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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mike Keyton

Not a bad cowboy for a Brit!
I'm still busy goat herding and chicken bustin' out on the farm, but I had to come back and make an important announcement for those of you in the writer community.

My good friend and writing confidante, Mike Keyton is seriously ill with a collapsed lung. He's in the hospital now. If his current treatment doesn't work soon, he'll have to undergo surgery.

His wife was kind enough to inform me of the situation and I'm standing in as a go-between for his writing friends. I know some of you know and follow Mike. I'm asking for good wishes and prayers for Mike and his family.

Never doubt the power of healing thoughts and prayer.

Mike is without wifi at his hospital so he has no internet contact except through his wife. If you'd like to add your name and thoughts into the comment stream, I'll make a clipping of it and put it in the card that I'll send him on Tuesday. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

If you'd like to follow Mike, here are a few places where you can find him...that is, when he's not stuck in the hospital. 

His blog: Record of a Baffled Spirit
Twitter: Baffled Spirit
Facebook: Michael Keyton

Whether you follow Mike or not, leave him a get-well message. Thanks, guys!


Update: Mike is home again after lung surgery. Huzzah! Take your time to recover, buddy. We'll be here whenever you decide to join the gang again.

We've missed you!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Playing Hooky



Greg's home and we're off doing homesteady things.

See you in a couple of days.










Monday, August 19, 2013

Make Your Blog Post (Nearly) Immortal

In keeping with the comment thread started from the initial blog post  "I Stopped Reading You Today", let's talk about titles that earn their keep.

A title is the first thing most of us see as we're scanning our blog readers. It's reader bait.

Titles attract different audiences so nothing I tell you is an automatic 'click', but there are some pretty good models you can try.

When I scan blogs every morning, the titles that make me pause generally:

• make me a promise
• shock me with unexpected news
• tell me something personal

Let's start with the promise. Think back to any magazine article that promises to make you richer, skinnier, smarter, or more popular.  Now look at the majority of writer blogs that promise to give you the secrets to marketing, how to get a publishing contract, or how to be fantabulous at social networks.

I'll bet a lot of you click on those...and then quickly become disillusioned with the so-called "secrets". (We'll get into that another time.) 

What all these titles have in common is that they imply a promise. It works, but you have to deliver on that promise or eventually you'll lose your credibility.

Shocking titles: It's sensationalism at it tawdriest. Some people love them, but I'm not a fan. I used to follow one blogger who came up with the most outrageous, yet juiciest titles I'd ever seen on any blog. The post, on the other hand, had a lot to be desired.

Shocking titles work for clickability, but you better have a kick-ass post to go with it.

The personal touch works mostly for a blogger's regular audience. When I work in my dogs or homesteading into a title, I'm promising personal insight. I expect my regular readers to click on those posts because it's a glimpse into the secret life of someone they know.

I like these the best, but only because I'm deliberately talking to my friends. But as a means of growing my audience, it doesn't do much unless I use...

Keywords, The Big Payoff in Clickability: My number one criteria for choosing a particular title is its ability to show up in a search engine. For me, that's the golden goose. 

While I depend on my regular followers to read and comment on my posts, it's the keywords inside my title (and post) that brings in the biggest returns.

This is what gives the post legs. Every time someone tweets it, "likes" or shares it on Facebook, or links to it on their own blog, its reach grows. But the real muscles are the keywords.

When I write my posts and titles, I write them from the viewpoint of someone looking for information. I put myself in their places.

This more than anything else has helped with my visibility--especially with non-followers--people who are simply looking for an answer to their specific queries.

It's true that whoever found you through a keyword search might be a one-night stand, but then again, he might like your work so much, he stays.

Blogs are generally ephemeral. Once the post goes live, its viability might last a week at best. But a post and title with good keywords can live for years in a search engine. In that sense, I'd rather be a marathon runner than a sprinter.

How do you title your posts? Is it something you consider when you blog?



Thursday, August 15, 2013

Calling All Cooks

...especially if you like to cook Asian cuisine. I need your help.

I love Asian cooking. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai--you name it. But when I cook with those spices renown for Asian cuisine, I seem to be missing a beat.

It seems to me that most Asian cooking uses sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and/or nutty. I'm not a big fan of nuts in my food, but I do love that hint of vinegar, sweetness and spiciness in stir fry dishes. 

But is there an easy ratio to remember how much to use of each? Am I missing a spice that should be used in most Asian dishes?

