Category Archives: Blogging

The Rave Awards! #RRBC

The limousine pulled into a row of other limos. Lisa Burton* sat across from me in the back. A four-hundred pound man sat next to me in a tux. “Why is he here again?”

“Don’t worry about him,” Lisa said. “He’s from Harry Winston, and he comes with the diamonds. I have to give them all back after the program.”

“That’s too bad. They look really nice.” We pulled forward a few car lengths, and I asked him to let me out.

“What are you doing? You’ll miss the red carpet.”

“That’s the idea. I’m slipping in the back, grabbing a beer, and meeting you at our table. You’re the spokesmodel. It’s your job to take this bullet for me.”

“You’re such a baby. Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

I wound my way to our table and sat where my name card indicated. The room filled up as Lisa wound her way over. She paused to pose for selfies, and sign some autographs.

The show started and we applauded when Jan Sikes won for most creative tweets. Lisa grabbed my arm, “Her character appeared on Lisa Burton Radio, and she included you in her presentation on promotion. So excited for her.”

“I agree, she’s a talented lady.

Rea Nolan Martin’s, The Ansesthesia Game won for best cover, and Beem Week’s, Jazz Baby won for best book trailer. We applauded their victories. I started chewing my nails.

The award for best blog site was called. “In third place, Entertaining Stories, by C. S. Boyack.” The crowd applauded and I waived. The cameras were mostly focused on Lisa though. “In second place, Fiction Favorites, by John Howell.” We applauded again.

Lisa grabbed my forearm. “John’s so nice. I’ve been to his house, and his characters appeared on my radio show a couple of times too.”

“And the Blog of the Year goes to, Nonnie Jules for Watch Nonnie Write.” The crowd went crazy. Nonnie is one of the hardest working people I know, and deserves all the awards she can take home.

Nonnie also won the award for Most Giving Hands. The Most Supportive Member of 2016 is Wendy Scott. Jan Hawk won for Member of the Year, and Lisa reminded me that Jan’s characters have appeared on her show too.

Karen Ingalls is the Top Reviewer of 2016. Stephanie Collins is the Top Recruiter of 2016. I took my napkin and dabbed it across my forehead.

“For Book of the Year, in third place, The Playground by C. S. Boyack.” I waved once more, and Lisa attracted camera flashes. “In second place, She Dies at the End, by A. M. Manay. And the Book of the Year, for 2016, goes to Type and Cross by Staci Troilo.” The crowd went wild. The Book of the Year competition was tough, and all the entries were good. Lisa grabbed me once more and reminded me that Max the dog appeared on her show.

I shook hands with those around me, and slipped quietly to the lobby. The bar was only a few steps further, so I went inside. John Howell was already there. I offered my hand. “Congratulations, John.”

He waived down the waitress and she slid me a dark frothy beer. “Congratulations yourself. Where’s Lisa? Is she joining us?”

“Hardly. She went to the Governors Ball. I think she wants to recruit characters for her radio show.”

“How does she rate? She isn’t even a nominee.”

“That doesn’t matter. Velvet ropes just move aside for her.”

“I can see that. I heard they have an upgraded bar at the ball. Wanna check it out?”

“Why didn’t you say so sooner, John.” I dropped a twenty on the bar and we headed across the street.

***

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories. She’s also a robot, and makes regular appearances here.

***

You might guess that we have a lot of fun in the Rave Reviews Book Club. It’s all about supporting each other, and climbing that ladder together. The Rave Awards are only one fun event, and there are a couple of blog parties and some writing contests that are worth checking out. In December they held an online convention that was very popular.

If you think this club might have something to offer you, please check us out at this link.

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WordPress Gremlins at work again

It looks like WordPress is hard at work making unnecessary improvements again. I noticed this happening this afternoon.

First the icon on my site changed to the stupid bell thing. It lights up whenever something happens, but no longer lets me know if it’s a comment, like, ping, or follow. It isn’t terribly hard to click and find out, it just seems like a de-improvment over what they had. The bell has been standard on Reader for a long time, but what used to be on my site was superior.

Second, my handy stats link is gone from the toolbar. I now have to back into it through the “My Sites” link. Not terribly hard to use, just more clicks to get the data I want.

