About You, About Me, About Everyone Else

ImageWhen I land on an interesting blog site, I always look for the About link – and I click it. Rather than to read several blog posts to find out about the blogger, I hope to find some insight on their About page. If the blogger is friendly and appears approachable, I’m more likely to read some posts and follow.

Ruth Ann Nordin recently posted a link to an article entitled, Top 10 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes of Author-Bloggers. I was sure I would find ten more things I wasn’t doing right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Other than no twitter handle, because I don’t tweet, my biggest mistake was my About page. I had nothing on it other than one lousy sentence. I should have known better from my own blog-hopping habits.

In addition to the tips and information the article put forth, I did a little research on how to make the best of your About page. As with many blogging topics, the viewpoints can be subjective, and the pointers for a commercial business vary quite a bit from what I’m putting forth here. My comments are in parenthesis:

Per Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most highly-trafficked pages.

People can’t resist clicking the About page. They want to know who you are and what you are about.

It’s ok to have fun on your page.

Keep your first paragraph short. One to two lines – lines, not sentences.

Tell a good story. A good story hooks them every time.

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Hubby used to pass this picture around and say it was his wife!

Use a good photo of yourself.  (I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t need to see what someone looks like to want to follow their blog or read their books. There are a couple of not-so-good photos of me floating around out there, but I’ll wait until I really need author headshots to post a good photo to my page. … A little positive thinking there!)

Post contact information.  If you’re not including a way for people to contact you outside of the comments section, you may be missing opportunities. (In an effort to keep spam down, I’ve avoided putting my email address out there. I’ve probably kept questions and fan mail down, too.)

Your About page can bring more readers AND more sales.  (I’ll take both, please.)

Write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a press release.

Be consistent with your voice. Being upbeat and witty on your blog will have been for naught when someone clicks on your About page and finds it crumbly-dry and boring.

Tell why you are blogging. Do you specialize in a particular subject, or do you cover a variety of topics? Who are you hoping to reach? Your blog will be defined here as one of primarily offering information, help, or a more personal blogging experience.

Show your books. Include a synopsis for each, and have a link for purchase.  Viewpoints vary for this suggestion. Some say your books and links should be visible with every post, others say they should be on your About page, while even others suggest a separate page for your books. (My books are on my home page, and they are now on my About page. I don’t want them showing up in every post; my header makes it pretty clear I have books.) You should, of course, choose what feels right for your blog.

Don’t post your resume. Keep your bio short utilizing one focused paragraph. It is ok, however, to additionally talk about achievements and publications.

Make sure your About link has prominence on your main page.  Preferably at the top of your Imageblog. It’s one of the first places many visitors to a blog go, so make it easy to find.

Backlink. If you have posts you’re particularly proud of because they’ve received tons of comments, or they are just plain wonderful, list them on your About page. (This is a good idea, especially for your Freshly Pressed posts.)

When someone leaves, they should have an idea as to who you are as a person.

I now have a squeaky new About page. I tried to follow some of the pointers – two lines to start, tell a story, why I’m blogging, about my family, contact email, and I shared enough about my books to, hopefully, entice a few new readers.

Let me know if there was anything helpful to you here. Will you be making changes to your About page? Or will you be making your first About page? Was I the only person at WordPress who didn’t utilize the About page?

The Power of Positive Thinking

ImageThere are a multitude of items you can order online nowadays, but I remember something I sent for via our good old postal system before the convenience of the internet. Something that was guaranteed to change my life. I would have love, wealth, and happiness – all of my dreams come true.

I’m an upbeat person. I always look for the good side of everyone and every situation. It can get annoying to others at times. Even our son has told me to back off when he didn’t want to feel better about what was making him blue. I get that. Sometimes, you just have to feel it.

I must have been at a low point about something those many years ago. I really don’t remember; I don’t hang on to negativity very well. But when I saw the ad in the magazine, I simply had to have this miracle, whatever it was. I don’t remember the cost, but I wanted all of the promises. I waited the appropriate six to eight weeks for arrival. On the day it came, I literally tore the box apart to get the magic out.

I sat stunned for a moment.

Inside was a little soapstone dish with a lid. I could hold it in the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it. I removed the lid, and inside was a polished stone. That’s all. I looked in the box to see if Imagethere were instructions. Sure enough, there were. Three times every day, I was to remove the stone, hold it in my hand, and repeat the enclosed mantra. I don’t remember the words, but they were nothing more than a series of positive affirmations for believing in yourself. I remember flopping back on the sofa and laughing at my folly.

But I got a lot of mileage out of that little dish and stone. I used it several years later when I conducted training classes. I shared the story, and I passed the dish and stone around as I gave a quick talk on being positive and believing in yourself whether personally or in your job.

That’s a bit of long story to get to my main topic today, but I appreciate positivity. I appreciate someone who encourages you, instead of someone who drags you down, or makes you feel inadequate, or tells you that you can’t do something.

On Monday, writer Morgan Le Fables posted a link to an almost 13-minute video from Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire. I’ve never heard her speak before. She is charming, sincere, passionate, and very giving with her encouragement and advice.

I took notes.

Here is the link so you can view the video when you have time – Anne Gives Writing Advice, September 18, 2012.  Here are my quick notes:

  • Write every day.
  • Keep what you write. Even if you decide not to use what you write, put it away – keep it.
  • There are no rules in our profession.
  • All you need is a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil, and you can turn out a War and Peace or an Old Man and the Sea.
  • Write anywhere. In a café, at the kitchen table, in a garage office.
  • People say you can’t break in. That’s not true. Every year people on the outside break in.
  • It’s no harder to get published today than it ever was. New authors come out of nowhere every year.
  • Interview with the Vampire was rejected five times. Don’t give up. Anne was at a writer’s conference when she asked someone to read her manuscript. The woman did, and Anne was off and running.
  • Publishing is crying for new voices, new visions, new stories, new characters.
  • Her friend, author Floyd Salas, said to her, “Go where the pain is. Write about what hurts.”
  • Anne expands to, “Go where the pleasure is.”
  • Write what is exciting to you. Interesting to you. Be excited to want to find out what happens next.
  • Every one of her books has had bad reviews – worst book ever. You can’t win them all, so be sure to turn out what you like.
  • Don’t revise your book because of rejection from an editor. Any editor who rejects your book doesn’t get it.
  • When they love your book and ask for changes, now you can listen.Image
  • Lots of rejections? Do not give up! Self publish! It’s never been easier.
  • There are stories every few weeks of self-published authors being discovered by big publishing houses.
  • You need stubbornness. You need courage. You need faith in yourself.
  • Don’t be cynical. When a New York editor opens your manuscript, they want it to be good.
  • Believe in yourself! Be brave!
  • Nobody can tell you that you can’t do that! Realize your dreams.

Truly, all of this is so much better in Anne’s passionate voice. And there is more than what is in my notes. She is motivating and will give you a lift.

As I run down this crooked road of writing and self-publishing, Anne Rice gave me a bit more confidence that my stubbornness, bravery, and writing because the stories excite and delight me, is the crooked road in the right direction.

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Leave Them Kids Alone

ImagePink Floyd. I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan. Hubby is a mega-fan, and it’s not unusual to hear Floyd blaring from the den. I’ve had a Pink Floyd lyric running through my head this past week: “Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” Leave them kids alone. The words shift; the tune remains, “Hey! Maddie! Leave them covers alone!” I’m not making this up. It’s in my head, and it’s annoying.

