Thursday, December 29, 2016

5 Tips For Having a Successful Blog

Forgive the clip show format of this post. I figure if I'm going to talk about what has worked for me, I might as well direct you to some of my more successful posts. I mean...why not, right?

Also, this post may be a little different from what you are expecting. Normally articles with similar titles to this one are all about SEO. You know, the perfect title to make people click. Subheadings, also with perfect titles, to keep people reading. That sort of thing. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Why? Two reasons. 1.) If you're a blogger you've probably read about SEO until you're absolutely sick of it, and 2.) I must admit I haven't fully mastered the art of SEO yet. So this is something a little different. But hopefully "different" is what you're looking for. So here are my tips for writing a successful blog post.

Know Your Audience

I am an indie author and am therefore followed by a lot of indie authors on social media. So whenever I share juicy information about writing (not my writing, but writing in general) I tend to get a lot of page views. And sometimes a few comments as well. Here are a few posts about writing and indie publishing that have been successful:

Share In The Right Places

This is related to knowing your audience, but takes it a step further. I'm talking about actively seeking out your audience, then sharing a blog post that is pertinent to their interests. Here are some articles that got views from people who wouldn't normally have been reading my blog if I hadn't shared them in the appropriate Facebook groups.

Shared with my Spanish learners group:

Shared with my indie authors group:

Shared with my weight loss group:

The key to sharing in groups like that is to do it infrequently and to only share information you think may be of interest to the other members. Don't share as a form of shameless self-promo. That doesn't go over well.

Write While You're Emotional

This may do nothing for you in terms of SEO. After all, when people read your title they don't know how passionate you were about your topic, unless you've filled your title up with f-bombs or something. So there's no added incentive to click, but once they do they are more likely to share, retweet, or comment because what you had to say made an impact. Here are some of my more emotional posts:

Network With Others

This one's obvious. If you write a blog post that helps someone else out, they'll help you share your post with the world. I've done little networking on my blog so far, but I plan to do a lot more in the new year, so hopefully this list will be getting a good bit longer. Here is my measly collection of posts designed to help my fellow indie authors:

And a Little SEO

I've said I'm not an expert in SEO, but I do seem to have pulled off a few successes here and there. How do I know? Because I have a few blog posts that continue to get views long after I've stopped sharing them, which means they must be turning up on web browsers when people search certain topics. Here are some of my posts which have had the best staying power, and which must therefore be good examples of SEO

These are the things that have worked for me. I'd love to hear your own experiences, so please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is It Offensive to Call a Woman a "Girl"?

I'm not the kind of girl to get all upset over vocabulary.

See what I did there? Now you know my personal feelings about the word "girl."

But before you go accusing me of being a traitor to my gender, you should know I do have some feminist leanings. Sure, I don't care one whit about gender-specific words. "Girl" doesn't bother me. I've never felt the need to replace history with herstory. You can refer to the entire human race as mankind all day long and I won't bat an eyelid. I was never even bothered by the now archaic practice of using "he" as a generic pronoun in formal writing. It's just easier than saying "he/she" or "s/he".

But I do get my feathers ruffled by some things. I have a strong disdain for chivalry, which makes me something of an odd nut considering that I'm a Christian living in the Bible Belt. In many of the social circles in which I move, chivalry is alive and well. And I know men don't mean anything offensive by it when they hold a door for a woman. I know they're just trying to be gentlemen. To do what their mamas taught them and treat all women like queens. But still, it irks me. Okay, we make it to the door at the same time and the man reaches out and opens it then lets me go in first, fine. I can handle that. But if he sees me walking toward the building from halfway across the parking lot and he waits at the door just so he can open it for me, I'm like, "Seriously, dude?" I mean, why? Just why? But...honestly? I think it bothers me not so much because I find it offensive to women, but because I find it offensive to men. "Huh?" you say? Think about it. Why is there this unwritten rule that men should suffer just so women don't have to? Why should that poor guy have to stand out in the rain and the cold so he can hold the door for me like his mama taught him? Just go in and get warm and dry. Please. My gender should not make me entitled to an easy ride at your expense. Just, please.

The Quandary of the Word "Girl"

It was brought to my attention that some women find "girl" offensive yesterday. I started a thread in an online writers' group, asking about my wording of this passage from my WiP:

Damian was more of a beer guy than a wine and Champagne guy, but this was his Valentine’s gift to his fiancée and Jenn liked to indulge in the finer things in life. So if she wanted fancy, he’d give her fancy. No one could accuse Damian of not knowing the way to his woman’s heart.