I noticed that I cannot switch between Entertaining Stories and Story Empire easily any longer either. I used to have an option in the My Sites area. One click and I’m there. Now I have to open the link, tell it to switch sites, and then it opens a godawful half-page thing instead of going where I want. It looks like the best option now is to include a link in my bookmarks and avoid the whole “improvement.”

While there, I nearly freaked out. The dashboard seems to be missing entirely. This is the only editor I use for anything. I upload photos, occasionally write posts there, and make all my changes there. Don’t worry, it’s still around, but it’s been moved to the bottom of that abomination they are trying to force upon us. I’m sure it’s short lived, because it’s better than what they are trying to shove down my throat.

When it comes to actual blogging I still use a third party app. It isn’t being updated any longer, but still works better than WordPress does.

I don’t know why they can’t leave well enough alone. The original versions I started with were the best and most simple to use. Every thing they improve makes WordPress harder to use. How hard would it be to give me a toolbar with simple links? Change sites, stats, new action on a post, even a log in from my page would be really handy.

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Holiday Week

This is a holiday week here in the USA. For my international friends, Thursday is our Thanksgiving.

This kept me up late Monday, because my work scheduled a potluck. Makes sense, we have to stay up all night Wednesday to cook, why not do it Monday too? I had enough chile verde to take home for supper last night.

Tonight I have to bake dinner rolls. I made the mistake of baking these for Thanksgiving many years ago, and everyone demands them now. It’s a raised dough product, so hours of rising and punching down, and re-rising are part of my evening plan. My wife said we need a TRIPLE batch this year. I actually have one giant-sized bowl I might be able to make it all at once in. I’m sure I have to wash it first, and will have to wash it during the process because it’s also my storage bin for the finished product.

Bake time is another issue. I only have so many sheets, and the rolls have to raise one more time after they are shaped. This year, I’m going to be thankful for getting it over with.

Things have slowed down online. I’m noticing it on all fronts. Since I ended my big promotional push, I have a lot more time for other things. I’ve even expanded beyond my “must read” list on WordPress. Some of you may notice some likes on blogs I haven’t visited for a while.

I took a vacation day Friday. We have company, but I don’t know if they’re all going out for Black Friday. I don’t see it being a productive writing day, but it could happen. Pure luck of the draw, my flex day is Monday and that could be a writing day.

I hacked out another “anthem” piece for my Enhanced League baseball stories. I’m pretty happy with it. This one is about the extra guy on the team. The one who fills in for injured players and the lack of respect for his job.

In other news, I have a fun Lisa Burton Radio post scheduled for tomorrow. I couldn’t sell Thanksgiving to anyone as a good day, so I wrote this one on my own. It isn’t about one of my books though, so if you get a break in the action tomorrow you might want to check it out.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it. I’ll be thinking about you slaving over your cornbread stuffing, and green bean casserole while I punch down dough.

PS: Don’t forget to thaw the turkey.

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I sense a disturbance in The Force

I got into blogging as a necessary evil. I knew nobody would ever find my books if I didn't have some kind of online presence. It's as good a reason as any to start a blog. It quickly became my favorite way of interacting online.

Bloggers go into it for all kinds of reasons. For some it is a journal, others want to share travel experiences, etc. There seems to be something different about it recently.

You know me, I'm always trying to figure out what things mean. Maybe I was a Wallstreet guru in a previous life. I love my blog for its own reasons, but some knowledge could help me with the main reason I started it in the first place.

My number of followers is accelerating. I tend to get one here and there, but recently they've been coming in droves. I fell in with other authors, book bloggers, reviewers, and writing gurus. Seems pretty natural, and I would expect other bloggers would gather with like minded people.

Lately, I'm getting bloggers that have nothing to do with books, reading, writing, or anything else you might expect. I've always gotten a few of these, but recently it became a noticeable amount. Here are some of the concepts of recent followers:

  • Building a dream house.
  • Church youth groups.
  • War in Afghanistan.
  • A plumbing business.
  • Several makeup businesses.
  • Several fashion bloggers.
  • News story of the day.