This evening, I approved the final artwork for the rework of my first cover. I’ve read plenty of articles about covers, and thought I had everything under control. A little more research tonight turned up some interesting tidbits, as there is a plethora of articles related to the mistakes of indie authors.  Ha! Here we go again. I compared my covers to the tips. All of these helpful hints appeared in more than one article:

1. Do not use a family member or relative to do your artwork.  – FAIL

2. Sexy covers are hot right now.  – FAIL

3. Do not put your name in small type in the lower right or left corner.  – FAIL

4. Do not clutter your cover. Design around one element.  – FAIL

5. Quit messing with your cover. Pick a design and stick with it.  – FAIL

6. Changing the cover art can attract new buyers.  – PASS  – Yeah! I passed one! Oh, wait. Basically the change was from one of a boring cover to one of the steamy sex god and goddess covers. – FAIL

I’m happy with my covers. They certainly portray the pink, fluffy, fun, not-too-serious, theme of the books. I think I’ll keep them.

After watching the Emmys …

ImageI was inspired to have an awards ceremony. Some very special bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for awards. I’ve always been a little shy about this award thing, as I don’t feel I’ve done anything here to warrant any type of award, but I realize we nominate the bloggers we enjoy, and we help bring attention to other blogs as well. I’ve found some wonderful people by following the recommendations of those who have nominated others. So without further ado, let me catch up with awards today.

On June 18, Lightningpen nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

July 31 brought a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from The Living Notebook.

On August 3, T.W. Dittmer grouped his nominees together for the Very Inspiring Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. My name was on his list.

On August 7, Zen Scribbles nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

August 12, I was nominated for the Family of Bloggers Award by Paula Acton.

August 18 brought One Lovely Blog Award from The Cheeky Diva.

A great big “thank you” to all of you who nominated me. If you aren’t presently following any of the above people, please check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Most of these awards require you to tell seven things about yourself and then nominate other bloggers for the same award. There is no way you want to hear that many things about me, so I’ll just do one set of seven for the lot:

1. My highest bowling score was 245. I was chatting with a girlfriend about her wedding, and having to get up to bowl was a distraction. When someone pointed out to me that I had rolled seven strikes in a row, the spell was broken.

2. The movie Camelot reduces me to a crying, blubbering mess – every time.

2. I love playing Scrabble.

4. My first car was a used, orange Ford Maverick with a black stripe from front to back over the hood Imageand top. My first new car was a GREMLIN! I “designed” it myself with chocolate brown paint, white stripes down both sides, slightly wider wheels with awesome hubcabs, and an automatic on the floor. It was a fantastic car, it never embarrassed me, and I had it for over ten years.

5. I was Track Queen in high school. Not Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen – track queen.

6. The first year I played racquetball, I won our state’s tournament as a novice.

7. When going out to eat, the first thing I look for on the menu is a Reuben sandwich.

For the Family of Bloggers Award, you tell what attributes you bring to the family, using an anagram of the word FAMILY:

F – flexible (in my reactions to people and situations)
A- affable
M – merciful
I – imaginative
L – loyal
Y – youthful (in spirit)

On to the Nominations!!

ImageBeautiful Blogger Award – I chose these people because their blogs are visually appealing:
Canadian Hiking Photography
Richert Images
Mark Armstrong Illustration
Charlie’s Photo Blog
The Way I See

ImageVery Inspiring Blogger Award -Inspiration comes in many forms. I nominate this fine mix of blogs for this award:
Nicolette Reed
Human Nature and Superpowers
Daniel Koeker
The Word by Mike Ballenger
Gas Station Gastronomy

ImageOne Lovely Blog – There are lovely people, things, and sentiments at all of these blogs:
Simplicity Lane
In a Grand Fashion
The Bookstore Lady
Retired Ruth
Sumthissumthat (especially his wife’s artwork)

ImageSisterhood of the World Bloggers – Ladies you will enjoy:
Rendevous with Renee
Keri Peardon
Michelle Proulx Official
That Girl Who Reads Books
The Jenny Mac Book Blog

ImageFamily of Bloggers – These people are like family to me and are listed in the order that I met them:
Zen Scribbles
Tessa Sheppard
T.W. Dittmer
Robin Coyle
Cheeky Diva

Phew! Thank you all so much!

12 Tips – How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

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I get a kick out of everyone who stresses over their stats and checks them many times throughout the day – if not the hour. I often forget to check my stats. Better stats still scare me. I liken it to being on a stage while an audience watches and listens. Will they get up and walk out? Will they laugh at the humor moments? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they throw tomatoes?Image

Even on days when my post might be a stinker, I’m grateful for the people who come by and push the Like button. A comment is icing on the cake, and because I know how both make me feel, I try to be supportive of the blogs I follow and comment when I can without saying something too stupid (and oh, yeah, I have done that). I even click many of the links on blog posts. I’ve found some interesting people and things on the other side of those clicks.

I noticed a few minutes ago that the next comment to my blog will be the 600th comment. Here are a few more of my stats:

  • My total views doubled from July to August.
  • The highest number of views I’ve had on any one day was 74. That’s fine with me (see paragraph one again).
  • I have 153 followers. My husband was surprised I had that many. Me, too.
  • The dog Muttley was #2 on my list of most hits through search engines, with “horse poo” being in the top ten.
  • I’ve never been, and I never want to be Freshly Pressed. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but not for a long time, that’s for sure.

So, why have I had the recent urge to search for ways to get better stats?

Because having people visit my blog, if only for a moment or two, puts my name and Susan Hunter’s Imagename out there. And someone who likes pink or mysteries might stay around a little longer to see what we’re about.

By the time I was done wading through articles and blogs, I actually had a lot of information about getting more blog visitors. Some of it was technical and pertained more to a business than a personal blog. A lot of it was what most people already know – visit other blogs, leave comments and likes, respond to comments on your own blog, add graphics, shorter is better than longer … but the following are some additional suggestions. I’m not attributing them to any one person or article, because they are fairly generic, and I encountered them in multiple places. Some of the information came from the gurus right here at WordPress.

#1 – Your blog should express what you’re most passionate about. I definitely see this on many blogs, but if someone had said this to me before I started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even tried. I’m supposed to be, and am mostly, chronicling my writing journey, which is not yet a passion as much as it is a wonderment.

#2 – Are you blogging to help people, be a resource, and make a difference? Or to make you famous? Well, let’s be honest.  I’m not doing much here to help people. I’m definitely not a resource. And nothing I write will make a difference in the world. I’m sort of leaning to the famous side – you know, the book thing. Everyone says if that’s the case, then you should quit now. So, if you don’t see me after today, I took their advice and packed it in.

#3 – Post only one post per week.

#4 – Post Often.  Obviously, there was a mix of advice as to how often to post. Some say multiple times per day, others say writing and posting too often leads to weak writing, but the majority thought posting often would lead to the best results – every day or every other day would keep the search engines happy, too.

#5 – Analyze your blog’s competition.  What?! We are in competition with each other? I had no idea, and I refuse to play along.

#5 – Don’t blog about your pet, your boyfriend, husband, or your kids. I’m already turning people away. I probably had 1,000 followers and they are dropping like flies. My husband and our dead dogs come up often. My kid is not yet off the hook, and I don’t agree with this. There are loads of blogs with families at the heart of them, and frankly, I like them.