I was worried about the word "woman". To me it sounded macho. I envisioned a scruffy guy with a beer gut wearing a wife beater (picture Onlsow from Keeping Up Appearances) coming home from work and saying, "Woman, you better get in that kitchen and get me a sandwich and a cold beer or else!" "Girl" reminded me more of high school sweethearts. You know...he takes her to the fair and wins a huge stuffed animal for her. He pins her corsage to her dress before taking her to the prom. He always addresses her parents as "sir" and "ma'am". That kind of thing. So to me, "his girl" was similar to saying "his sweetie" while "his woman" sounded more like "his bitch."

When the first commenter suggested that "girl" was condescending, that was the first time I'd ever been introduced to the idea some people found the word offensive. Then two more people commented with the same sentiments. Huh. It hadn't even been on my radar, but apparently it's becoming a rule that no one should refer to women as "girls". It had never even occurred to me to be offended by that.

What I Found Out About the Word "Girl"

I was confused as heck, so I had to do a Google search. I had to know if this was really a thing. Turns out it is. From what I learned, it seems to be mainly an issue for women in the workplace. If a woman wants to be taken seriously as a professional, she's going to get upset if her male coworkers refer to her as a girl. Okay. Makes sense. No one takes a girl seriously, but you'd darn sure better take a woman seriously.

But Damian is not Jenn's coworker. Or her boss. He's her fiancé so what the heck is wrong with him calling her his "girl". It just sounded endearing to me. I still haven't quite figured out the answer to this. It has something to do with seeing women as sexual objects and not respecting them as people. But to me "woman" has more of that feel to it than "girl". Again, your "girl" is someone you take to the prom and bring home to mama. Your "woman" is someone who'd better do what you tell her or she's going to see the backside of your hand. Think of The Godfather. In the beginning, Kay is Michael's girl. By the end she'd morphed into his woman. But maybe my view is outdated. Like I said, I've only learned of this "offensive" word in the past twenty-four hours, so perhaps I need some time to digest it.

Why It Bothered Me That People Would Find "Girl" Condescending

I got upset about this. I mean really. I couldn't stop thinking about it for a long time. Even shed a few tears. Yeah. Tears. At first I couldn't figure out why I was crying over it. I thought maybe it was the shock of finding out that something I consider normal, even endearing, could offend someone else. I think everyone's probably been in that situation at least once. It's not an easy thing to experience.

The more I thought, about it, however, the more I realized I was offended. Why? Because the people questioning my use of the word "girl" were also questioning Damian's use of the word "girl". They were saying Damian was condescending. If you're a writer you know how easy it is to fall in love with your characters. I've fallen in love with Damian. He's my baby. I created him and he's mine. My own. My precioussss.

Oh...sorry. Not sure what happened there. Anyway, you don't insult Damian in front of me. Basically, if you want to hurt my baby, you have to fight your way past me first. (That's an odd thing to say, because I allow other characters in the book to hurt him badly, but whatever). So I was perfectly fine with him saying "girl". I very well could have changed what I had written (I didn't, thank goodness) and I would have been fine with it. But I would have made him vulnerable to attack. I would have given people an opportunity to call him condescending and a chauvinist. Wow. I really dodged a bullet on that one. Or, rather, he dodged a bullet.

What "Girl" Means To Me

I was sixteen when I started dating my husband. I was his girl. I'm now thirty-seven, and I hope I'm still his girl. I hope that when I'm eighty and my boobs are dragging the ground, my crow's-feet have spread over the rest of my face, and my legs are riddled with varicose veins, I'll still be his girl. I hope that he will still be able to look at me and see that cute redhead who caught his eye on the football field at band camp back in the mid 1990s. Because that's what I think of when I hear the word. I think you're saying I'm youthful and spunky. Wide-eyed and full of life. Optimistic about what the future holds. I don't think you're calling me unintelligent or immature. But then, maybe I need to get out more. Who knows?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

5 Things That Were Different About Season 1 of Supernatural

Anyone who watches Supernatural knows the show has changed a lot over the years. I've actually blogged about this in the past, but I'm re-watching season 1 again (I think this makes round 3) and am noticing some specifics that may have slipped by me last time, so I thought I'd list them.

The Blood Spray

This is a staple on the show nowadays. Whenever there is a "monster of the week" style episode, and even in some episodes related to the main story arc, if someone is killed by that episode's primary villain, rather than show the person dying, it shows blood splattering on a nearby surface. When I began my latest run through season 1, I was excited to see the blood spray in the pilot episode. But you know what? I'm now over half-way through the season and I don't think I've seen it since. Hmm...something I so strongly associate with this show was virtually nonexistent in the early episodes. It doesn't take away from my enjoyment (seasons 1 and 2 are still my favorites) but I do find it interesting.

