Category Archives: blogging

Creating your author blog part 2 #amwriting

As last week’s post, Creating your author blog part 1, much of this is taken from earlier posts on this subject, so if you have seen it before, thank you for stopping by, and the next post will be on sourcing content for our blog posts.


Once you have your blog set up, and the catchy title picked out, etc., it’s time to start writing. Both WordPress and Blogger offer you the ability to use html (Text) if you choose, which I don’t have a clue about, or to go with the Visual (what you see is what you get). Unless you are a programmer, stay with ‘Visual.

In WordPress, choose a category now for your post–do it first, so you don’t forget to do it. I published this post in the category of writing.  Each blog post may have a different category, but you decide what your categories are. If you should forget to choose the category, it will go into the ‘uncategorized’ pile–the dreaded WordPress slush-pile where blogs go to die.

Also in WordPress, chose a few TAGS now, if you know what you’re writing about, so that you don’t forget to tag the post. That button is below the Categories list. Chose tags that most represent the core of your post, so that searchers for that subject will find your post.

For this post, I am using ‘blogger, blogspot, blogging, WordPress, WordPress blog how-to.’

If you are using Blogger, PICK YOUR LABELS NOW–Blogger doesn’t use categories, so your labels are very important. On the right-hand side, click on ‘LABELS’ and simply type your key words into the BOX, separated by commas. In Blogger, LABELS are what TAGS are in WordPress, so use words that represent the core of what you are blogging about so that interested searcher will find your blog.

Next, schedule your post: In WordPress, in the the right-hand menu-list you will open the the ‘status bar.’ Use the calendar to pick the date and set the time of day you want the post to go live.

Here is the screenshot that shows you where everything is in WordPress:

Wordpress_how2blog_screenshot2018

And for Blogger it looks like this:

blogger_details_screenshot

Now that you have that out-of-the-way, it’s time to blog!

  1. Hook me with that catchy blog post title! Pretend this post is called “Blogging for beginners.” Pretty boring, but hey – it is what it is.
  2. Put that title in the white box at the top of the page and DO IT NOW, so you don’t forget to give your post a title.

Now there are two paths for you. You can choose to wing it, keying directly into the post box as I sometimes do, or you can write it on a WORD document, edit it at your leisure, and copy and paste it into the body of the post. (In WordPress, depending on the platform’s mood, you may have to key “cntrl V” to paste it into the post box.)

Both Blogger and WordPress have spell check functions, and both will save at times as you go. However, spell check only picks up misspelled worlds, and doesn’t catch errors that involve correct spelling. When I key directly into the post box, some errors may get overlooked in the proofing process. I do try to correct them but I sometimes don’t notice them for several months, so blogging can be a lesson in learning to laugh at yourself.

Now we want to add a picture. In WordPress, place your cursor in the body of the blog post and click once at the spot where you will want the image. Then scroll up to the left side of the ribbon (tool box) and click on the circle with a + sign in it, where it says ‘Add’ (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image.’ This symbol is a little obscure, but once you find it, you are good to go.

If this is your first blog post, you won’t have anything in your media library yet, so click on “Upload Files.” Practice uploading images and inserting them, playing with it until you feel comfortable and know how to ensure the image will appear where you want it and will be the size you want it to be. Then, once the image in the body of the post you click on the picture, and a new toolbox opens. That is where you make your adjustments for positioning and size. You can even add captions if you wish.

In Blogger you also click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’). A pop-up menu will appear, and then you will upload the image, decide the placement and the size.  This nearly foolproof simplicity is why most people who have “never done this before” like Blogger more than WordPress.

All you have to do now is post your links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and all other social media you can think of. It is quite easy to set up, and you rarely need to refresh those connections.

This is where WordPress really excels.

In WordPress, we have the “publicize” option which will automatically post to our other social sites. In the Settings menu, open “sharing” and click on it. that will take you to the “Sharing Settings” page. Click on the button that says, “Publicize Settings.” That will open a list of what I think of as blog warehouses, places that collect blogs and offer them to their regular readers. You want to activate as many of them as you can.

It will take a long time for you to build up good traffic – when I began in 2011 I averaged 4 to 10 visits a day. I see those months as my training months, a time when I was able to get a feel for this craft. I have a lot more readers now because I have gained many good friends here through WordPress and am diligent about keeping this blog updated.

I highly recommend blogging if you are serious about being an author, as it helps develops your writing craft, especially when you must go in and edit out your mistakes after they have posted. People expect blogs to be a little rougher than other work as it is usually written on the wing but try to do your best work—you want people to buy your books, and they won’t if your blog posts seem illiterate.

