would be really nice to have a church to attend, this is a pretty comfortable way to worship.

Keeping in touch with family who live far away.

This isn’t one that I practice personally but using online communications to spend time with family is pretty amazing. While some might say that if you miss your family just pick up the phone, I say why just talk when we can talk and see each other.

Finding stories to read by the campfire.

We love having fires in the summer. We also love reading scary stories to each other by the fire, which can cause some major damn eye strain. Reading scary stories on a tablet is a lot easier.

Reading in general.

I know a lot of purists don’t like reading on tablets. To you, I say, “I can carry the whole Harry Potter series around in my bag, including the screenplay of Cursed Child. Can you?”

So many a cozy afternoon has found me curled up on my couch or back porch reading on my tablet. Could I do it with a book? Sure, but it’s a lot less convenient.

Looking up recipes and crochet patterns.

I do not own a single damn cookbook, nor do I want one. When the time comes for my husband and me to send our children off into the world, armed with a dirty sense of humor and all of our family recipes, they’ll be in an Evernote document.

The same goes for crochet and knitting patterns. I love looking up new patterns. I also love being able to locate them again. If they’re on a piece of paper that’s just not going to happen.

Using my tablet and a coat to make a waiting room cozy.

This one’s going to go a little personal. As you all know, my family has some health issues. Not so long ago, we found ourselves in the emergency room. This time it wasn’t a life or death situation, my mother in law broke her leg. She’s absolutely fine, don’t worry.

But we were in the waiting room for awhile. Any amount of time in a waiting room at night is a long time. But this really was a horribly busy night. So while my husband was back with his mother, I was in the waiting room with the kids. They were scared and the room was just full of people. Including one person who was exhibiting drug seeking behavior.

So I staked out a couch. We bought a couple bottles of orange juice and a cup of coffee. We used our coats as blankets and I pulled up Youtube on my tablet. We cuddled up together and watched Youtube for hours, making that couch our own little hygge oasis in a sea of really unhappy people.

We as people are evolving and technology is a big part of that. I am all about using every tool I have to make a cozy, happy environment for my kids. But I’d love to hear what you think! Do you practice hygge, with or without technology? Let us know in the comments below.

A Website.

Up ↑