#6 – People want you to talk about them, not you. -and- Write in the second person.  I generally want to visit my favorite blogs to see what each person is up to. I like it when they talk about what they’re doing or accomplishing. And what’s with writing in the second person? You. Your. Yours. I always thought second person was best used for e-mail, presentations, and professional writing. I can see this on a more information driven blog than a personal blog.

#7 – Tell stories. -and- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.  I’ve got that covered – sort of. Book stuff, stories, bits of information. There are different topics simply because I have no idea where I’m going here.

#8 – Guest post on other blogs. Crikey, this is good advice, and for most of you, it would work, but I have enough trouble finding something to say here without getting on someone else’s stage, too.

#9 – Use numbers in your title to indicate lists, and the words “how to.” These are highly searched key Imagewords, and we are a list-making society, as well as a people who want to know how to do things. Got that covered today!

#10 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts.  I think there is a lot to be said for keyword search. I simply haven’t taken the time to put enough thought to it yet. But using keywords in your title and in your post will definitely bring more hits, and hopefully, more readers to your blog. There are entire sites devoted to keywords. Working a high-ranking keyword or two into every post can be extremely beneficial. I came across an article from a blogger who had passed the million hit mark. He swears by keyword search – even writing entire articles about random topics just so he could include high-value keywords.

#11 – Turn your articles and blog posts into PDFs, then submit your PDFs to document sharing sites like Scribd.  “Scribd is the world’s largest online library, making it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.” This is perfect for bloggers who share great information, but there are also books, recipes, and other interesting writing here. Hold your cursor over the word “explore” at the top to see the numerous categories. And there are some awesome Geek types on the About page.

#12 – Start using Pinterest to post pictures from your blog.  I did this as soon as I found the tip. It takes a little time, but you’ll want to go to the actual blog post to grab your image to pin. That way, each picture will link back to the post where it was used. Ideally, you should label your picture with a bit of information about the blog post. I may do that later. I knew I was putting goofy pictures out there last night. There are usually lovely pictures flowing across the Pinterest landscape, and I dropped goofiness on it. I didn’t care; I did it anyway. My Pinterest page. My whopping two followers haven’t ditched me yet.Image

This was a long one today, but I hope it was helpful.

As I started this post a couple of days ago, my 600th comment came and went. It was from Jennings Wright who is amazing and has written four books – in different genres! Please check out her blog – and consider buying one of her books.

Peddling Wares – An Idea

ImageOn my recent trip home from the grocery store, I drove past our in-progress county fair. The rides and food booths were situated along the chain link fence running along the road. As I tried to quickly take in the sights, a light bulb went off over my head.

We haven’t been to the fair since our son was young, but I enjoy the fair. I love the animals – all of them – even the smelly ones. Ahh! I almost forgot! We got our beloved dog, Joe, at the fair! Well, sort of. The people from the dog pound were there with dogs for adoption. All three of us decided that our shepherd at home needed a brother, so we picked out a black and tan coon hound with red ticking on his chest. Our son was excited and named him Ticker. When we went to the pound to get him the next day, there was a mix-up, and Ticker wasn’t there, he was back at the fair. But his brother was at the pound. He looked like Ticker, he seemed to like us, so we went with him. I named him Joe.

Back to the subject of the fair. The rides are ok, but we really like fair food, and one of my favorite thingsImage to do is walk through the commercial buildings where everyone peddles their wares. All of the home improvement gurus are there, the hot tub people, local businesses, craft people … there’s a lot going on. And we go through collecting cards, pens, advertising pieces, etc.  Some of it is useful; some of it is junk.

The light bulb over my head was a flash of an idea. A flash of a booth at the fair with posters of each of my book covers on the walls, print on demand copies of my books for sale on the table, bookmarks, and lots and lots of cards with my website for eReaders. I love this idea!

Of course, I had to tell hubby as soon as he came home from work. He didn’t share my enthusiasm. With a sideways glance and a frown he said, “It sounds like work.” A trade show. It sounded like working a trade show to him. Well, duh.

ImageI assured him it would be fun; it was the fair! And we would have fun together schmoozing with the locals. And the fair is full of old people during the day, and he LOVES old people (I’m six years older than he is), and old people love him, and old people would like my books.

I think I saw his shoulders slump.

“Next year, honey. Not this year. Next year. We’ll have fun,” I said as I walked out of the den. I think I heard a choice word under his breath. I’ll post pictures of him having fun in my booth next year when we go to the fair.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea. I’d like to know if any of you have done this or something equivalent, and how did it go for you? I think it’s a good chance to get in front of a lot of people who read – both young and old. Someone tagged one of my books at Amazon as young adult. I never really thought about it, but the books are certainly not objectionable, and a young adult reader might enjoy them.

Also, about print on demand. When you want one copy of your book, or just a few, or quite a few for the fair, who do you use? I may want to print a few copies for Christmas gifts this year, but am uncertain where to turn. Recommendations are appreciated.

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Baby Joe – home from the fair.

It’s National Talk About Your Book Day

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OK, I made that up, but feel free to use it. Someone has to make up these national days. We’ll be sharing this day with punch, because it really is National Punch Day. As in fruit punch.

Anyway, I try to talk with my mother often, and she wears the hat of proofreader and editor for me. Two days ago, her eyes were bothering her, and she was having trouble seeing. Yesterday, she was reading a book. Fickle eyes. She was reading a murder mystery with an Amish setting. Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron? Our local paper isn’t filled with accounts of murders at the cheese factory. She told me this book was from a store, she paid almost $13 for it, it has a publisher – and she found a mistake! I laughed out loud. She said there was one sentence where the word “that” was printed in error twice – “that that.” That is hilarious because “that” is my nemesis in my writing, and this lady got away with it twice.

My mother has given me great encouragement with my books, and she is my biggest fan. She turned 81 this year, and I’m grateful we’ve been able to share this ray of sunshine in our lives together.

So, here are some of the things Mom and I have been talking about this week.

Sunshine Hunter – More copies are selling now that the price has been reduced to 99 cents. I took the plunge and picked up yet more advertising from September through December, with this book being highlighted the week of December 16-22.

Big Apple Hunter and Sin City Hunter – Both appear to occasionally be purchased as individual titles, but most of the sales seem to come in clusters, as though someone read the first book and came back for the next two.

Big Easy Hunter – This is my new release this month. The fifty sales are still standing at Smashwords. I promise I’ll let you know if they are taken back, but in the meantime, these fifty put me in the top ten of their bestsellers if you sort by bestseller/full/$2.99 or less. The first time I noticed this, my book was in the #7 spot; today it is #8. I hope this, too, will help with sales. I’m still waiting for the book to get to B&N, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, etc.  I’m actually in a bit of a panic for it to show up at B&N, because this is the book I chose for my advertising next week, and if it’s not there, I can’t use it.

I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to tell people about my books. Last week, I finally told some ladies, who I’ve been on a book list with for years, about the series. They were surprised I kept my writing a secret for so long. Several of them bought books right away, and one woman wrote to tell me that she finished Sunshine Hunter in two days and loved it. I stuck one of my Sunshine Hunter cards up on the bulletin board at the grocery store that day.

I also think something cool might have happened today. I’m not sure. An email from Amazon showed up in an email account that is not associated with my books. It suggested books I might be interested Imagein. Sunshine Hunter was in the subject line, and was first on the list at 99 cents with the following books higher in price. The cynic in me thought it was something bogus. I risked viruses and clicked on every link in the email; they were all good. I’m hoping this, too, is legitimate, and maybe my book is being promoted on some of Amazon’s spammy lists.