There are more, but you get the idea. It's pretty easy to guess the makeup and fashion folks wandered here because of Lisa Burton. I may even find her next look by visiting their sites on occasion. On the other hand, if Cover Girl or someone wants to offer her an endorsement deal, hit me up.

 

Many of these blogs don't have their sites completely set up. There is no “about” page, and in some cases there isn't even a first post. So why are brand new bloggers finding me? Did I use some magical word as a tag on one of my posts? (You know, because I'd like to do it again.)

 

I'd like to think I'm so popular that my books are drawing fans to follow my site, but I don't think that's what's going on.

 

I get the feeling that we've reached some kind of saturation point on social media. I've read at least one of you unfollowing people on Facebook because of all the political propaganda. (I agree and support you, by the way.) I always use the term “firehose” to describe Twitter, because my feed is like trying to drink from a firehose.

 

Social media of all kinds has influenced the network news. There is less reporting of facts, more opinion pieces, and much more celebrity stalking. I mention this, simply to note the power of social media. Bear with me, I'm freewriting this one.

 

Are people drifting to WordPress because they are tired of pictures of someone's new nose-ring? Are reporters starting blogs to get a voice in what must be a competitive market? Think of the “news story of the day” blogger. Maybe the networks don't want him, because they have to make time for a celebrity who showed up at a protest. Now that celeb is no more valuable than the other protestors, but since he was on Hollywood squares 25 years ago he gets 10 minutes.

 

I understand the businesses. WordPress is a simple format to use, and it's easy to make changes. Small business folk can use the mechanism to make wonderful websites. They can do things themselves that they used to pay people to do. But why are they following me? I'm unlikely to hire a plumber from seven states away.

 

Are people coming to WordPress to get out of the firehose of data on other sites? From my new followers, I see more seriousness than I would find on Twitter. Are they getting lost in those streams, and looking for a more positive experience?

 

I welcome everyone, and try to follow back those who might be remotely interesting, but I can't follow them all. Regular bloggers will understand this.

 

I'd like to think that we're all ready for a governor in our exhaust systems. Maybe everyone won't understand that one, so I'll say maybe we're ready for a filter. We've had years of “look at my doughnut” posts, and the world is ready to move past it.

 

I told you I sense a disturbance in The Force, I never promised to explain it. What do you think is happening? Are we evolving as far as social media is concerned? Could this foretell the next big thing we should jump on? What is the next big thing?

 

Let me hear it in the comments, now I have to go look at my physical mailbox. Maybe there is a check from Maybelline or someone waiting for me.

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Busy day looking forward to a dead evening

That's right, Ash vs the Evil Dead plus The Walking Dead tonight. Maybe Rick and Daryl need a visit from Ash Williams.

Before all the fun starts, I worked on some more projects today. I wrote and scheduled two posts for this week. One involves a special promotion tomorrow, and I'd appreciate any help with the sharing buttons you can lend. I'm trying to keep the October momentum going through the end of the month.

The other post is the final Macabre Macaroni story of 2016. I really appreciate all the comments I've been getting on these, and they have been a lot of fun.

I also started an October assessment post. It's going to be a long post and it will go up on the Story Empire blog on Halloween. It was hard for me to not post something on theme, but we try to target authors on that site, and my assessment may help some of you. It would be easier if I could post it a week into November, but that isn't my turn. I can add some data to it from this week, and out the door it goes.

Maybe something will occur to me for this blog that has a Halloween theme. Last year Lisa and I tried to make a monster that turned into a meatloaf.

In other news, Lisa Burton Radio has a lot of interviews in progress, but none ready for this week. These things take time to put together, and the guest author has to consider timing too. I understand completely, and agree with this approach. This means I may skip it this week. If I'm feeling ambitious I may run something out featuring Lisa. (You know, as soon as I figure out what.) The takeaway here is that Lisa is always looking for guests. Keep those cards and letters coming folks.

The end of October is within sight. It's been a loooong month of promotions for me. As most of you know, I really don't like promotion. I decided to bite the bullet and force myself to dedicate a month. I'm really looking forward to November when I'll do a bit of reading and get back to my work-in-progress.

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Friends support each other

Once upon at time, Sabrina Pandora allowed her original character, Veronica Kane, to appear on Lisa Burton Radio. Veronica is also known as Giant Girl, from the comic Giant Girl Adventures. You can review our interview at this link: Giant Girl is on Lisa Burton Radio.