Carry On My Wayward Son

Another Supernatural staple. If you're a fan, you know this is the song that has been played during the recap of every season finale since the beginning. Or has it? Actually no. The song does appear during a recap in season 1, but not in the finale. It's in the episode before the finale. And I think I know why that song was chosen. A major theme of the first season is Sam's relationship with his dad. In the last few episodes this conflict comes to a head, and the title of the song (if not the rest of the lyrics) fits perfectly with that particular story arc. But it's not in the season finale...sorry. For that you have to wait for season 2.

The Colors

This was something I noticed about the show when I watched season 1 for the first time. The colors were always muted. I suppose the intent was to add to the creepy atmosphere by stripping the world of everything bright and beautiful (I think I'm quoting church hymns now...). It worked. I loved the look of the show in the early days. I think season 6 was the first season where everything was presented in full color, and I'm not sure why that change was made.


Another recurring theme. It's a long running joke on Supernatural that Dean is obsessed with pie, but when Sam makes a food run he always forgets it. Guess what? Not in season 1. There's only one mention of pie. It's in the episode Scarecrow and, yes, Dean does eat it but only because the creepy little town where he's stopped for lunch is famous for its apples and the local restaurant is famous for its apple pie. You have to wait for season 2 before you actually get to hear Dean say he loves pie.

The Bad Guys

This is huge. This is the main reason the show is so different now, and it took me awhile to figure it out. The way it happened was this: My husband and I were watching an episode of season 1 together recently (I made him watch it with me, saying, "I have to show you how different the show was back then") and he actually found himself enjoying it (he doesn't usually like re-watching television programs. Movies, yes, but TV He turned to me and said, "Why was the show so much better in the beginning?" The answer? The bad guys. They were actually scary in the early days whereas now...not so much. But why were they scary? Because they weren't regular characters on the show. They didn't have personalities. They didn't have motives other than causing as much destruction as possible. They were always in the shadows. Unseen. Shrouded in mystery. And that made them frightening. Now demons are presented simply as businessmen vying for position and making their way up the corporate ladder. Vampires are just trying to keep their families fed. The devil is a narcissist, sure, but he's pretty darn funny at the same time. But it didn't used to be that way. It used to be scary, and I liked it when it was scary.

Did I miss anything? I'd love to know about it, so feel free to leave me a comment.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Amusing Things You Find in Your Childhood Diary

Every now and then I pull out my old diary and reread some of the things I wrote. I came across this little gem recently. I am reproducing it here with all the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes because they are part of what makes it so cute. It was the final sentence that made me laugh the hardest, though.

February 19, 1989 (I was nine years old)

Dear Diary, Yesterday I got back from my Grandma's house. Me and my cousin did fight. I got to sleep upstairs, but I got scared. Today I hung up a 1988 calender that was in the kitchan. My mama was turning it into a dish cloth, but I didn't want it to go to waste. I also put my sign Language in the bedroom and put up a sign that says Welcome to the room of who won first prize in messiness. Yesterday, when I started to wach Tales from the darkside, my Daddy said, "You ready to watch two worms from the hole," because of my brainteaser. Right now I am watching Benji the hunted and Daddy is playing the computer. Children of a lesser God came on today. I like that movie, but it isn't but half as good as Nightmare on Elmstreet 3.

So...Nightmare on Elm Street 3 is a higher quality movie than Children of a Lesser God? Proof positive that I have always been a horror movie buff.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Writing a Series Versus a Standalone

A Recent Decision

The question of whether Primogénito: The Fuentes Legacy would become a series was there from the beginning. In fact, before I sat down to write the first word, I had to decide which story I was going to tell. The ending? Or the backstory? At the time I only had a little of the backstory in my head and didn't think I could make that into much of a book, so I wrote the ending instead. But as I was writing it, the backstory grew. And grew. What at first only stretched back five years eventually came to encompass centuries of Fuentes family history. As I was writing Primogénito, I was thinking constantly about the other stories that could be told about these characters. I wanted to tell those stories, but I had some reservations about writing a series. I will explain those reservations in a moment. First, some reasons why many authors choose to write a series as opposed to a standalone book.