It’s a good day to talk about your book.

Formatting for Smashwords

ImageFormatting your book before sending it up to be chewed and spit out by the meatgrinder at Smashwords takes time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

I’m new at writing, editing, and formatting, and I freely admit to making sensational mistakes as I try to figure everything out, but as my last three books went up without a hitch, I’m simply going to try to show/tell you what I do that makes surviving the meatgrinder and passing the AutoVetter easy.

The information is only 1300 words, but with the illustrations, it’s quite long, so I didn’t want to put the entire thing in a blog post. It’s in a .pdf file.

If you are formatting a simple book with front matter, a linked table of contents, text with nothing more than bold, italics, underline, etc., and back matter – a simple, straightforward book – then you can use this guide for formatting:

Easy Formatting for Smashwords

You might wonder why I put the time into this. Well, it will make it easier for me in the future. I do get tired of scrolling through the Style Guide on my Nook to find the sections that pertain to formatting my book(s).

Also, my new friend, a fellow Ohioan, Marcus Matherne at Voices in His Head blog, wrote a funny book and paid someone to format it for him. He asked if I had any tips, and I told him I had been thinking about a blog post pertaining to formatting.

So there you have it. Boring blog post, but maybe it will help someone.

Disclaimer: If you follow my formatting instructions and you didn’t back up a copy of your book first, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Is Your Book Dialogue Heavy?

ImageIt was a busy weekend that included a trip to a library book sale and a stop at a Barnes & Noble to replace my defective Nook Tablet. I then spent a considerable amount of time working with all of the children’s books piling up around here. I’ll be busy this week until I catch up.

I also took some time to do some reading. I have a couple of hardcover books that I started quite a while ago, and I wanted to finish them. One was a mystery; the other was chick-lit.  Both were good stories, but I found myself feeling irritated with the latter. There was too much dialogue, and I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made. There were entire chapters, albeit short, consisting entirely of dialogue. I forced myself forward to the predictable ending.

Have you ever had ice cream that seemed whipped, full of air, and not satisfying? ImageThat’s what this book was like – full of air. The actual story itself seemed small. The book was by a well-known author who has published many books. This is their style.

I did a few online searches, and there are articles, blog posts, and opinions that are as numerous as the stars about dialogue. Some say there is no such thing as too much dialogue, and others say there is. Many of the comments fell into two camps:

Pro: Many new writers have too much exposition in their writing and not enough dialogue.
Con: Characters are loud when they talk too much, and they need to shut up so the story can move forward.

Writing style is subjective. What one person enjoys, another may dislike. I found this heavy use of dialogue interesting. I don’t recall it from my past years of being a voracious reader. Is this a fairly new thing?

I grabbed a couple of books from my bookcase. One from the 50’s, and one from the 60’s. The book from the 50’s has a style I enjoy. There is plenty of dialogue, but everything in the scene isn’t explained in dialogue. Perusing one chapter, I find a nice mix of dialogue and paragraphs which show and/or tell.  Instead of two characters talking about something that happened previously, it’s more enjoyable to read about the experience – which is more detailed with descriptions and feelings than their conversation would convey. The book from the 60’s seems to have a ratio of 40:60 with dialogue being the former. This book, too, was more enjoyable to me than the current book.

I checked several vintage books that are in the public domain. Three that I looked through were similar with pages and pages without dialogue, but when dialogue was used, one person might talk for a full one to two pages on my Nook. There were some long-winded people back in the day. One of the books seemed to have a nice balance between dialogue and exposition, but none were dialogue heavy.

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Just because I like giraffes.

As a reader, I know what I like. I know I’ve read dialogue heavy books before and haven’t always enjoyed them, but I didn’t realize why. As a new writer, I tend to look at styles more closely now, and am more aware of why I like or dislike a style.

This isn’t a case for or against heavy dialogue. I was simply aware of why I found reading one particular book more irritating than enjoyable.

Have you noticed if there are styles of writing that aren’t as enjoyable to you as others?

Don’t Play the Lottery? Maybe You Should

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There is no talk of writing, book sales, or marketing today. We are playing the lottery today, and I’m going to share with you how I win.

The lottery commercials in our state always proclaim, “Odds are, you’ll have fun!” Obviously, they can’t say, “Odds are, you’ll win!” because the odds are definitely against you.

Do you know someone who has won the lottery?

A friend of my husband’s was in a big pool at his place of work. When they won, fifty people shared 75 million. After the first wave of taxes, they each had about $450,000.

A girlfriend of mine has a best friend (obviously, I’m not her best friend) who won several million dollars in the Massachusetts lottery. She moved away, and my friend never heard from her best friend again.

A man in our town is an acquaintance of mine, and this year, he won $10,000 on scratch-off tickets – TWICE. His wins were one week apart.

People do win.

I remember when the lottery started in our state. On that first day, I stopped on my way home from work and spent about $50 on scratch-off tickets. I took them back to my apartment and spread them out on the kitchen table. I knew I was going to be a BIG winner. I wasn’t. I never played the lottery again.

Until a few years ago.

I’d take $10 and go buy five $2 tickets. I was surprised at how often one of them was a $20 winner. I thought if moved on to $5 tickets, I could win more money. Yep. I occasionally won $50 or $100. Hmm … how about $10 tickets? Oh, boy! There were $500 tickets in there!

I figured out that you needed to buy more than one ticket, and rather than to buy several different games, you needed to stick with just one or two.

ImageOf course, I worked my way up to $20 tickets. You have to be brave to scratch off $20 tickets, because when they’re losers, it’s just like standing over the toilet and flushing a $20 bill down while you wave buh-bye.

However, if you’re going to play the lottery, do your homework.

Every so often, I check online to see which $20 tickets still have large prize amounts available and how many are left. I compare each ticket side by side until I’ve chosen the top two with the best odds and the best prizes remaining. I only play the top ticket. If the store I’m in doesn’t have it, I’ll go with the second best, but I don’t allow myself to be tempted by anything else.

I don’t play scratch-off tickets every day. Many times, I only buy one ticket a month. If I hit a winner of $100 or more, I use 70% for whatever we want or need at the time, and I reinvest 30% (if I want to).

I’ve scratched off many, many $100 winners. Last summer, we had guests coming for two weeks, and I was wishing I had extra money. The next time I was at the grocery store, I slipped two twenty-dollar bills into the lottery machine and bought two of my top game. The first ticket was a $500 winner; the ticket behind it was $100. The next day, I went to my mother’s. I ran to the store to get something for her, and I bought just one more of my top game. It was another $500 winner. I set aside the thousand and reinvested the rest; I scratched yet another $500 ticket. Within a week and a half, I had $1500 set aside for nothing more than having a good time with our guests.

We have repaired vehicles, gone out to dinner, bought things we wanted – I PAID FOR MY FIRST BOOK COVER – all with lottery money. There were many times I would throw $50 at our son, smile, and simply say, “lottery.”

As for the bigger games … I don’t play them. Oh, sometimes we’ll grab one ticket when a pot gets obscenely big, but I really don’t want to win a massive amount of money. I can tell myself all day long it wouldn’t change me – but I’m afraid it would. I’ve seen firsthand how money changes people.

I play our state’s Rolling Cash 5. The pot is usually $100,000 before taxes, and someone wins it all the time. I pay my $1.00 a day for my chance to win just enough money to make things interesting around here.