As I mentioned above, my next post will discuss the nuts and bolts of sourcing content and writing the posts, including little tricks I use for catching most typos and misspelled words before my work posts.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under blogging, writing

Creating your Author Blog part 1 #amwriting

Much of this is taken from earlier posts on this subject, so if you have seen it before, thank you for stopping by, and the next post will be on creating blog posts.


‘Life in the Realm of Fantasy’ is a WordPress blog. I use WordPress because it is a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system.  I also have several other blogs on Blogger (Blogspot), which is also a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system. I prefer Blogger for ease of use, but it is limited. I love the way WordPress looks when you get to the finished product stage.

There is a small learning curve for each. But with very few skills, I have a decent-looking blog at no cost to me, using the fine tools and templates provided by the wonderful people at WordPress or Blogspot–and you can too.

The thing that is so awesome about both these products is you have the option to use them in what my husband-the-programmer calls ‘wysiwyg’ (pronounced wizzy-wig) or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get.’ The user does not have to know any programming or coding–all that is done for you already, and you just organize it the way you want it, within certain limitations.

If you want to use WordPress visit the WordPress home pageand select the ‘Sign Up’ button to register for a WordPress account. You’ll need a valid email address (that has not been used to create another WordPress account) to sign up for a new WordPress account. Follow the steps and bam! You have a blog.

But you can also do this via Blogger (blogspot), Google’s free blogging tool and content management system, also an extremely simple process.

Whichever platform you choose, I suggest you use your author name. I used Connie J. Jasperson. This links your author name to your blog, which is why you are doing this in the first place. Pick a title for your blog–this one is Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

I now pay something like $25.00 a year for the domain name, so https://conniejjasperson.com is mine. But for five years I used the free domain, which gives you a .wordpress.com ending after your blog name, such as http://myblogname1.wordpress.com.

In WordPress, begin with finding a template. Open the left-hand menu and go to Customize and click on Themes. Select one of the many free templates. Once you find a theme that you like, you are ready to go. I use Pilcrow theme for this site because I like the versatility.

In Blogger, you will also come to a screen with many options. I suggest you just start at the top of the menu where it says template and begin playing around with it until you find the look and style you like best. You will be able to see most of your changes in the area below the Template Designer.

In both WordPress and Blogger, I keep the template simple because it is easier for people to read.

Once you have decided on that catchy title for your blog and have figured out the color of your fonts and background are all organized, decide the layout. You can make it one column with no sidebar, or with one or two sidebars. Sidebars are good places for advertising your books and book trailers, along with many other things you want to share with the world, such as blogs that you follow, and offers those who wish to follow your blog a place to sign up. The trick with sidebars is to keep them from junking up the blog, which I have a tendency to do.

In WordPress, you will click “Upload.” This will take you to the part where you REALLY customize the look of your blog. Open the menu on the left and begin customizing from there. Click on Customize and go to Widgets. You can add your book images there, and links to amazon or other sellers, along with all sorts of other wonderful things that will make your site uniquely yours.

In Blogger, click “Apply to Blog” in the upper right-hand corner. This should take you back to the Blogger page, where you will look in the menu on the left and click on the “Layout” button, just above the orange Template button. On the right hand side (yours may be different, depending on how you chose to display sidebars) click on add a gadget.

In both WordPress and Blogger, you will find many options to make your site look great, from inserting images to ways to add html code for embedding videos. You can get fancy with the header or use the header they offer you. The appearance of your site will evolve over time, as mine certainly has.

Both sites have awesome and informative help in their FAQs and I suggest you make good use of them. Everything I know was learned by my asking questions.

Do take some time to play around with arrangements. You can preview it, but if you accidentally hit publish, don’t freak because until you add content and tell folks it’s out there, no one will see your mistakes. Take as much time as you need to get comfortable with the system and remember that anything you don’t like can be undone.

On Monday, we will begin with the actual blogging part of your author website. This is as crucial as anything else because it is where you will connect with your readers.

13 Comments

Filed under blogging, writing

The author’s platform #blogging #amwriting

Today’s image is a picture of my husband’s amazing hydrangea from last year. It’s covered with green buds right now, and I can’t wait to see it bloom again. It’s my favorite plant in his lovely garden.

So what does a hydrangea have to do with blogging? Nothing, although a photo from a garden would be a good image for an author’s blog post. Blogging is a good way to connect with readers. It’s a platform where you can advertise your books and discuss your interests, and most importantly, talk about what you are writing.

I have made a personal commitment to post three times a week on this blog, plus I contribute posts to three other blogs. I do this because each time I write an essay on the craft of writing, I clarify my own thoughts on those points. Also, posting the occasional flash fiction on Friday keeps me sharp and keeps me writing little bits of prose I might otherwise not have the chance to write.

