The Fridge List

Ever notice how summer seems to slip through your fingers, as mercurial as quicksilver? One Friday in June and it’s the Last Day of School. You blink. And it’s September. 

We usually wind up scratching our heads, trying to figure out what in the world happened to summer? How’d it fade so fast? Where did the time go? How Good it all was.

No more.

A few weeks back I decided this summer will be different. So I set some goals. Sat down and wrote out a list. Checked it twice. And clipped it to the fridge.

I listed several hikes I want to take before the snows fly. Destinations and places I want to visit before the Northwest turns soggy again. I included people I want to touch base with – folks I haven’t seen or heard from in awhile.

And I set a summer reading goal in tandem with the local library’s Adult Summer Reading Program: 100 books/audio books in 12 weeks. (Yeah, I know. It’s a pretty lofty goal. That’s why I want to pursue it. That, and I find that reading widely and often makes me a better writer.)

Per the summer reading program, books have to be read in a wide variety of pre-designated categories. Non-fiction. Sci Fi/Fantasy. Young Adult. First book in a new series. A book by an author using a pseudonym. A cookbook or food memoir. A book by a local author. A favorite children’s book (I have like a million or so.) A re-read (another million). And so on.

It’s been a challenge, especially since some of the genres are outside those which I typically gravitate toward. But what fun!! I’m learning a lot. Meeting tons of new friends. Getting fresh inspiration and new ideas. Woo-hoo!

Some favorites so far, in no particular order: The Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, and just about anything by Walt Morey.

It’s taken some creative juggling and rearranging, but I’m almost half way to my goal. And summer is yet young. And promising.

How ’bout you? What’s on your “fridge list” this summer?

When “Free” Isn’t, And What You Can Do About It

His “book launch team” was going to make a big splash.  In return for reading and reviewing his new title, Mr. Book Launch offered some freebies and insider goodies – if you made the cut.

That’s right.  His invitation to “join the team” required an application.  He wanted social media stats, Facebook numbers, promo ideas.  And his invitation was exclusive to “big fish.”

Another blogmeister advertised a *free* webinar on how to generate a ton of traffic to your blog.  He included one of seven tips.  To get the rest, you had to sign up for his other seminar – for $497.  The balance of his *free* presentation was a sales pitch for the not-so-free “real deal.”

Are You a Would-Be Whale?

Commenting on the above, someone said, “The writing biz is hard enough without locking people out, tangling them up in nets.  How does one writer say ‘no’ to another writer who’s willing to help?  What kind of ‘teamwork’ is that?”  Someone else asked, “What’s with, ‘sorry, you’re not a big enough fish.  This offer limited to whales only’?”  Another wondered, “What about writers who don’t have $497 to spend on more razzle-dazzle – they’re just outta luck?”

No one likes being turned down, not even for an unpaid gig.  No one likes having doors close because they can’t afford the price of admission. I’m willing to bet that at least some of the people Mr. Big Shot and Mr. Not-So-Free turned away weren’t only willing to do promotional work gratis, they may also have been writers who wanted to learn and who could use reciprocal exposure the most.

How many would-be whales were left flapping their flukes?  How ’bout you?

Let’s Start an Avalanche!

That’s why I’m launching Avalanche.  Think rush.  Flood.  Landslide.  Writers helping writers.

No application required.  I won’t even ask how many followers you have.  Really.

Sound good?  If you’re looking to gain exposure for your work and build your audience, simply respond with, “I’m in.”

Or check out: Avalanche!

Getting It Write by Doing it Wrong

I did it all wrong.

When I started cranking out newsletters – shortly after the earth’s crust cooled – I wanted to Get It Right.  So I studied every template, tip and technique available.  Scoured the internet and library for pointers and how-tos.  Wrote and rewrote headlines, by lines, subject lines and clotheslines.  Chased every cool idea and creative lead I could.  Producing a quality newsletter is serious stuff.  I wanted to Get It Right.

The result?

A newsletter that was as flat as an open can of soda left out for a week.

Something Missing

The “experts” (who are these people?) may have answers related to style, format and even basic content.  But something was missing: Me.

I was trying so hard to Get It Right, I was churning out someone else’s idea of a great newsletter. Not mine.  The result was a product that tasted like yesterday’s oatmeal.

Continue reading

Books to Grow By


Books to Grow By:

Have you seen the list of Books Everyone Should Read that’s floating around Facebook?  I read that list.  IMHO, several of the titles were questionable and many books that should’ve been included weren’t.  So I came up with my own list: Books to Grow By.

Classic, contemporary, and just for fun titles are included, plus some surprises.  (Note: With apologies to high school English teachers everywhere, I simply cannot abide ‘stream of consciousness’ prose a la Faulkner, which is one reason The Sound and the Fury isn’t included.  Ditto Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby.)  You’ll also find evidence of my conviction that some of the finest literature ever written can be found in the Children’s Section.  Selections appear in alpha order by title.

How many of these have you read?  What are YOUR favorites?

