Blogging 101, Day Eighteen: Plug into Social Networks

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There’s no doubt about it…particular sites may come and go, but social networking is here to stay, and it can be a very useful tool for accessing new readers. Appropriately, today’s assignment is if you’re active on a social network, set up Publicize to link the account to your blog or widget highlighting your profile. If you’re not, explore your social options to see whether one might be helpful.

Let’s face it: websites that allow us to interact with each other socially have become a huge part of life on the Internet. Chances are that almost everyone you know has a Facebook or Twitter account, if not both, Even work mates and employers have created an enormous network out of LinkedIn. In the world in which we live today, everyone wants to be connected to everyone else all the time.

So how does that help a blogger? Well, let’s look at it simply. Do you have a Facebook account? Yes? Okay, how many “friends” do you have on your account? Let’s modestly say 100? BAM! 100 potential readers. Every person attached to your social account is a potential reader if you allow your blog to be showcased on that account. All you have to do is share your blog posts the same way you would share anything else on your social feeds, and bada bing bada boom, you’ve made your blog accessible to tons of people who may otherwise never have come across it.

It’s as simple as that. If you connect your blog to previously established social accounts, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole other world of viewers who may see your post and decide to check it out. And WordPress makes this even easier with their Publicize options, which allows you to link all of your different social accounts to your WordPress one, thus allowing WordPress to automatically post status updates/tweets/etc for you whenever you publish a post. Awesome, right? So what are you waiting for? Get out there and publicize!

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 29

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Please believe me when I tell you that I haven’t been this exhausted in a long time, and since I’m tired most of the time anyway, that’s really saying something. I’m a little over halfway into my shift and I’m genuinely wondering how I’m going to make it to the end without going completely wacky. This morning I almost left for work with no shoes on, no lie. Fifteen-and-a-half-hour days, man…mental.

But life presses on and somehow – miraculously – I’ve been managing to keep up with a few things. So, without further ado…

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

On the weight-loss side of things I have nothing to really report because – as I’ve mentioned before – I have no way to weigh myself when I’m out West. One thing that I can tell you is that I’ve been making a major effort to forgo pop and juice for water and tea (without milk or sugar). I’m still eating like a pig because goddamn, the camp food here is actually really good, but at least I’m cutting out empty calories. Now if only there were enough time in the day to cram in some exercise.

On the general health side of things, my guts have actually been pretty kind to me lately, so maybe those meds are actually working. Go figure.

Goal #2. Be more active on social media and work hard on my author platform.

I took to Twitter earlier this week to complain about Marvel giving my beloved Thor a sex change. That counts, right?

In all seriousness though, things are going well. Likes, follows, comments, retweets, favorites, and subscriber notices have become a daily occurance for me in past weeks, and I’m loving it. On Monday StumbledUpon even featured my blog post and caused my normal traffic to more than double. Keep it up everyone! I love you all!

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

As previously mentioned, this goal is on hold while I’m out West, but I set myself a mini-goal of getting enough blog posts scheduled so as to be able to focus on this goal during my days home. I’m happy to report that said mini-goal is going swimmingly. I’m still working on it, but I already have almost my entire time home planned out. Yes, for once I’ve actually done precisely what I said I was going to do. Huzzah!

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

I can honestly say that I have no idea how I did it while working fifteen-and-a-half-hour days, but I kicked ass this week. I wrote what felt like about a million blog posts this week and it all added up to 9290 words. I am beyond exhausted, but very proud of myself, and I know it’s all going to be worth it when I have significantly less to do during my days off. I can almost feel the waves of relief now.

Come on, end of shift. Mama’s waiting for you.

Blogging 101, Day Seventeen: Increasing Your Commenting Confidence

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What do bloggers crave? Recognition. Bloggers want to know that someone is reading what they’re writing.

What is the best way to show bloggers that you’re reading what they’re writing? Engage. Comment.

If you’re a public blogger, chances are that one of the best parts of blogging for you is when that little notification pops up to let you know that someone has commented on one of your posts. What can be better than knowing that someone has read your post and decided that they just had to say something about it? Consequently, what better way to show your appreciation for your fellow bloggers (and help lead potential readers back to your own blog in the process)?

For beginner bloggers commenting on other peoples’ blogs can feel a little intimidating, and that’s why day seventeen’s assignment is to read six posts written in response to yesterday’s prompt, and leave comments on at least two of them.

I’ve previously mentioned that The Daily Post does daily prompts to keep us writing. The idea behind this assignment is to participate in one of those daily prompts, and then comment on the posts written by other bloggers for that particular prompt. The reason Michelle W. suggests commenting practice in this manner is because it is much easier to comment on a shared experience, and it helps exercise your brain to see how differently other people react to the same topic.

Another excellent way to “increase your commenting confidence” is to participate in blog hops. I’ve never commented so much (or received so many comments) as when I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Again we see a shared experience bringing people together, starting conversations and eliciting friendships.