Many of you know that I first began blogging because my former publisher insisted I do so. This, he said, would help get my name out there, and give me a regular platform for my opinions. That original blog is long gone, and those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist. That blog failed because writing about current affairs is something that has never interested me.

What I learned from that otherwise-negative blogging experience is important: it wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. When I made that connection and commitment to writing about what I enjoy, I began to grow as a writer.

When I’ve had a small success and am in danger of becoming too full of myself, blogging never fails to provide me with a sharp dose of reality. I must work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.

Oops.

Regularly writing blogposts has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream-of-consciousness” method or write from an outline of whatever interests me at the time. I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I have found that a good length for a blogpost ranges from about 500 words to not more than 1,000. Having that limit means I must keep my area of discussion narrow, and not get sidetracked.

This helps me when writing flash fiction, as most flash fiction can only be up to 1000 words. When I first began writing flash fiction, telling the entire story in so few words was often an issue. Writing blog posts really helped me learn that skill.

I have found that writing blogposts isn’t that difficult per se. I can knock one out in less than an hour if I’m fired up about the subject.

What I find most challenging now is sourcing ideas for new and interesting content. I have written posts on nearly every aspect of the craft, and don’t want to bore people. I also write on the craft for two other professional organizations and don’t like to repeat myself there either. These commitments have me scrambling though my notes to see what questions people might want to have answered, and then doing the research—my favorite thing.

During the week I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blog post. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. If there is a lot of research involved, I make footnotes with citations and sources as I come across the information. When that is the case, getting the week’s articles ready could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

If you are a blogger who only posts once a week, writing your blog post should take less than an hour.

I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to each website where they will be posted and pre-schedule them. By using the tools each platform offers (be it WordPress or Blogger) to schedule in advance, they will post without my having to babysit them. Having that ability allows me the rest of the week to work on my true job, which is writing novels.

If you are an author, you really should be blogging too—but you don’t have to blog as frequently as I do. Think about this: your website is your store, your voice, and your public presence. Readers will find you and your books there. So, offer them a reason to come and look at your books.

Many of you are saying that it’s hard to gain readers when your website is new, and you first begin to blog. This is true, but that will change if you just keep at it. The reason we write is for people to be able to read our work. When we have a limited audience, we feel a little defeated in our efforts to gain readers. In the world of blogging, as in everything else, we start out small and gain readers as we go along—but we gain them more quickly if we keep the content updated at least bi-monthly.

Because authors want to gain readers, it’s necessary for them to use every platform available to get the word out. Updating our website blogs twice a month offers us many opportunities to do just that and keeps us in touch with the people who count—our readers.

My next few posts will discuss the little things I’ve learned about blogging, beginning with how to get your own author blog up and running at little or no cost to you. I am fluent with WordPress and Blogger, two free-to-the-author platforms, and I will explain how to get started with both platforms. After that, we will talk about finding new content.


Credits and Attributions

Hydrangea, image by Connie J. Jasperson ©2017, All Rights Reserved

Comments Off on The author’s platform #blogging #amwriting

Filed under blogging, writing

2016 #YearEndWrapUp: #WordPressFails Grade for 2016: F-

Epic Fails signWhen I began blogging in 2011, I initially went with Google’s Blogger platform, because a friend of mine was a Blogger user. It was simple and easy to use, but several friends had WordPress blogs, and I liked the way their blogs looked in comparison.

So I made the switch. Up until January of 2016, I was a happy WordPress user. On January 15, 2016, I went to write my blogpost for the day only to find I couldn’t get to my faithful Dashboard and was forced to use the “new improved posting experience.”

That didn’t sit well with me. That post was titled  WordPress Blues. For some reason, that rant struck a chord with many WordPress users, and it started off like this:

WordPress people…you have pissed me off.

For a year now you have been trying to shove this new, less-than-useful dashboard down my throat, and for that same year, I have refused to use it. You allowed me the option to stay with the expanded version that played to my needs, and so I didn’t complain.

Today, however, you cut off my simple access to the old, better-for-my-purposes dashboard, and forced me to hunt for a way to get back to it. So rather than the post I had intended, we are going to discuss how a determined blogger can get around your arbitrary decision.

I posted my workaround so that bloggers like me who have compromised eyesight can get back to the easier to read dashboard. Pale blue on white is nearly impossible for me to see, so I need to be able to access what is now the WP Admin Dashboard and which is not easily accessible unless you know where to look. That post was popular because the wonderful people at WordPress are possessed of an “I can’t hear you” attitude. They ignore and refuse to answer the questions and concerns that long-time users have with the uninformed and unnecessary changes made to their product. A large number of bloggers felt that their legitimate needs and complaints were ignored by the new generation of WordPress Developers’ desire to be “new” and ‘innovative” at the expense of being useful.