I’ve been playing the Rolling Cash 5 for three years. I’ve won $300 four times; I’ve had numerous $10 winners, and several times each month, I get my lousy dollar back. I’m ahead of the game, so I bide my time until it’s my turn to win.

Some people sew, scrapbook, garden, or have any number of hobbies. Me? I play the lottery. The ads are right – I do have fun. Do you play the lottery? If so, what’s your biggest win so far?

Oh! I almost forgot! Here are my two biggest wins. They were each $1,000 winners. The first in January of 2010 when I bought two tickets. The second in February of 2010 when I bought just one ticket. They are both the same game – my top game pick at the time. ImageImageDisclaimer #1: If you have a gambling problem, if your budget is stretched to the limit, or if you think the lottery is only for poor, dumb people, please disregard everything I have written in this post.

Disclaimer #2: The information/comments in this post are my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone who does or does not know me.

The Fortune Cookie Writer Was High

Promotion:

The suspicious book sales at Smashwords remain, but things seem to be normal at Amazon. My book went live early Monday evening, and in the first twenty-four hours, nine copies were sold.

I’m happy with that number. Obviously, my six known fans showed up to buy the book. Other than the yammering I do here, and to my Imagefriends and relatives, no one knows about my books. I haven’t promoted them anywhere.

The one-day promo for this newest book is scheduled for the end-of-the month, but after that, I really should put more thought into how I want to get the word out. With Christmas right around the corner, and a new Kindle coming out, it would be foolish to do nothing and simply hope for the best.

The Next Book:

I transferred my handwritten notes for Windy City Hunter to a word.doc today (Tuesday). I tried to put them in some type of order, so I could see how the story would progress.

I love the idea of Susan and her friend going to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. I begged my brother for one of his pizza recipes. They are unique, and definitely prize-worthy, but he still has hopes of opening his own pizza shop one day, so I received a resounding “NO.”

The idea of something happening at the condo where they’ll be staying is one I want to keep. A nosy doorman, something happening across the hall from them – there are good possibilities there.

Then there’s the Santa with his kettle outside the cooking contest. He’s really a detective and keeping an eye on the comings and goings of one of the contestants.

I can’t wait to start writing again!

But I’ll have to.

After reading and editing all four books in a little over a month, I am really tired of these people and need a break. They’ve overstayed their welcome at my house. Go home, Susan, and just stay out of trouble for a while. Eat a Reuben sandwich.

ImageFortune:

It was a bit of an under-the-weather day for me today (Tuesday). Mostly fatigue, and I didn’t feel like cooking supper for hubby. I ran down the street and grabbed Chinese for us. We split a Moo Goo Gai Pan, because I didn’t want anything spicy. I wanted bland.

Hours later, the lone fortune cookie remained on the counter. Whose fortune was it? His or mine?

I took the dog out for a short walk, and when I came back, the cookie was gone; the fortune lie on the counter. It belongs to him now. I say he’s screwed.

Interpretations appreciated.Image

I’ll Be Rich in No Time

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That snarky interviewer I had around here the other day jinxed me. I didn’t even have my newest book up at Smashwords for twenty-four hours, and I found an error. But it’s not glaring, it would likely pass you by (it would!), and I fixed it before I published at Amazon. So, if you entered the betting pool for republishing, there are still no winners.

But something really cool happened after I published at Smashwords Sunday night. Within the hour. Did you catch that? WITHIN THE HOUR, I sold 50 books. Fifty. Fitty. Yep. Do the math. 50 books at $2.99 each before fees. At that hourly rate, I’ll be a millionaire within a year! (Click the graphic for a closer look.)

ImageAre you ready to leave comments and congratulate me for writing such an awesome book, that I sold FIFTY copies within the first hour?

Yeah, don’t bother.

I’m a realist. There’s no way 50 copies of my book sold within the first hour – especially at Smashwords. So what happened? I have a few theories.

– It’s a glitch.

– It’s someone using a credit card fraudulently as they try to amass money through affiliate programs. This happened last month at Smashwords, and they eventually reversed the fraudulent sales. I’m expecting this to happen to me in the coming weeks.

But let’s pretend it wasn’t a glitch or fraud! Play along now. What could it be?

– Someone who works for a library saw the book go up as newly published, and they needed more chick-lit, because the patrons can never get enough chick-lit. They bought FIFTY copies for eBook distribution.

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Louie B. and Piglet are today’s Ray of Sunshine to entice Secret Admirer to buy more books.

Or my favorite theory …

– I have a secret admirer who reads my blog and is so happy with the ray of sunshine I bring to his/her life every day, that he/she bought FIFTY copies just to throw some money my way.

That’s the one I’m going with until Smashwords reverses the sale(s).

What? Do you have a better theory?

Do You Want to Kill Your Blog Posts?

And now for something completely different. This will be an educational post!

I was doing a simple search for a problem I was having with my WordPress reader. An unrelated link Imageshowed up, but the title was interesting, so I clicked it. If you would like to bypass my babbling altogether, go straightaway here and get the professional’s original version:

12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time by Neil Patel at SEOmoz

Before I share the highlights of the article and my thoughts, you should know that I had to do another search to find out what SEO meant. Search Engine Optimization. Oh, I see. That makes sense. So here we go …

1. Crafting cute, clever or confusing headlines (or really bad ones)

Patel says, “The goal of the headline is to stop readers cold and draw them into your post. You can’t do that if you use cute, clever or confusing headlines.”

Strike one against me. I never craft my title with search engines in mind, but maybe you should if you want people to come to your blog. He goes on to say, “You can stop readers cold, however, if you write headlines that are unique, ultra-specific, useful or urgent.”

2. Never linking to old posts

What?! I didn’t know this was a good idea. In that case, read these posts:

Erotica (Blush) – where I freak out about today’s romance books. I had no idea mainstream romance novels had moved into the porn arena.

Always Check for One in the Chamber – where I tell the tale of the day my husband shot himself. In our house, it’s considered humor.

3. Never linking to other bloggers

I’m getting better at this now that I have some relationships with other bloggers. Here is a link to a blogImage I found 45 seconds ago. I typed the word pizza into the WP search engine, and scrolled through the posted links with pictures. I was stopped by this cute guy and his master making pizza. Stop by and take a look – This Little Italian Cooks. I am now a follower.

4. Forgetting to fill out your page title and description fields

Yeah. Ok. I don’t have a clue. I’ll need to do more research on this. Patel talks about plug-ins and Nutella.

5. Creating clunky URLs

Patel says, “If you want to give your post a fighting chance in the SEO landscape, then you have to include recognizable words in your URL. This means keywords, too.”

Ooh, I never thought about this. And I’ve had a website for sixteen years. I’m a moron.

6. Plagiarizing other bloggers

I’m not guilty of this! But I’ve seen some nasty comments between bloggers when one quotes another without credit. Don’t do that!

I don’t believe I am plagerizing Neil Patel because I’m admitting all of the intelligent stuff in this post belongs to him. Neil Patel. From a post on SEOmoz.

7. Publishing less than one post per month

There are bloggers who I wish would post more often. I enjoy their posts. But even if they only posted once a month, I would still be happy to see them in my Reader. I do understand that the search spiders won’t be kind to you though.

8. Writing big blocks of copy

Patel says, “Writing short paragraphs is a basic blog post writing law. Just like simple words and short sentences. Resort to long blocks of copy and you are stacking the deck against your blog post.” He goes on to point out that people will only stick around and read until they’re bored.