As part of that interview, Kumiko Kanzaki called in. She is Veronica's arch-enemy and is also known as Badonkasaurus. Kumiko is now one of the Kaiju, giant monsters that make a career out of destroying Japan. She spends her time imprisioned on Kaiju Island with others of her kind.

We all knew that a fan favorite, like Badonkasaurus wouldn't stay out of the spotlight for long. The most recent episode of Giant Girl Adventures just concluded. It's called Kaiju Island Chronicles, and the link is the beginning of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and encourage you to check it out.

It occurred to me that Godzilla and other giant monsters were big parts of the old Nightmare Theatre shows I used to watch as a kid. That makes them fair game as Halloween fare, and would make a good inclusion for my month of Halloween postings.

I contacted Sabrina and asked if perhaps I could borrow some art to include in my banner image. Not only did she agree, she actually provided it herself. This is the beauty of internet friends. To help me pay her back, I would appreciate it if you would check out Giant Girl Comics.

Here is the first image:

I think this one is my favorite. You get all the action and motion in it. Problem is, they just aren't big enough. It was so good I decided to share it with you anyway.

This is the one I'm going to post as a banner for a while. It gets the perspective better. Here's to hoping Roni and Badonkasaurus help enhance your Halloween season.

I'm writing this on Monday night, and scheduling it for Wednesday. That way I can concentrate on other things while I'm on my business trip. I'll try to get the banner changed Wednesday morning before I have to clock in.

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Tips, tricks, and plans

October is bearing down upon us. This has always been my favorite month of the year. I would happily trade January or August for an extra October. It's also always been my best month for sales. This is probably because I have a few paranormal titles in my catalog.

I plan to hit it hard in October. I have a few guest posts that will appear, and you may find some new blogs to follow at the host sites. I still have time to write a couple more if you know of an October event that I should participate in.

There are also a couple of blog tours via my Story Empire crowd. We'll be giving away prizes and hope to make a big splash. Follow Story Empire to keep up with what's going on over there.

I intended to make the tips & tricks part of this into a Story Empire post, but there is a five person rotation and it would be November before it posted. Over here I can weave in some of my individual plans too.

I intend to use some of the Amazon tools during October. I may run an ad campaign. I'm almost certain to have a sale, or even some free days. Keeping the October theme going, I'll probably focus on The Playground, Will O' the Wisp, and Panama. Both Experimental Notebooks fit the bill too, but since they're 99ยข I don't see how a sale would work. I may do some Facebook boosting too.

Last year, I invited people to provide artwork for Macabre Macaroni. My idea was that some budding cover artists might like a place to showcase their work. I was even happy with grandchildren who glued dried macaroni to a paper and made art. I never got a single taker, and there was no artwork last year. This year I'm taking a different approach. I commissioned a piece of art to accompany the micro-fiction. Macabre Macaroni will post every Tuesday in October.

I'm a little slow on the uptake at times, but I learned a Twitter trick. There are people out there who support me heavily. They make custom tweets about my books, or maybe a post they found entertaining. I want to reciprocate that support, and found their pinned tweets to be handy as hell. They made them, they want them shared, and they're right at the top of their timelines. There is one lady who changes her pinned tweet every day, others leave them for a week or so.

The gears move slowly, but what if I created my own pinned tweet to help them out? I've been doing this, and find it respectful of their time, and helpful to my cause. I'll probably create a graphic of some kind, like this:

In the 140 characters I can say something clever and include the Amazon link. I will try to change it up +/- weekly so it doesn't get stale. Twitter is a volume game. A million people see your tweet, and maybe one buys the book. It does produce sales though, so something that catches the eye might work.

The point is that you should be using a pinned tweet too. I've scrolled through dozens of hundreds of tweets to find something to support an author with. They probably appreciate me sharing their book tweet, but not the picture of their lunch. A pinned tweet is right on top where it's easy to find.

Moving to the next one, sharing buttons. Not everyone is using them on their blogs. I'm happy to share, but again, I may not take the time to create my own post from scratch. I'm now encouraging visitors to use mine on the Lisa Burton Radio posts. This way my guests get a bit more exposure. The sharing buttons are easy to set up through WordPress, and you may want to check them out.