For several months, the fabulous people at WP let things roll along in a dysfunctional sort of way, and I got used to it. I thought we were going get along despite my having to work around their unwieldy new platform.

But no. In April of 2016, the developers at WP somehow made it nearly impossible to upload images unless you upload them directly to the media library. Inserting links became a frustrating procedure.

But as always, I had a handy workaround for that too: #Amblogging: WordPress: If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that.

Of course, the year is nearly over, so they had to break one last thing before 2017 came along. This time it is the stats page. They have messed with the stats page several times before, giving us less and less useful information to judge how our posts are doing and which posts are getting the most hits over all. Now they have us going to a page with so little information I wonder why they even bother offering it. But once again, grandma has a work-around that will take you back to the 2015 version (but still not as useful as the pre 2014 stats page):

In the upper left corner of your blog are the words My Sites and Reader. Click on My Sites. The new blue on grey and difficult to read menu will open. The developers at WordPress are ignorant of the fact that many people have vision problems and these colors tend to fade into each other, making the menu harder to read:

step-one

Next, click on “Sites Stats.”  Above the new, useless bar graph, you will find a small disclaimer indicating they have a better option that you may never have heard of.  You have heard of it, it is just the back door to the 2015 version of the stats page. Click on the arrogantly labeled little button that reads “Show Me.”

step-two

The developers at WordPress are not done talking down to us–they don’t really have a better stats page, as they have decided we couldn’t possibly have a use for something that really works, but they will take us back to the one that they forced on us last year. I have found the most useful information on the “Days” page. It’s all on the lower half of the screen, which doesn’t appear in this screenshot.  But for now, it is still there.

step-3

I blog from my PC. I’m sorry, if you’re trying to blog from your android or tablet, good luck. The menus they are offering you there are nearly nonexistent.

From all the wailing on various tech blogs, I am not alone in considering migrating my website to Blogger, as they don’t jerk their users around nearly as much. I have four Blogger sites and they are easy to use, images and links upload beautifully, and the amount of detail on their stats page is excellent.

If you are tech savvy, there is a way to get back to the really good stats page that they took away from us in 2015. Diary of Dennis has a workaround for you:

Check Out The WordPress Classic Stats Redirect Script V2

All in all, I give WordPress a failing grade for 2016. They have failed to listen to their customers, failed to meet their clients’ needs, and failed to give a damn for the entire year. To top it off, they don’t offer feedback, just canned responses. Quote from my blogpost,  #Amblogging: WordPress: If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that.

If you go out and check the forums for this issue, you will see that the stock, canned answer by the forum mod is always: Have you tried deactivating your plugins?

On this particular blog, I am NOT running any plugins, nor have I ever ran any. Thus, that particular canned answer does not cut it, and there doesn’t seem to be any other answer out there.

WordPress developers and tech support need to rely less on the Ouroboros model of customer satisfaction and become connected with the users. There is a real disconnect between what the powers-that-be at WordPress want to give us, and what we long-time users need to have available.

I have no problem embracing change.

I have embraced it and found the workarounds I need to make my site work for me.

What I have a problem embracing is dysfunctionality.

OuroborosWordPress, I cannot and do not recommend you and your platform to new bloggers. I am one of your legion of bloggers who don’t want a dumbed-down, useless dashboard and stats that tell us nothing. We want the map so we can see what countries our reader’s hail from.

I feel no sense of loyalty to you as you don’t have any loyalty to me as a longtime user. At some point, if you continue down this path of dumbing-down your platform to the point of complete uselessness, many of your loyal, long-time bloggers will be forced to leave you and seek out other platforms with better functionality and real customer service.

14 Comments

Filed under blogging, WordPress, writing

#amwriting: Humility, or what I’ve learned from blogging

Tablet_KeyBoard_©cjjasp_LIRFDec19_2016One of the best things about being an indie author is the freedom I have regarding my writing schedule. Unfortunately, I’m someone who frequently over-commits myself, so that freedom is also a curse.

Blogging regularly is part of my writing commitment. It’s a good way to connect with readers. This website is where I advertise my books, discuss the craft of writing, and talk about my life in general.

I have made a personal commitment to post three times a week on this blog, plus I contribute posts to three other blogs. I do this because each time I write an essay on the craft of writing, I clarify my own thoughts on those points. Also, posting flash fiction every Friday keeps me sharp and keeps me writing little bits of prose I might otherwise not have the chance to write.