I’ve found this to be true. Sometimes, I read a blog post, and it’s good, and I think I’m at the end, but it goes on and on for as long or longer than what I’ve already read. I’m easily distracted. I sometimes leave.

P.S. – I love Patel. He just gave credence to my use of simple words and short sentences.

9. Zero presence on any social media platforms

In addition to your blog, he recommends Twitter, Facebook, and especially Google+.

Me = FAIL

I have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but they scare me too much to use them.

10. Never inviting readers to leave comments

I’m hesitant to do this. It feels like begging for comments. I hope I will come across as approachable, and people will feel comfortable to leave comments, yet I appreciate the bloggers who ask a question, because I’m more likely to respond.

ImageFor example, Sarah at Earful of Cider is running a poetry contest about BACON until Monday night at midnight. The prize is a nifty mug. Sarah says, “Lay your bacon poetry on me – bacon haiku, sonnets, limericks, couplets, spectrism, reverse verse, Purple Cows Sows, nursery rhymes, cinquains, whatever.” She is friendly and inviting – and she’s a librarian. Hubby and I both entered her contest. Here is the poem I would not allow hubby to submit:

Slice it, smoke it, fry it up quick.
Make sure it’s done, or it might make you sick.
Splattering grease burn, it looks like a freckle.
An apron protects you, especially your schmekel.

I’ve admitted to Sarah that we are really twelve year olds.

11. Writing about a topic nobody cares about

Been there. Done that. Some days, it’s a crapshoot.

12. Giving up

Patel says some successful blogs didn’t take off until they were two years in, and most people quit by nine months.

Never give up! Never surrender! ~Commander Jason Nesmith

Seriously …

Neil Patel wrote a great article complete with graphics and loads of links to even more information. It’s extremely helpful, especially to a new blogger. There are 130 comments, and some of the information in the comments section is as good as the article itself. So, if you haven’t already done so, hop on over to read Neil Patel’s 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time.

What do you think will kill a blog post? Should I teach more often? Will you be entering the bacon contest?

(Look at me! Asking questions!)

My First Book Interview

ImageI’m finally finished with the editing for my newest book, Big Easy Hunter.

I think the occasion calls for an interview to promote the book. There weren’t any good interviewers around, so I had to go with who was available, and he asked begged to remain anonymous.

Q. Oh, come on. Is the editing really finished?
A. It’s as finished as it’s going to be.

Q. Let the betting pool begin! How many days will elapse before she republishes the book because of errors?
A. Smartass. I’m expecting there will be no republishing of Big Easy Hunter.

Q. Did you get rid of all 144 exclamation points?Image
A. Well … not really.

Q. How many did you keep?
A. (gulp) 101

Q. You’re kidding! Oh my gosh! How could you keep 101?!!
A.  My characters are easily excited – like you, obviously.

Q. Is someone wearing a hat and following her in this book, too? What is it with you and hats?
A. Hats are back in fashion. Don’t you watch television? That sexy Matt Bomer on White Collar looks really great in a hat. And, no, there’s no one following Susan in this book. She turns the tables and follows someone else for a change.

Q. In one of your whiny blog posts, you said this book had two beginnings, one middle, and two ends. How can you possibly justify or even explain that? Who does that?
A. It’s easy, and it makes perfect sense. After the opening make-out scene, the reader soon learns there is a rapist over by the mall. If that isn’t enough excitement for you, Susan has been spotted breaking into houses in the middle of the night. That’s a pretty good beginning, wouldn’t you say?

Q. Middle. What’s the middle?
A. Well, we have to leave the beginning, because Susan goes to New Orleans to attend a wedding. There isn’t a middle yet, because we need another beginning.

Q. Maddie, you’re embarrassing yourself.
A. No. Pay attention. This works. Susan can’t help herself. She does something that sets into motion a whole heap of trouble for her while she’s in New Orleans. That’s the second beginning! She does something with a dog in some bushes, and –

Q. Stop! Aren’t your books supposed to be rated G. Or maybe PG?
A. You’re a bit pervy, aren’t you? The dog steals things from the house, and he shows them to Susan. What she does next is the beginning. See? We have a new mystery here in New Orleans. That’s three great mysteries in one book. Pretty clever, huh?

Q. Middle. Is there a middle somewhere in this book?Image
A. Well, if the middle is supposed to be the action, then what happens in New Orleans is the middle. There’s a lot of action – Susan steals something, there are threats, there’s an explosion, an abduction, lots of knives –

Q. Ok, we get the picture. End? Is there an end to this?
A. Of course. The first ending is in New Orleans. There’s a great climax in a cemetery, and Mick is there, and there is crying … and it’s really good.

Q. After that?
A. After that, she goes back home and has an ending to the mysteries there.

Q. But the story at home has to have a middle. What’s the middle?
A. I told you. There is no middle. Everything happens off camera until the second ending.

Q. Oh my gosh! This is painful. What’s the second ending?
A. I can’t tell you. But my dearly departed dead dog is in the ending. Only he’s not dead in the book. He’s alive. And he belongs to a neighbor. He’s part of the climax, and next week, for $2.99 at Amazon.com, you can find out what he does that’s so great.

Q. I can’t take any more. I’m done. I have to ask the obligatory final question. Will there be another ImageSusan Hunter book?
A. Oh, you bet! Susan and Darby are headed to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. The book will be titled, Windy City Hunter. I haven’t figured out yet how many beginnings, middles, and endings to have.

Q. I’m exhausted. Don’t call me when you’re done writing that one. Find someone else for your interview.
A. Ok. Toodles!!

Reading Your Fellow Bloggers

One hundred thirty-two.

I was surprised to see I was following 132 blogs. Thankfully, some of the bloggers don’t post very often, and one hasn’t posted a single word yet, but I’m waiting. That seems kind of stalkerish, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, I like the mix of people I follow. There are wonderful photographers, and I enjoy seeing their work show up in my reader. I lean heavily toward the humor blogs. I do enjoy a good laugh, and it’s fun to interact with witty people. (Christopher De Voss, I’m looking at you. I can’t even begin to tell you how much mileage my husband and I have gotten out of the fireflies story.)

But I enjoy the writers as well. I learn some things from them when I want to, I enjoy their posts, whether personal or about writing, and some of them have published books. And that’s where I want to go today. Even though I’ve only known the following people a short time, I consider them friends, or at least acquaintances whom I enjoy. I want to show you their books. I like the idea of supporting other WordPress authors, and I hope you’ll consider reading one or more of the following books.

I’m not giving reviews, because even though I own four of the noted books, I haven’t finished any of them yet. Read the shortened blurbs and choose a book of interest to you. You’ll be able to read the full descriptions when you click on the book cover.