So what I’m saying is to get out there, meet people who have similar interests, and start some conversations. Chances are, other bloggers and readers will turn around and do the same thing for you, and boom…community. :)

The 21 Steps of Death

It may be a difficult thing to remember when you’re older and the genuine fears of the real world are always somewhere in the back of your mind, but it’s been well-studied that humans enjoy being scared. The rush of adrenaline and the ability to laugh about it later (assuming, of course, that the fear wasn’t justified by something horrible happening) is a wonderful rush and is the reason why horror movies/novels/video games/etc are such a big industry. It’s fun to be scared. It’s even more fun to be able to laugh and reminisce about it afterward.

When we’re young it’s even more fun because our imaginations are truly outrageous. As an adult we might get creeped out by a movie about ghosts, but afterward we’re pretty set in our beliefs that ghosts don’t really exist. As kids, we can go for years believing in a particular ghost story because we have amazing faith in the improbable. We’ll even make up stories and convince ourselves that they’re true. My friend and I used to spook ourselves silly with stories about how my house was haunted by the ghost of a previous owner, despite the fact that the house had only ever had one previous owner and he was still very much alive. It’s an amazing (and sometimes hysterical) trait that children have: the ability to completely make something up and then convince yourself that it is absolutely true.

I can remember tons of stories that used to be passed around when I was a kid, but one of the silliest was a tale we referred to as “the 21 Steps of Death”. You see, I grew up right along the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia, Canada, and along the shoreline of my hometown are several “barracks” locations…that is, the old stone installments that were used by soldiers during the war. One particular area includes a three-story stone building that has been widely used by graffiti artists:

Photo taken by my father, Daniel G. Clarke. Awesome shot, dad!

 

…and the accompanying underground bunker which is set off to the side of the building. The bunker section of the barracks is visible from the ground only by an open rectangle through which two sets of stairs can be seen. Unless it is high noon, with the sun blaring down on top of you, looking down upon those two sets of stairs shows you only darkness below. A frightening image for a child.

And so there were the tales. Those steps, they said, were haunted by the ghosts of dead soldiers. Whichever staircase you took, there were 21 steps in total, and as soon as your foot touched the 21st step you would be whisked away by the ghosts, deep into the earth, to join them in their eternal watch for enemy ships approaching the Nova Scotian cliffs. Every kid I knew growing up believed in this tale. Many times I can remember standing next to those stairs, looking down with my friends, everyone double-dog-daring each other to go down.

What’s really funny about this story is that the main plot point, the number of steps, was complete and utter nonsense. First off, how did we even come up with that number when no one was willing to try going down? Who decided that the number was 21? I’ll never know, but when we finally became old enough and brave enough to actually try going down the steps, we found that there were…18. 18 steps. Even if you counted the ground at either end of the steps, that would still only be 20, and if you counted both sets of steps it would be 36. So where did the number 21 come from? Who knows. Presumably the first kid who came up with the story thought that 21 sounded spooky, somehow. In the end it doesn’t really matter; the point is that for a while, before we became brave enough to debunk the myth, we had a creepy story to keep us mystified.

A kid’s view of the world can be literary gold, should you only take notice of it (or make the attempt to remember back that far). I can remember so many scary stories we had; stories about dark paths in the woods, stories about monsters on the cliffs, stories about what was buried in the empty lot behind my grandmother’s house. We had a story for every locale, every imagined fear, and every misunderstood circumstance. And that made childhood all the more awesome.

What scary stories did you and your friends have when you were kids? Were they in any way based on truth, or were they the completely made-up insanity of kid brains? If you have kids of your own, what kind of crazy stuff have they come up with? Please share!

(Non-)Fiction Fragment Fridays: The 5-Year Diary

I thought I’d do something a little different today, so this is the first ever NON-Fiction Fragment Friday. Aren’t I just so clever?

A while back a fellow blogger (apologies, but I can’t recall who it was) mentioned a little “journal” called the “Q&A-a-day 5 Year Journal“. The neat little book asks 365 questions – one for each day of the year – and provides you enough space to answer each question five times…in other words, the goal is to answer each of the 365 questions once a year for five years. Presumably, as you’re answering the questions again and again (and again and again), you get to see how your thoughts and feelings have changed on different topics. The journal asks questions as in depth as, “If you could spend a day with any dead person, who would it be?”, and as simple as, “What did you wear today?”

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Now, my original plan had been to share and answer some of the questions that I’ve come across in the book so far. I had the post written. I had the post scheduled. Unfortunately, I am writing this section of this post at 4:30 am as I wait for the work bus to leave, because I opened the post to add the picture above and found that somehow, AGAIN, half of my post had vanished. So today’s “Non-Fiction” Fragment Friday is sadly going to be more of a suggestion for how you can write some fun and quick non-fiction, miniature-autobiography style.

And in the meantime, if someone (I’m looking at you, WordPress) would like to explain why transferring between the WordPress app on my tablet and the one on my phone regularly makes my posts spontaneously combust. It’s starting to get pretty goddamn old.

Blogging 101, Day Sixteen: Making a Prompt Personal

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Prompts can be a blogger’s best friend. When you’ve found yourself with a monster case of writer’s block and it seems as though there is simply nothing worth saying, doing a quick search for some prompts can save your blog’s posting schedule. But it doesn’t have to just be about answering a question that another blogger has asked, or finishing a scene that someone else started; you can make a prompt personal.