I’ve mentioned this before (old people frequently repeat themselves): I first began blogging because my former publisher insisted. It was a struggle and I wasn’t good at it because those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist, something that has never interested me. For a blog to be successful, you should discuss what you are passionate about, be it travel, sports, cooking, motorcycles, books, or writing craft.

What I learned from that otherwise negative experience is important: it wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. When I made that connection and commitment to writing about what I enjoy, I began to grow as a writer.

I admit it’s a challenge. I have to work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. When I’ve had a small success and am in danger of becoming too full of myself, blogging never fails to provide me with a sharp dose of reality. Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.

Or years.

Oops.

Regularly writing blogposts has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method, or write from an outline of whatever interests me at the time. I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

A good blogpost should have at least 500 words but not more than 1000. This means I have to keep my area of discussion narrow, and not get sidetracked. Also, flash fiction can only be up to 1000 words, so keeping it small is sometimes the issue.

Writing blogposts isn’t that difficult per se, as I can knock one out in less than an hour if I’m fired up about the subject. The real challenge of blogging regularly is finding interesting content. But that is part of the challenge.

The way I handle my blogging commitments is this: during the week I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blogpost. The only day I write blogposts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. If there is a lot of research involved I make footnotes as I go, and getting the articles ready could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

For a blogger who only posts once a week, it should only take an hour or so.

I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to each website, copy and paste the document into the body of the post, make any adjustments needed, add pictures, and edit the date for publishing so they are prescheduled for right publishing date.  Prescheduling allows my blog to post a new article three times a week at 06:45 am my time (on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday) which is 09:45 US Eastern time. It updates without my having to babysit it.

I do have to be observant when I am scheduling these things. Occasionally I accidentally hit the “publish immediately” button, which means I end up with an extra post that week whether I meant to or not. When that happens I sometimes use naughty words, such as, “Sassafras!” And “Dirty Words!” When I get done cursing, I either skip the Monday post or write an extra one.

Having the ability to write each post ahead of time, edit them, and select the date for publishing allows me work the rest of the week  on my true job, which is writing novels.

If you are an author, you really should be blogging too. If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThat post has screenshots and step-by-step instructions. It also talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

3 Comments

Filed under blogging, writing

#amblogging: trying to get the word out.

 

windows dialogue box 6 dude are you sureIt’s hard to gain readers when you first begin to blog. The reason we write is so people can read our work, and if we have a limited audience, we feel a little defeated in our efforts to gain readers.

Because we want to gain readers, it’s necessary to use every platform available to get the word out and WordPress offers us many opportunities to do just that. On the dropdown menu to the left of your Blog title, under the words “My Sites,” click the dropdown menu.

In that menu, scroll down to “sharing” and click on it. that will take you to the “Sharing Settings” page. Click on the button that says “Publicize Settings.”

That will open a list of what I think of as blog warehouses, places that collect blogs and offer them to their regular readers. You want to activate as many of them as you can.

My blog automatically post to Path, Stumble Upon, Tumblr, Google+, Networked Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and each one of those venues has increased my readership.

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I am trying a new (to me) thing called Bloglovin, hence the html in the first paragraph of this post–they want you to put their code in a new post. As my blog automatically posts in a variety of different places, I figured it would confuse people if I posted a blog that just had their code in it, so I am bringing you all along on this journey!

Bloglovin is not in the WP publicize menu yet, so you have to go out to their website and try to follow their instructions, which I am doing at this moment. I will keep you all posted on how that goes, and we will see whether my readership increases or not!

.
Edit: Okay–the html at the top of the post didn’t work, because: WordPress. SO what I did was, I downloaded their logo, got the link to my Bloglovin Page, and linked that to the logo image. Now, when a person clicks on that logo, they will go directly to my page there, where the follow button is right at the top.

We will see how this works!

Comments Off on #amblogging: trying to get the word out.

Filed under blogging

#amblogging: why authors should blog, take 3: the vegan

avacado dinner salad

my favorite avocado dinner salad

One of the things I love most about writing is this blog. I have made so many friends though this little place on the internet. Blogging offers me the opportunity to riff for several hundred words on any subject I’m interested in, without interruption. Of course, I’m usually only interested in writing-craft, but this is where I come to discuss it.

Nothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

And, today I don’t feel like talking about writing. I want to discuss food! As many know, I am vegan, but my descent into veganism was (sadly) not motivated by any high moral prohibition against animal cruelty. There is a certain amount of that, but it was always there in the the way I purchased food for my family. During the 1980s, much of our meat we raised ourselves, cage free, free range chickens, and sheep raised in traditional farming methods.

However, I have developed an auto-immune variety of arthritis that is triggered by meat and dairy–all forms of it. Whenever I go off my diet (and cheese is the big draw) I pay the price. So, I stay on my vegan diet and I feel good.