Benefits of Having a Series

The primary benefit of having a series, especially for indie authors, is promotion. If one book in the series becomes popular, it will drive sales for all the other books. And if you discount one of the books, that drives sales even more. I know of a lot of indie authors who will make the first book in their series free for a few days when they release a new installment. So readers snap up the freebie then go on to buy the sequels. At least that's the hope. And for many people it works.

Why I Didn't Want to Write a Series

If I'm honest, I was resistant to the idea of turning my book into a series because I was being a literary snob. In my mind, a single book could be a masterpiece but writing sequel after sequel, or prequel after prequel, or even spin-off after spin-off, would cheapen the value of the original work. Keep in mind that I was a kid in the eighties, the decade of the bad movie sequel. Remember The Neverending Story II? No? Neither does anyone else.

I'm also a horror movie buff, and have been for as long as I can remember. I mean that literally. I saw Poltergeist when I was four and it instantly became one of my favorite movies. I had several friends who had also seen it and I remember them coming over to my house for Poltergeist role-playing games. This was particularly fun in the pool because we could hold on to the ladder, letting our bodies float in the water, and pretend we were Carol Ann holding on to the headboard while the closet was trying to suck her in. Did you know Poltergeist spawned a couple of sequels? No? Neither does anyone else.

Halloween is the prime example of what I'm talking about. This is one horror movie I actually didn't see as a kid. I think I was in college the first time I watched it. This is only my humble opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, buy I consider Halloween to be the best slasher movie ever made. I liked it so much I decided to have a Halloween marathon. I didn't make it past the second movie.

Okay, so I've given you some of my opinions of sequels. But I wasn't planning to write a sequel. Remember, I already wrote the end of the story. What I need to do now is write the prequels. I have even worse associations with that word than with sequel. Why? Because the first time I ever heard that word was in high school. A friend of mine, who was fangirlishly obsessed with Star Wars, told me that there were plans in the works for a prequel to that series. I remember thinking, "Prequel! Ha! Clever word. It's like a sequel, but it's before the events of the original movie, so it's a prequel." I also remember thinking, "Wow! A brand new Star Wars movie. Can't wait to see it!" Well, I did see it, and, like everyone else who saw it, I'm still trying to forget it.

Changing My Worldview As I Mature

So my early experiences of series were less than positive. I have since come to adore, even respect, quite a few series. The Little House series was one of the first. Then I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. And let's not forget Tolkien. Did he ever write anything that wasn't set in middle earth and didn't comprise part of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings? If he did, I haven't read it. And I don't think anyone could accuse him of cheapening his work by continuing to write books set in the same world.

The Deciding Factor

There were two things that compelled me to turn Primogénito into a series. First, while I was writing it I couldn't get the backstory out of my head. I just really wanted to write about those events. After I published it I started on a new project, but was still sort of in love with Damian Fuentes. I wanted to spend more time with him. Don't get me wrong, I like the new story I'm working on, I just feel like I've jumped into a new relationship too soon after terminating the previous one. I think Damian and I have some unfinished business.

Those feelings were powerful, but they weren't what made me finally bite the bullet and start pounding out the prequel to Primogénito. The decision became unavoidable when I started reading the reviews my book has gotten. You can read two of them on Primogénito's Amazon page. Both make statements that led me to conclude that the rest of the story has to be told.

First, one of the reviewers said, "The story starts off rather weirdly, and it gave me an impression that I was supposed to know some of the background already. It took me a while to actually figure out what was going on." seems that not revealing the backstory early enough is a potential weakness of this book. Well, if readers need to know all that before they read the book, why don't I give it to them?

Then, in another review, it says, "I'd really like to know Leo’s story, and the stories of Damian’s ancestors, and also that of Damian’s first encounter with Renato and his brothers. This seems like such a pain-ridden family, even if some cannot truly feel the pain, like Renato. Leo cannot have been the first to dig his heels in and try to fight back. Or maybe so. How common are children after the first two?" So for this reviewer it didn't come across as a weakness, but as something that would be very interesting to read about. Well, again, if people want to read that story, I might as well write it.

What I'm Up To Now

So now I'm busy writing the prequel (the first of several) to Primogénito. I haven't abandoned that other new story I had begun, but I've got to get that prequel out or it will eat me alive. I'm considering prepublishing it on this website and on Wattpad as a way of advertising the other book, so feel free to drop by and check for new chapters. It will basically be my first draft, so anyone reading it will be welcome to leave feedback (as long as it's polite).

You can also read Primogénito: The Fuentes Legacy now on your kindle. It is on sale for only $0.99/£0.99 until December 6.