Today’s assignment is to publish a post based on your own, personalized take on today’s Daily Prompt.

The Daily Post has prompts every day to keep us writing (thanks guys!), and while many of them could easily be answered with a simple sentence, or else a completely fictional response, most of them can also be used as a way to get personal and share something about yourself that your readers may not have known.

Now, as you know, I tend to schedule posts in advance, and as such “Today’s Daily Prompt” on The Daily Post was actually the prompt from a couple of weeks ago. But bear with me as I show the concept of personalizing a prompt with an old one.

The prompt: Today is Summer Solstice, the longer day of the year (in the Northern hemisphere). How are you taking advantage of the extra hours of sunlight this time of year? Do you like it, or do you already miss earlier sunsets?

The response: I kinda hate this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer, the warm weather, and the sunshine, but longer days are a curse for me. Why? Well for one thing I spent all winter convincing my daughter that she had to go to bed because the sun was asleep, so now she suddenly has an argument for staying awake several hours later. For another thing, summer in the Albertan oil sands is maddening because the sun practically never sets. When I get up at 3 am it is as bright out as midday, and when I’m trying to sleep at night it’s just as bright. At the worst, the sun is actually only completely down for about an hour (around midnight). It might sound lovely to someone who loves the sun, but when you’re dead tired from a 12-hour shift and you can’t get to sleep because even the slightest crack in your curtains is like a spotlight in your room, you learn to hate the sun pretty quickly.

The conclusion: See what I did there? I could have responded to that prompt with cold hard facts, stating that I don’t have any plans and am not a fan of long days, but instead I used the opportunity to reveal a couple of little tidbits about my life. Keep this in mind when writing a post based on a prompt; a few personal details can really make the post pop!

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 28

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It’s another week and I’m back out West, working my 15-1/2 hour days and trying to figure out how I’m going to get anything else accomplished over the next two weeks. Fun times! Thank goodness I’m making good money, because otherwise my head may have already exploded.

On the upside of things, I did manage to record my two Nerd Block unboxing videos and get them uploaded to YouTube before returning to work. I’m not the most comfortable person in front of a camera, but I don’t think I did too badly. My only concern now is that now that my husband knows that I’m recording I’m going to have to find a way to lock him out of the room so he doesn’t torture me mid-taping. :P

(Shut up, Jason, you know you’re going to do it.)

If you’re interested in Nerd Block, or if you just want to see how awkward I am on camera, please check out my unboxing video for the original Nerd Block for June:

…and my unboxing video for Nerd Block Jr (for Girls) for June:

And now on to the usual stuff.

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

I’m just gonna go right ahead and say it: I’m failing miserably at this goal for a number of reasons (some of them good reasons, some of them bad). The upside is that my bad habits haven’t actually caused me to gain any more weight, but of course the downside is that I have effectively accomplished nothing toward this goal in over six months.

It’s a combination of things, but the major contributing factor is that this just isn’t as much of a priority to me as it should be. Blogging is very important to me. Writing (and, to a lesser extent, editing) is very important to me. Spending time with my family and taking small opportunities to relax are super important to me. Losing weight and getting healthier should be important to me, but they’re significantly less important than the other things I listed, so this goal continuously gets thrown on the back burner to slowly burn away into charcoal. I eat crappy food because cooking healthy takes time and energy that I use on other things that are important to me, and I avoid exercise for the same reason. It’s terrible, but it’s the truth.

So with that in mind, if anyone knows how I can somehow either double the hours in the day, or make it possible to function without sleep…feel free to let me know any time.

On the positive side ofthings, I’ve been using an iPhone app to remind me to take my stomach pills and thus far it seems to be helping. I actually think these meds might really help if I can continue to remember to take them properly. Further updates to come.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my author platform.

I’m calling this one a win for the week. I wasn’t overly active on Facebook or Twitter, but I did become a member of the International Bloggers Association, and I also set up my new YouTube channel for subscription box fun. I think that counts as pretty productive as far as social media is concerned.

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find the time during my days off to work on this. Just as unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to print off anything to work on while out West. So this is going to be a bust for a couple more weeks. On the upside, my next days home shouldn’t be nearly as busy as the last ones were. My revised mini-goal for the next fourteen days is to get as much blogging scheduled as possible between now and then so that when I get home I can focus entirely on Goal #3. Since that means trying to blog around my 15-1/2 hour work days, please send me good luck (and lots of caffiene).

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

Unfortunately (which is becoming my most-used word), I can’t give you a real report this week because I forgot to make a copy of my spreadsheet before coming out West, so I have no idea what my numbers are. I can tell you that I believe it to be somewhere between 3000 and 4000 words. I hope to put that number to shame this following week, but again…15-1/2 hour days…so don’t hold me to it, okay? Ha ha…

As a final note before I sign off today, I’m just going to mention that to avoid diluting my weekly schedule any further, future subscription box reviews are going to be posted on the weekends as they pop up. Look forward to them! <3