I have discovered a wonderful resource for amazing, healthy, vegan food: the internet.

I know! It’s not just for Facebook and online gaming.

There is information out there, and it’s all in blogs. One of the best sites for me is called The Minimalist Baker. Today the main picture on their site is a gorgeous image of peppers stuffed with cauliflower rice. That image is eye candy. I will definitely be making some form of this recipe.

Oh my gosh! That website, and the recipes Dana and John have put together are just amazing. I use more of their recipes as the basis of my own cooking than from any other website or book.

Changing your diet is difficult, because you have to change your habits. Sometimes you have to change the flavors you love, and learn to like new ones.

And if you are just starting out and can’t afford to buy cookbooks, the internet offers an incredible wealth of free information, and much of it in the form of blogs by people like me.

I love to eat as much as I love to read, and I could easily talk for hours on either subject. If you are passionate about a particular subject, a blog is a great place to talk about it. It brings together people with similar interests, and for a writer, blogging is crucial, as it gets your name out there. Blogging shows people you can write well, and blogging regularly forces you to be creative.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text
chocolate chip cookies, vegan

chocolate chip cookies, vegan and yummy

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

It’s a commitment, and authors are procrastinators, but we can write to deadlines when we have to, and it’s good for us.  Now I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together, which I couldn’t do if I was still raising children, but you only need to blog once a week to keep your content fresh. Writing this post took me about 45 minutes, so that is a small time commitment.

But just like a healthy diet and a walk in the fresh air, a change of writing scenery is good for you.

6 Comments

Filed under blogging, writing

#Amblogging: WordPress: If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that

OuroborosI’ve been blogging for about five years now. I turn out three posts a week, mostly on the craft of writing but sometimes on other aspects of my life. As a courtesy, I always link back to quoted authors’ websites and also insert links to other good reference posts elsewhere on the internet.

However, the once simple task of “inserting a link” has lately become quite difficult. Some days I don’t feel like I have the patience to blog anymore, and that lack of enthusiasm is all thanks to the folks at WordPress, where the new motto is “If it ain’t broke, we’ll fix that.”

A few months ago, the fine people at WP decided that those of us who prefer to blog using the old, more functional dashboard could simply screw ourselves, and they attempted to force us to use the “improved posting experience” which is anything but an improvement.

WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_3However, those of us who are determined to use the better dashboard can still get to it by:

  1. Opening the “My Sites” menu (top left of screen)
  2. When the menu drops down, look for the words “WP Admin” and click on it (don’t click on “Posts” yet)
  3. Once the second, new menu opens, THEN Scroll down to “Posts” and click “add new”

That takes you to the standard dashboard with all the functionality we are used to, with the buttons and other information we may use in the right places. The old dashboard is easier to use for those of us with impaired vision, as (for me) the pale blue on white of the new one blends together to become a wall of white.

Oh, we still have to look at the constant demand to “switch to the improved posting experience” but we can ignore that: We just go ahead and enter our blog post title as if that little bit of subtle bullying on WP’s part was not there. (Thanks, WordPress, for not giving us the option to turn that exceedingly untruthful notice off.)

I thought that would be the end of the misery for a while, but no! Here I am again, posting the workaround for yet another UN-improvement by the developers at WordPress, who are completely out of touch with the needs of real-world bloggers.

WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_4I’m not sure why they felt compelled to break the usefulness of this platform even further, but they did. As of last week when they changed the uploader box for inserting links into my content, I am finding their product is once again, incredibly difficult to use.

Normally, I key my posts into a WORD document and then copy and paste them into the body of the post. I insert my links into the document, and then edit them to make sure they open in a new window once the post is loaded here.  I also often have to do a lot of other editing once the post is loaded here.

However, the minute you have to insert or edit a link in the body of your post, things become sticky.

Let’s say I want to insert a link to Dictionary.com for the word “DYSFUNCTIONAL

  1. I open a new page and google “dysfunctional”
  2. I click on the webpage and open it.
  3. I highlight the page address in my browser and right-click copy
  4. I return to the open page for my WordPress post and highlight the word “dysfunctional”
  5. I place my cursor on the little chain icon in the task bar at the top of my post and left-click on it to open the insert link box
  6. When the box opens, don’t think you can just paste it into the box, and click on the blue arrow–because the link will go away.WPBlues2_prnt_scrn_5
  7. Instead paste the copied website address into the URL box, click on the  little gear,
  8. A new menu will open and you will click on the “add link” button in the lower right hand corner of the larger box.
  9. Be aware that when you click the box that says “open in new window,” the link will sometimes vanish. Then you get to play this game all over again.