The other day I made a potluck stir fry with what was in my fridge: celery, cabbage, onion, squash, and snap peas. I made a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sweet chili sauce, and garlic, but it still didn't taste right to me. I felt it was missing something.

Any suggestions?

***

The leaves are starting to fall. The leaf drop is due more to the wretched heat we've suffered than the changing of the seasons. Although we did get a little rain yesterday, it barely wet a whistle.

Whenever the leaves start falling, I start feeling all wifely and want to cook. It must be some horrible ancient part of my brain, hardwired to revert to domesticity when the seasons change. I know it can't possibly be natural--at least not for me.

Are you a good cook? Any thoughts on Asian cuisine? My specialty is Mexican cooking...and takeout.


Monday, August 12, 2013

What Kind of Blogs Do You Read?

You guys always inspire me with your comments. I thought for the next few Mondays I'd tackle some of the topics brought up in the comment stream from last Monday's post (I Stopped Reading You Today).

Today I want to talk about our interests, both shared and uncommon. The reason I have so many blogs on my reader is because I have so many interests. I read writer blogs, as many of us do, but also blogs that focus on marketing and copywriting.

I garden, so there are gardening blogs, homesteading blogs, and green-living blogs. I have animals, so throw in blogs about dogs, goats, chickens, and rabbits. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool frugalista and there are at least a hundred blogs on my reader that list coupons, freebies, and practical tips to save money or DIY projects.

That's the big picture, but what about drilling down to the details? Why do I read some posts and not others? When do I comment and when do I just store the information away?

When it comes to writer blogs, I rarely read or comment on new releases or excerpts unless A) It's a friend of mine. Or B) The tagline is so compelling I have to give that person a pat on the back.

But I hardly ever read writing advice. Most of the advice out there is regurgitated and old news. My thinking is that unless this is your first rodeo, you already know all the steps to this dance. I know how to write. Only practice and excellent crit partners will make me better.

And those hundred-odd blogs on saving money? Unless it's new-to-me, I can scan those and then delete.

What I do read religiously are friends' blogs, posts that help me be a better animal caretaker, and most gardening posts.

I like reading about my friends' personal lives. It's interesting to me and it makes me a better friend if I know what's happening with them. 

Animal and gardening blogs are like information candy. I can't get enough of them. No matter how much I think I know about animals, there are other people with far more experience. It's an honor and a gift to be among sages who can help me be a better caregiver.

Blog reading is a selfish pursuit--at least for me. I read for myself first. 

What about you? What kind of blog topics are automatic reads for you? What do you tend to skip?


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wherever You Go, There You Are

My mother turned 80 today. A benchmark year. She and two aunts are all I have living from the generation before me. She's in good health, spry, and still has a keen mind--all things I hope she's passed on to me!

It got me to thinking about all our benchmark years. Not just the decade tabs, but life events. The year your first child was born. The year of a divorce, marriage, or infidelity. The year you got the job that turned the corner for you financially. The year loved ones died. All these things define us--imprinting us with memories and deep emotions.

When I was a kid I used to make life goals; things I was determined to accomplish by a certain age. Oddly enough, marriage was never on the list. LOL! Yet it was the first thing I did as soon as I turned legal age.

Looking back, none of the things I planned ever came about--at least not the way I planned. I started university late, but graduated in three years. My dream job came and went before I realized how perfect it was for me. There were other, better-paying jobs, but none that gave me the personal satisfaction of that first job.

Writing was never on my list. Not ever. Yet here I am, with ten books under my belt.

If I did anything right in my life it's that I wasn't afraid to take the road less traveled. And I was lucky that I found a guy who felt the same way. We've never done things the easy way, and that's okay. It's only made the journey more interesting.

My mother scolded me once for working too hard. She said I needed to enjoy my life more. She said I needed to have more fun.

...I thought I was. ;o)

What are your benchmarks? Did they come about the way you planned? Or do you prefer to let life carry you where it wills?

My world is in flux until Greg is officially retired and moved, but I've been madly planning my goals for the next ten years. It's exciting and a lot of work--but a lot of fun. 

See, Ma. I took your advice.

***

And here's a little sample of unexpected goals. I wrote Mistress of the Stone because I wanted to try my hand at a historical with a paranormal twist. I learned yesterday that Bitten By Paranormal Romance named it a Top Pick for August. Just goes to show you never know where those whims can take you.


Monday, August 5, 2013

I Stopped Reading You Today

...and it's all your fault.