While you're deep inside the guts of WordPress, are you auto-feeding your posts on other social media? I have mine set to feed right into the Entertaining Stories Facebook page, Goodreads, and to tweet the link out. Easy-peasy, and I don't have to do this individually.

This next tip might be worth the price of admission. I think there could be something to what the world is calling curated content. There are a number of apps and social media options out there. I'll even provide links, but I want to talk about them a bit first.

I started out with an extinct platform called Zite Magazine. I used it for news I couldn't get anywhere else. It provided many of the Idea Mill articles. If I liked something, I could give it a thumbs up to get more articles like it. If I gave it a thumbs down, it learned not to send me data about the Kardashians.

Unfortunately, they were absorbed by Flipboard. Flipboard promised the same experience, only better-faster-stronger, yada yada. It failed on this front, but there is a silver lining.

Flipboard will let you create your own magazine. I decided, since I was already there, to test it out. I call mine Entertaining Stories. (Branding and all that.) I selectively share my blog posts there, and occasionally share other items of interest, like when one of you has something wonderful, or Sean Harrington shares a Lisa poster on his DeviantArt site.

Most days I can see a few visitors from Flipboard. On occasion it goes absolutely crazy. I posted a bit of micro-fiction about Lisa this week that had over two-hundred visitors from Flipboard. See the image to remind you of the post.

A few months ago, I shared a post about a short story trick. It involved the twist endings I use in some of the short form. I had over 2000 visitors that found me via Flipboard. It still gets action to this day.

Here is the link for Flipboard.

 

We're still on curated content, but I'm drifting again. (Bear with me.) I've written before about what I call “white noise.” Feeds on all social media have become so much white noise. Twitter is the worst, and my regular feed is like a firehose of data. I scroll through until I see something that catches my eye. Catching my eye has become the new trick. Facebook is similar, and so is WordPress.

I follow a ton of blogs. I can't read them all, so something has to catch my eye in the regular stream. I have my “must read” blogs and they got on the list by engaging and by posting great content.

Re-blogging is a double edged sword. I love it when someone shares my post. I like to share the awesome stuff here too on occasion. It's hard to get much engagement on a re-blog. The original poster is the one where the interaction occurs.

There are some bloggers who share a dozen posts per day, and never seem to offer original content. One of these curated content options might be a great way for them to spread the word. Flipboard is only one, here are a few others.

I have not used these, but I might someday soon. It could be a way to extend my tentacles online without too much effort.

The first one is called paper.li It is like having your own magazine, or newspaper if you prefer. You get to share whatever you want with your subscribers. One of my author friends is testing this out right now, and I hope to learn how it works for him.

The other one is called RebelMouse. This is a similar product. I really don't know the advantages of one over the other.

It seems to me like this could be the way for me to replace the original use I had for Zite Magazine. If I could find a couple of curators who deal with macabre stuff, and some cutting edge science, it could be useful.

It also seems like a place that's ripe for mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers. Flipboard, paper.li, and RebelMouse are all doing nearly the same thing. (One sells to Microsoft, one to Apple, and one to Google.) That wasn't the point of my post though.

These sites are helpful. My content has been shared on all of them by others. I need to check out paper.li and RebelMouse, but before I dive in they have to be easy and fast. Any of us would like more exposure, but my time is limited.

In the case of Flipboard, there is an app for that. I find that to be an advantage. I did not find apps for the other sites.

In my case, all roads lead to this blog. If you find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Flipboard, even Goodreads, there is likely something that leads you back here. That's my system, but there may be others that work better. If you have a better way, share it in the comments. I'd like to know, and I'll bet my regulars would too.

Do you have any experience with RebelMouse or paper.li? I'd like to get some input on these platforms. If I take one of them on, it will probably be part of my 2017 business plan. I'm just gathering data right now.

Are you going to create a pinned tweet? I think it's a great way to let your supporters help spread the word.

Are you going to set up sharing buttons on your own blog? Feel free to test mine out.

Do you know of any October events I should be taking advantage of? Are you hosting one, and need some players?

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