The other wonderful new advantage of this less-than-useful link insertion system is that the annoying “Paste URL or type to search” box often won’t go away once you have successfully pasted the link.  This means you can’t key or change any words hidden by the box.

But as for everything else WordPress, there is a work-around for that, and Grandma will find it:

  1. Simply place the cursor elsewhere in the body of the blog post,(pick a random word and don’t highlight it) and
  2. click on the “insert link” icon again. This time don’t insert anything.
  3. With the cursor still on the body of the post, simply left click on an un-highlighted area and the box will finally go away, and you can once again write your post.
  4. Sometimes the only way to get the insert/edit link box to go away is to scroll back up to the right-hand “publish” menu and either click “save draft” or, if your post is already scheduled or live, click “update.”
  5. This is a problem even when I have inserted the links in my post in a WORD document before copying and pasting, as I still have to make sure they open in a new window.

I would like to not be blogging about WordPress workarounds. I would like for the nice people at WordPress to address the shortcomings of this new system and reconnect with their users.

I would also like to be able to recommend WordPress to new bloggers.

As Hal 9000 once said, “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.”

Ouroboros definition

The other issue is that these problems are random. Sometimes this thing works as it was designed, and then the next time you need to insert a link, it fails.

If you go out and check the forums for this issue, you will see that the stock, canned answer by the forum mod is always: Have you tried deactivating your plugins?

On this particular blog, I am NOT running any plugins, nor have I ever ran any. Thus, that particular canned answer does not cut it, and there doesn’t seem to be any other answer out there.

WordPress developers and tech support need to rely less on the Ouroboros model of customer satisfaction and become connected with the users. There is a real disconnect between what the powers-that-be at WordPress want to give us, and what we long-time users need to have available. I have no problem embracing change.

I have embraced it and found the workarounds I need to make my site work for me.

What I have a problem embracing is dysfunctionality.

12 Comments

Filed under blogging, WordPress, writing

#amwriting: the truth about blogging

Who are youNothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

Blogging regularly offers me that mix of self-imposed deadlines combined with the opportunity to riff on my favorite subject—the craft of writing. Much of what I have learned over the past four years has been through researching topics for this blog.

When I first began, I was only blogging under duress—my former publisher was forcing me to. This, he said, would help get my name out there, and give me a regular platform for my opinions. That blog is long gone, and those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist, something that has never interested me.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. That is also when I began to grow as a writer, because I have to work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. If I am not vigilant, it posts with “warts and all.”

I don’t like warts in my work.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON QUOTE meme copyBlogging has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method as I am now, or I can write it several days in advance by putting together a quick outline about whatever is interesting me at the time. I just do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I use WordPress for this blog—and many of you know how aggravating I have found some of the changes recently implemented by WP. I am a contributor to two other blogs hosted by WordPress, and the other authors I am working with tend to find WordPress technical “support” just as exasperating as I do.

Giving me a list of canned questions and redirecting me to threads filled with complaints by other users is not “tech support.” It is, instead, clearly an effort to maintain separation from the user and any real-life problems he/she may have with using their product. (See my post of March 2, 2016: wanted: flatiron for curly quotes and other blogging twists.)

And just today they have introduced a new “less invasive” way of inserting links into the post, by which I mean with fewer options (unless you know the magic trick) and less useful. However, although it is evident the fine people at WordPress are not done messing with our heads, I am still not going to change this blog to a different platform—yet.

Instead, I will continue to work around things until they force me to switch to a platform run by people who are genuinely involved with their users and who care enough to respond to technical questions with more than circular, canned responses that go nowhere, like a snake eating its own tail.

I am a contributor to several blogs hosted on Blogger (Best In Fantasy is one), and I do like the way Blogger does NOT keep changing and fixing what isn’t broke. But I’ve been here at this little corner for several years now, and I hate moving so this will remain a WordPress blog.

I have made many friends through blogging, people all over the world who I may never meet in person, but who I am fond of, nevertheless.

This place is where I develop seminars on the craft of writing. I find that talking to you about my obsession helps me organize my thoughts. And, although I hate to say it, my first publisher (Lord Voldemort) was right about blogging. Blogging regularly does get your author name out there and showcases your work and your voice.

But only if you are passionate about what you are discussing.

I recommend blogging to anyone who has a craft they are fired up about. For novelists, I also recommend publishing short pieces—flash fiction. Little off-the-cuff pieces of less than a thousand words are fun to write and often find their way into your larger work, as they are a great way to brainstorm ideas.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

One day it occurred to me that because I am a hermit and spend all day writing, my only way of communicating with my potential readers was through blogging. And it also occurred to me that communicating with other writers in the process could only benefit me.