Did I get your attention?

As fiction writers, we're always warned to hook the reader right away. But I'm beginning to see that it's equally important to hook your blog reader too.

Feedly and Bloglovin rely on truncated posts. (You can change that in Feedly, but its scrolling feature is terrible so you're almost forced to use the truncated feature.)

My blog reading has been cut almost in half. Not because Feedly is more efficient, but because it only shows me a few lines of text.

The blog's name is teeny-tiny so I'm counting on the title and a few lines of text to lure me into clicking for more. If the first paragraph doesn't grab me, I delete it. And Feedly is soooooo unforgiving about un-deleting. 

If I make a mistake--and I've made plenty--I lose the post without knowing if it belonged to a friend or not. (If it belongs to a friend, I always read the whole post. I may not comment on it, but I always read it.)

Deleting posts based on the title and first paragraph has made me acutely aware that it's more important than ever to hook the reader from the get-go. You may not get a second chance--especially if you have trigger fingers like me.

I write my blog posts like magazine articles. My first goal is to get right to the point of the post. Once I've told you what the post is going to be about, then I can distribute the details. I don't meander from the topic unless it's a newsy post that covers lots of different things.

There are lots of ways to help your blog get noticed in a feed reader. Here are a few:

Use pictures. I'm rather spare with photos. It takes a lot of time to find the right one and then you have to be sure it's copyright-free. But I can't deny that photos always make me pause even if it's a blog I rarely stop to read.

Choose the right photo. Lead with the photo you want to appear first in the feed. If you always use your blog's header as the lead photo, it sends the message that it's an old post and I can bypass it.

Stay on topic. And if you should meander, make sure all your other points are related to the first topic.

Use bulleted lists. If you follow me regularly, you know I use lists frequently. When I'm busy, I like to be able to scan a punch list rather than a long dissertation that covers the same thing.

Use a catchy title. I'll admit, the title I used today is too long for my tastes, but it is catchy and that's what counts.

Get to the point. 'nuff said.

***
Feedly is still out to get me. Recently, I was made aware of a snafu. Apparently, not all my feeds transferred. A friend, whom I read regularly, hadn't been appearing on my feed. At first I didn't worry. She travels a lot and I just assumed she was off on one of her many jaunts.

It took me weeks to realize that Feedly wasn't including her blog. When I manually inserted the blog into the feed, it showed posts that were weeks old even though she'd been blogging faithfully. I'm not sure what's going on, but now that I know something's afoot, I'll track it better.

Have you noticed any problems with your feed reader? Has your blog-reading changed since Google Reader rode off into the sunset?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Forget R.I.P.D., Read This Author Instead



This past week I went to the movies and wished I hadn't. Oh, what a difference a good storyteller makes.

While it might seem unfair to compare movies with books, the concept is the same. They each tell a story.

We went to see R.I.P.D.. I was looking forward to it because the trailer looked hilarious. R.I.P.D. is based on the comic book by the same name. It's about a cop who dies and is recruited by R.I.P.D., the police department of the Afterlife to go after 'deados', bad dead guys who refused to cross over.

Now that in itself makes a terrific premise. I'm sorry I didn't think of it. But in the end, it all came down to execution. The story was dull. There's just no other way to put it. The formula and storytelling was so flat both Greg and I started to nod off. I've never fallen asleep at the movies, but this one almost did me in.

In short, NOT recommended.

What do I recommend?


If you're an SF and fantasy lover, I highly recommend KS Augustin (and her pseudonym, Cara d'Bastian). I've read almost all her books and this author knows how to tell a story! After R.I.P.D. I feel I need to cleanse my palate and reread her again.
I looked her up recently and she's having an anniversary sale.

From the first to the eighth of August, Sandal Press will be holding a 99-cent sale for all its non-free releases.

 
• Want to try a space opera like QUINTEN'S STORY? 99 cents. 

• Interested in a lesbian love story on an alien battlefield? WAR GAMES is 99 cents. 

• How about a future historical? THE PIRATE'S GRAND PLAN is 99 cents. 

 
Participating etailers are: Amazon, Kobo, OmniLit/AllRomanceEbooks and Smashwords

(If you're a Smash fan, go to Kaz's blog for the Smashwords coupon codes.)

Don't waste your time on R.I.P.D., but if you're into SF or fantasy, do check out KS Augustin's sale. It's only on for one week. 

I could've bought a dozen of her books for what it cost us to go to the movies. Now that's value.