Image The Valley Walker by T. W. Dittmer  – Special Investigator Teri Altro is a hard-driving member of the new Drug Interdiction Task Force. … When Altro first notices the man staring at her, he doesn’t seem like anything special… just some guy in the drugstore. But when three men walk in the door to assasinate her, he kills them all with fluid ease, and so quickly that she doesn’t even have time to pull her own gun. The confrontation is so eerily violent that it leaves Altro wondering just who… or what… the man is. (This is an amazing scene in the book.)
T.W. Dittmer’s Blog

Image Puppet Parade by Zeinab Alayan – The life of a puppet master is never ordinary. Oliver Deere knew this when he ran away from home to take up the trade of puppetry, but he had no idea just how much his life would change. After his puppets come to life and flee town, Oliver meets up with a masked girl who hides a mysterious past. … As they travel together in search for Oliver’s lost puppets, they find that the line between puppet and master is becoming much less clear – and much more deadly.
Zen Scribbles

ImageThe Ohgood Caristic by Lightning Pen aka John Buckley – A coup is nearly successful leaving ruler Dr. Famaron Venge to deciver what went wrong. He also has the added charge of taking care of his friend’s kids, as they are besieged on all sides by murderers. And his world of Parscan suddenly has all the trappings of an all out civil war, with rival factions fighting for control. (John has several books available.)
Lightningpen’s Blog

ImageZippin Pippin, Elvis Has A Son by Benjamin Grant Mitchell – After moving from Memphis to Melbourne as a seven-year-old boy, Angus Flynn quickly got used to being invisible. Growing up, he kept to life out of the spotlight, working backstage for his father, the once mega successful country singer, Finn ‘Killer’ Flynn. … But when the stage-shy roadie learns his ageing dad is in debt to a gang of bikers, he reluctantly agrees to perform in a one-off tribute show as ‘Killer’ Junior, in order to save the family home. However, before he leaves for his Hollywood debut Angus’s world is turned upside down when an ailing Finn makes a confession that, although difficult to believe, rings strangely true: Elvis Presley was Angus’s real father.
Indie Thinkin’ – B.G. Mitchell

ImageAcceptance by Keri M. Peardon – For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. … When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. … But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities – or get a date – her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.
Vampires, Ladies, and Potpourri

ImageKnight’s Big Easy (The E-Z Knight Reports) by Gordon A. Kessler – Voodoo, hoodoo and a girl named Poodoo make this year’s Mardi Gras the most fun but also the most dangerous party of all for E Z Knight! … Knight goes to New Orleans to find Parole Officer Tamara White Cloud’s AWOL USMC son, and finds out L/Cpl Billy White Cloud isn’t the only one who’s gone missing. … He uncovers the largest human trafficking organization since the US slave emancipation. Led by a Voodoo King named Papa Legba, the slave ring preys not only on young runaways and homeless children, but also kidnaps them from their own homes, and then sells them into prostitution and sweat-shop labor.
(Gordon has a lot of books. This is the one I’m reading, and it’s quite a ride!)
Gordon A. Kessler – blog

ImageFae Hunter (Soulstealer Trilogy #1) by Nicolette Reed – Valora Delos is a Hunter, charged with tracking the treacherous Soulstealers and bringing them to justice. She descends to Earth and finds herself trapped in suburban Seattle after the portal to her world closes. Uncovering who the Soulstealers are and who is behind the destruction of Dell’Aria brings Valora a truth she may not be able to handle.
Nicolette Reed

 

ImageBetween Fear and Love SELF-WORTH: The Tie that Binds by Lauren Cropper – The book chronicles the author’s journey as she learns to survive and overcome the world of fear she’s been living in. After the murder of a family member, fear became the deciding factor in her everyday lifestyle. The pursuit of a life-change ensued. After ending up broke, alone, and a single-mother, the author finally came face-to-face with the source of her problems, as well as the solution. And it came in the form of self-worth.
(Lauren was an early follower to my blog, and I have appreciated her Likes over the past two months.)
Between Fear and Love

And last, but not least, is a children’s author. We’ve haven’t chatted much, but I already know I like him, and his book is wonderful:
ImageSarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Mike Allegra – This story depicts how Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a holiday in the 1800s.
heylookawriterfellow

 

There you have it! At least nine books from fellow WordPress bloggers. If you’re looking for a tenth, just click on my home page. In preparation for my release of Big Easy Hunter next week, I’ve priced the first book in the series, Sunshine Hunter, at 99 cents (Amazon and Smashwords; other outlets will follow soon).

Happy reading!

Ack! D’oh! Yikes!

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I’ve always believed my books were entertaining, and I’m grateful to the few people who read and enjoyed them before I signed up for Robin Coyle’s blog class – Strong Words vs Weak Words. Robin has a wonderful way of taking mundane, lackluster, weak words and rewriting them into expressive, action-oriented sentences. Her examples are usually tongue-in-cheek and entertaining. Here’s an example of her elimination of the weak word “put.”

I put my fingers in my ears to drown out Robin’s yammering. 

Have you tried earplugs? Better yet, try noise-canceling headphones.

Even with my fingers shoved in my ears, I could hear Robin’s incessant screeching.

She threw a curveball at me recently. She wanted me to look at exclamation points. What?! I love exclamation points! To be fair, so does she, and she uses them liberally in her blog, but not in her book. Sigh. I’ve been on board for the entire ride, but I got off at the exclamation point station to see what I could find out about this.

When did people start hating the exclamation point? So many questions are asked in my books, and they all end in question marks. Why aren’t question marks hated when their rounded little shapes are peppered all over the page? Because we have to use them, you say? Well, I have to use exclamation points.

I started searching and reading articles and blog posts that were written entirely about author and editor hatred of the exclamation point. A children’s book editor said any picture book showing up with exclamation points all over the place is immediately dismissed. I’ll concede that point. A picture book has both words and pictures to show excitement. But let’s take a look at what else I found.

“It pains me when I see them.”
“They take away from the message.”
“An exclamation point is the cheap whore of punctuation.”
“I can barely stand reading sentences that have this mark at their end.”
“Exclamation points, you see, are evil.”

Wow! That’s some pretty strong emotion against a proper piece of punctuation.

ImageHere are the standard uses of an exclamation point:
– an exclamation (“Wow!”)
– an imperative (“Stop!”)
– to indicate astonishment (“They were the footprints of a bigfoot!”).
– The exclamation point is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment (“The bigfoot did what?!”)

I used the “?!” combination four times in book number two, and seven times in book number three. I didn’t even know it was an acceptable use. The double punctuation simply conveyed the emotion of the sentence, so I used it.

I haven’t read The Bonfire of the Vanities, but I do believe the book is still a hit with its 2,343 exclamation points. The book debuted in 1987. Maybe people didn’t hate the exclamation point so much back then.

I will not give up my exclamation points. Well, in my soon-to-be released book, I did throw out 29% of them – thanks to Robin – but I’m keeping the rest. Here is just one example of a keeper exclamation point:

“What’s this I hear about a secret passageway?” asked Larry before calling, “Trump!” and slamming his last card onto the table.

Without the exclamation point, Larry remains fairly calm and seated while slamming the card onto the table. With the exclamation point, he goes from talking calmly, to half-standing from his chair as he suddenly yells and is overly excited about winning the points.

ImageShould I have written all of that in the book? Should I have shown Larry getting all worked up in his seat over a card game? The exclamation point did the work for me, and the scene isn’t Larry’s anyway. I don’t want a lot of descriptive writing in my books. I want just enough to show the scene and allow my reader to take it from there. Exclamation points alleviate a lot of explaining and describing.

But I will also be the first to say I’m not giving advice to anyone. I’m just showing my stubbornness. Maybe when I’m a veteran writer, I’ll write a blog post laughing at my folly as a novice, and I’ll write about my naiveté and how much I now despise exclamation points. (But I doubt it.)

Big Easy Hunter is probably my favorite of the four books. It not only starts with dialogue (another perceived no-no), but the first sentence has an exclamation point:

“Stop it!” I whispered.