I hated the thought of it but sucked it up. Once I realized that I could talk about whatever I wanted, Life in the Realm of Fantasy was born. My first posts stunk like last week’s garbage, but they were a beginning. With every post I wrote, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and the next post was better.

Kahlil Gibran MemeNow I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together and look forward to the time I spend here, exploring the craft of writing.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy has evolved over the years because I have changed and matured as an author. Four years ago I would never have felt comfortable publishing my poetry. Now, I regularly post short works and poems on Fridays, some bad and some worse—but all them exercises in creative writing.

At first it took courage to lay my work out there because letting people see my work unedited by my editors made me feel like I was a teenager all over again, getting ready for the prom and hating my hair. I feared the flaws I saw in it.

Now I feel more like I am sharing it with my friends and I feel good about it.

To repeat myself ad nauseum: If you really want to grow as an author, you must write. Try to write daily, even if it is only a paragraph or two. Consider writing that paragraph as a short blog and dressing it up with a picture or two. Someone will read and enjoy it–and you may have made a fan.

2 Comments

Filed under blogging, Self Publishing, WordPress, writing

#amblogging: wanted: flatiron for curly quotes and other blogging twists

300px-Barnum_&_Bailey_clowns_and_geese2Blogging regularly is one of the best ways to improve your writing chops but it can be like working for the circus.  Even when you really know the vagaries of your platform, a lot of strange things can happen in your work. They go unnoticed, doing their thing in the background, keeping it interesting.

WordPress, the mighty bastion upon which my empire rests, uses ‘fancy quotes’ as the default format. While they do look better in a document, blogging can often be an off-the-cuff thing. Straight quotes are less apt to go awry.  I am not sure why this is the default, nor am I able to find a way to ‘unfancy’ them.

WordPress chooses to make things  fancy, but I don’t need fancy. Judging from the number of posts in their forums on the subject, I am not the only one.

In some places, these curvy morsels of madness are called ‘smart quotes.’ In others, they are ‘curly.’ I don’t like them because sometimes they end up facing the wrong way, and being a bit unobservant, I don’t catch that until after I’ve posted it.

I’ve discovered some out of date plug-ins that are no longer available for uncurling my curly quotes, but alas– ‘no longer available’ is not really helpful. I have a flatiron for my curly hair–I need one for WordPress’s curly quotes.

straight and curly quotesAnother seemingly random thing I’ve discovered the hard way: occasionally I will decide to cut a section and paste it elsewhere, only to find (after having published the post) that the cut section has magically reappeared, and I am now repeating myself, verbatim.

This happens so often that I neurotically look at the menu every time I right-click-cut anything, to make sure I am actually cutting and not merely copying.

I double-check the text. Yes, the cut piece is definitely cut and successfully pasted elsewhere. But when I click ‘save draft’ it magically reappears back in the place from which it was cut, and I am once again repeating myself.

gibberish-american businesses onlineThen there is the hinky formatting. Sometimes the formatting goes crazy  and no matter what I do, the spaces between the paragraphs vanish. My post becomes a wall of words. Highlighting the post and clicking on ‘clear formatting’ does not help.

The spaces will show up on the editing side of the piece, but they will have vanished when the post is saved and published. (Edit: removed repeated line. Cursed fluently.)

My hubby, the programmer, says this is most likely caused by some hidden formatting issue that happens when I am copying from a Word doc and pasting it into the post. I usually write my posts in a Word doc because I catch more mistakes that way. Then I paste it here and, using the ‘preview’ option, check, double-check, and check again for bloopers.

Randomly, the posts are rife with strange formatting that will not be removed no matter what remedy I try. If I was a programmer, I would know exactly what bit of code was causing it and fix it. Alas! I’m only an old lady with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Hinky formatting also occurs in my Blogger sites, but not as often. I love the way WordPress looks when it’s all going right, but I love the options Blogger offers and the compatibility with Google products such as YouTube videos. (Blogger is a Google product.)

Dealing with these little issues are why I try to write my posts several days in advance and schedule them for the time I want them to post. Once I have it scheduled, I will let it sit overnight and then come back and read it with fresh eyes. I catch a lot that way, but it’s amazing how many slip by me.

This is why I always say self-editing is not as effective as we’d like. No one sees my blog posts before they are published but me and invariably I miss some whopping eye stopper.

1024px-Trapeze_Artists_in_CircusThe most mysterious problem is the inadvertent posting of a piece that is

  • in the draft stage
  • full of bloopers
  • looks illiterate

Technically, that happens because I get side-tracked and instead of scheduling it as I normally do, for some crazy reason I click ‘publish’ instead of ‘save draft.’

I blame ghosts.

And curly quotes.

9 Comments

Filed under blogging, writing