Click here for the list. 🙂

Why You Won’t Turn Into a Pumpkin if You’re Not Blogging Every Day (Part 2 of 2)

I recently re-evaluated the writing blogs I follow.  In the process  I deep-sixed some, kept a few, and skim most.  I simply don’t have time to read numerous posts on a daily basis, particularly if they’re the blog equivalent of War and Peace.  I mean, I’m lucky if I get the dishes done on a daily basis!

A Crackly Crisp and Criteria

Trying to read and crank out quality posts every day had me fried to a crackly crisp.  Been there, done that?  If so, it’s okay to scale back.  You won’t turn into a pumpkin. Really.  Read Luke’s complete post here  (Check Part 1 for full context.  That’s okay.  I’ll wait.)

Here’s the basic criteria I used to pare my blog “read list” down to something manageable:

  • Will I turn into a pumpkin if I miss a week or two of this blog’s content?
  • Is the content interesting, relevant, and engaging on a regular basis?  Is it fun?
  • Does the blogger reciprocate, offer guest posts, share links, retweet, etc?
  • Will this blog help my writing, outreach, insight, or all of the above?
  • Is the blogger genuine?  Does he or she blog from the heart?
  • Does this blogger have a personal account at Hershey’s?  (Couldn’t resist.)

In case you’re wondering, here are some blogs I recommend:

The Writing Life – Terry Whalin

– A Step in the Write Direction – Donna Clark Goodrich

Kathy Macias

Bottom line:

Daily blog posts may be over-rated.  If you’re a writer, you know better than anyone how much time blogging can swallow away from other writing.  Prioritize accordingly.  More on that in a minute.

Okay, okay.  I admit.  At first I felt a little guilty about scaling blog posts back to a more realistic schedule.  Something that I could handle.  Not anymore.  I decided that when it comes to “building a platform” and the like, it’s okay to not be in a hurry.  Ditto avoiding cranking out noise just to fill the screen.

A Matter of Priorities

Blogging vs. working on your writing comes down to a question of priorities.  If your first passion is blogging, then get at it and go to it.  But if it’s working on your next novel, short story or creative non-fiction piece, concentrate on that first and blog when you can.

Neither you nor I will turn into a pumpkin if we’re not blogging every day.   It’s okay.  Really.

Who’s with me?

How often do you blog?  What do you look for in a blog post?  Who are your favorite bloggers?  Share in the comments section.

Why You Won’t Turn Into a Pumpkin if You’re Not Blogging Every Day (Part 1 of 2)

If you’re a writer, chances are good you’re also a blogger.  Chances are equally good that you’ve heard: 1)  If you’re a serious writer, you need a blog like peanut butter needs jelly; and 2)  Daily blog posts are the one and only way to build your audience and create a platform.

Not Anymore

I used to buy that.  Frankly, it fit like a rhino in leotards.  I thought it was me.  Not anymore.

Check out Ali Luke’s post, “How Often Should You Blog? (Hint: The Answer Might Surprise You)” by Ali Luke. She says:

“Over the past couple of years, there’s been a shift in the blogging world. More and more prominent bloggers-on-blogging are moving away from daily posting—and reassuring their readers that you don’t have to post every day in order to be successful. “

Luke continues, quoting Darren Rowse of Problogger:

“I once surveyed readers here on ProBlogger about the reasons they unsubscribed from RSS feeds, and the number one answer was ‘posting too much.’ Respondents expressed that they developed ‘burnout’ and would unsubscribe if a blog became too ‘noisy.’”

Is Daily Best?

Let’s face it.  Your life is full.  So is mine.  I’ve subscribed to several primo writing-related blogs, followed them for awhile, read every word.  Most post daily.  And I couldn’t keep up.  So I bailed.

Then there are the folks who offer a free ebook, webinar or other resource, capture your email, and turn your In Box into their personal rainstorm reminiscent of Noah.  A few showers are one thing, but a deluge?  Don’t these folks realize how busy we writers are?  I battened down the hatches and rolled up the welcome mat on those folks right quick…

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Set Apart: Compelling reads vs. Ho-hum?

Ever picked up a book, read through several pages or chapters and… gave up?

I brought home a book from the library the other day, the fifth in a series by a favorite author.  I read the first four books cover-to-cover in a day or two a piece.  But there was just something about the fifth book… it was like trudging through a muddy bog in hip-waders under a hundred pound pack in a monsoon at midnight.  Blindfolded.  I plowed through several chapters, teeth gritted, hoping it would get better.  Gather steam.  Engage.  It didn’t.  I eventually plopped that puppy into the library book return drop, half-read.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t “get into” that book.

Was this due to an implausible, incoherent plot?  Cardboard characterizations?  Stilted dialogue?  A pace that moved as fast as a gimpy snail in a molasses factory?  Maybe it was bad lighting, a serious dent in my private chocolate stash, or the weather?

What is it about a book or an author that disappoints?  Derails a story?  Elicits yawns, shoulder shrugs or a No-Doze run?  What do you look for in a good book – one that hooks you from the first paragraph, grabs you by the jugular, slides down your esophagus, invades your whole body and being and won’t let go until you finish it?  Compelling reads are out there.  What sets a compelling read apart from a ho-hom one?

Chime in with your comments. Don’t forget to include a favorite and a few primo titles you’d like to recommend.