So there.

What? There are Parts of a Story?

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To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence. ~Mark Twain

If I had a tagline on my blog, it would be this quote from Mark Twain. I am both ignorant and confident when it comes to my writing. I guess I can look forward to becoming a success.

Now that I’ve been blogging for a couple of months, and hanging with some pretty awesome writers, I’ve been learning about some of the finer points of writing.

I admit, I haven’t really cared about some of the advice and topics of discussion I’ve encountered, but others have definitely sparked my interest. Of particular note lately is the fact that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, duh! I started my story on page one, I wrote stuff, and it ended on page 200. I haven’t yet grasped why this is a topic that’s so widely written about, and as of this blog post, I still don’t fully understand.

Here, let me give away all of the good stuff in Sunshine Hunter, my first book:

Beginning – Susan finds out boyfriend is married.

Middle – Susan runs off to Florida with neighbor, so she can weep and gnash her teeth at the beach.

End – Susan forgives soon-to-be divorced boyfriend.

That’s a chick flick. Or more appropriately – chick lit.

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So, what about the dead guy at the racquetball club? What about the guy stalking Susan and her friend in Florida? Are the conga line dancers really necessary? What’s the big deal about snickerdoodle cookies?

Did I write this story the correct way? I don’t know. The book takes place over the course of a week. I simply started at the beginning of a day in Susan’s life and went from there. And I think I even did that all wrong because she wasn’t strong enough to be her own heroine. I’ve read that your main character should show growth and strength over the course of your story, and they should find their own solutions. Ha! Not Susan.

I’m finding as I read articles about beginning, middle, and end, that they’re not clear. As a new writer, they haven’t helped me understand the concept – other than the obvious. The articles are complicated, discussing plot points, arcs, inverted checkmarks.  Climax. There is a climax in all of my books. I do have that right.

Shortly after the beginning of my book, Susan reminisces in her own mind about the day she met her boyfriend, and how their relationship progressed until the day she found out he was married – which is the beginning of the book! Ack! But I didn’t want to start at the beginning of the relationship; I wanted to start with the drama. So, I did a little time traveling, which I suspect is another blow to beginning, middle, and end in my book.

Before I leave this topic, at least for the time being, let me tell you what I did in my newest book, Big Easy Hunter. I have two beginnings, one middle, and two ends – complete with two climaxes. How do you like them apples?

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Sentimental Journey

ImageMost people are born with a few prominent genes.

Some of my friends have the nurturing gene and are wonderful at taking care of their children and/or their fellow man. Others have the sewing gene and make beautiful clothing. I envy people who have the artistic gene and can paint beautiful portraits, landscapes, and everything in between, while even my stick figures are cringe-worthy.

I was probably off running in circles on a cloud when genes were passed out, because I missed out on most of them – especially the sentimental gene. I am not a sentimental person.

The weekly writing challenge at The Daily Post at WordPress is: “Tell us about your most meaningful possession.”

I don’t have one. Writing exercise over. I don’t win.

Many years ago, my husband endured several back injuries at work. We sold our wedding rings to make ends meet until worker’s compensation kicked in. I never batted an eye. My wedding ring was gone, and I didn’t feel anything about it other than I was glad we could pay the bills.

My father died in his early fifties. My mother gave his pocket watch to me. I felt nothing when I looked at the watch. I knew my dad didn’t want to wear a wristwatch, and that’s the only reason he carried the pocket watch. I sold it at a garage sale.

ImageIn my twenties, I opened a box from storage. It held books from my teen years – Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, and many more. Looking at them made me feel warm and fuzzy inside – for a couple of minutes. I promptly resealed the box and gave it to a woman I worked with, so her daughter could read them. I remember the woman being flabbergasted that I would give away something precious from my childhood. She said I would regret it. I didn’t.

It boils down to “things” and “possessions.” I don’t care about either. Our house could burn down tomorrow, and I would only hope the dog got out, and that I had already checked the lottery ticket in my desk.

What I do care about are memories. We’ve had our ups and downs financially over the years, but we rarely spend much money on anniversary, birthday, or holiday gifts. Instead, we make memories.

A family outing to dinner and then to the local theater to see A Christmas Carol makes a wonderful memory.

Hauling your ten-year-old kid along on tons of old-folks bus tours, so that your lonely mother is entertained, makes for fabulous, and sometimes fabulously funny, memories.

ImageRemembering that my father laughed like Muttley when he pulled a fast one on us kids is a memory I’ll have forever.

The memory lane is a long one. I have four siblings, and we grew up in a simpler time where we spent entire summer afternoons forty-feet high in the air as we dangled from trees. My older brother fell out once and lived to tell about it. We made our own haunted house in the basement and charged the neighbor kids a dime to come through. We later spent Monday nights on the living room floor with cousins and friends as we watched Laugh-In, while Dad sat in his recliner unable to control his Muttley laugh.

There are many more memories, but they are mine and would likely bore you. So, my answer to the writing challenge this week isn’t exactly what they were asking for, but my memories are my most meaningful possession.

A Fine Place for Writing

We live in a century home. It was built in 1903.

We knew the house needed work when we bought it, but other than necessary repairs, we haven’t yet been able to do the remodeling we originally planned. I don’t care. I love our old house with its two staircases and creepy basement.

I’ve claimed the dining room for my office and my used book business. This year it has also become a fine place for writing. Allow me to show you around my room: Image1 – Crazy patterned wallpaper which was here when we bought the house. It has a “magic eye” effect. I can do the eye thingy and get the design to “pop out,” but there’s nothing in there.

2 – A really great wood desk weighing a million pounds. We paid $35 for it at a local thrift shop.

3 – Candy dish with m&m’s for editing.

4 – Sticky note left by 25-year-son. It reads, “I love you!” He left it on my desk one day when I wasn’t home, and I couldn’t make myself throw it away, so it’s taped to my computer.

5 – Pink mp3 player with pink earbuds. I truly am a pink girl at heart.

Yes, my vhs/dvd player is up on blocks. Hubby rigged it for me so the stupid cable box could have air flowing around it.

On the wall behind my desk are bookshelves holding what’s left of my used book business. It wasn’t too long ago, I had over 5,000 books in inventory, but I’ve downsized. I’d rather write than sell used children’s books, and I’m tired of carrying heavy boxes to the post office. The books in cloth bags on the floor are waiting to be processed. I might get around to them one day. ImageTo the right of my desk is the shipping department. It’s obvious my table is in front of the old fireplace, but we haven’t used it for many years. I cropped the picture because the ugly brown box of packing peanuts under the table made the whole thing look worse than it already does.

ImageWhat you don’t see is the sofa along the bay window directly behind my chair. It was never for guests; it was always for dogs. There were days when all four of them would sleep on the sofa while I worked. Today, it seems silly to have a full-sized piece of furniture for just a beagle, but he does seem to enjoy it.

I like having this spacious room to work in every day. I can open the window beside my desk for lovely breezes and plenty of sunshine comes into the room. I can see into the kitchen while writing, and it’s easy to yammer at hubby when he’s out there foraging for a snack or taking a quick puff on a cigar.

Thank you for taking this little tour of my fine place for writing. It’s time to get back to that nifty notebook on my desk which is harping at me, because I’ve used the word “shocked” a dozen times in my current work in progress, and no one can be shocked that much in one book.

Let me know what your fine place for writing is like. Or better yet, do a blog post and show me.