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The Comeback of Serial Fiction

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Buck Rogers Serial Poster The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Do you remember Buck Rogers? Not the campy television show, but the shorts that used to come on in the movies before the main show? Okay, I’m dating myself here, even thought by the time I got to see them they were filling a hole in the Saturday morning cartoon slots.

During the first part of the twentieth century serialization of stories was the norm. Pulp SF magazines serialized novels, radio shows serialized all sorts of stories (Who knows? The Shadow knows. Mmmaawwhha.) Eventually television came along, and television series arose, building on the dying bones of the radio series.

But somewhere between the late twentieth century the culture changed. It was a slow implosion that shifted readership of many different forms of print. The people who best documented this was the newspaper industry. Up to the 1990’s daily circulation rose and then held firm at a little over 60,000,000 households. Then, despite the growing population, circulation numbers started to fall, like a rock. And curiously, though, during the years of 70’s all to the current year the number of households grew. And another trend emerged. During the 1970’s nearly every household in the United States took at least the daily newspaper. By the nineties this was no longer true. Despite a rapidly growing population, people read the paper less.Continue reading The Comeback of Serial Fiction

5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic

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Recently, at their request, I analyzed the SEO of a non-profit’s website. Looking at what people did wrong reminded me of the things we need to do right to promote our blogs.

I considered writing “Ten Things to Do to Improve Your Blog Traffic,” but I’ve noticed some writers are just plain whiny about SEO. It’s time consuming. No one reads my blog anyway. Who cares? Much of this just comes down to not knowing what to do. Let me streamline the process by providing a few suggestions. Do these things and you should see a rise in your traffic.Continue reading 5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic

Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge

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Alice in Wonderland CupcakesWhen Chuck Wendig put up his latest flash fiction challenge I couldn’t resist. But, here, I’ll let me explain it in his own words:

This week, a bit of a quirky one.
You ever play those old-school Infocomm text adventures?

(Zork: “You are eaten by a grue.”)

I was a huge fan.

Now, there’s a Twitter account / bot that, if you tweet the word “inventory” to this particular Twitter bot — @YouAreCarrying — it will tweet back at you a randomized list of inventory items, taken, I believe, from old Infocomm games.
Take all the items listed in the response tweet (your “inventory”) and use them all — in some way, oblique, abstract or overt — in a flash fiction. We’ll up the word count to 2000 words for this one. Due by next Friday (7/18), noon EST. Post at your online space; drop a link below so folks can follow it back. And that’s it. Go forth. Get your inventory. Write a story.

And the bot came back with this for me:

‪@starrynightastr a two liter bottle of Classic Coke, a trash basket, a cake, a glass analysis, a pound note, a leaflet, a granola cluster.

I’m not going to sit there groaning about the twisted angst it took for me to come up with a story, because when I read these things there was only one place I could take them. To Alice, my Out of Wonderland character from my previous story “The White Rabbit.”

And here’s the story:

Cake: The Continuing Adventures of Alice Out of Wonderland

“We shouldn’t be meeting like this, Alice,” said the white rabbit sitting at the bar. I slid onto the stool next to him. “The Queen will have my job.”Continue reading Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge

Writing: #Whatyoucan’tdo

Writing: #Whatyoucan’tdo published on No Comments on Writing: #Whatyoucan’tdo

Freelancer Process Being raised a #goodcatholicgirl I got a big dose of “#whatyoucan’tdo”. I even had an older male relative tell me when I eight years old, that girls didn’t become doctors. Geez. It was an overdose, really, enough so I immediately threw out all the rules as soon as I left home for good.

During my life breaking or bending the rules became a personal theme for me. Oh, not in and out-n-out rebel- without-a-clue way. And no, you don’t get details. But in dealing with my corporate career I broke more than a few, to the chagrin of my employers. They punished me with successive promotions. So when I hear “you can’t do that,” my response is “watch me.”

So when my college age daughter told me that her college writing professor told her that “you can’t make a living freelancing,” that raised a few hackles on the back of my neck.

Sure, no one said it would be easy. And it requires a different skill set than getting up in the morning, buying your latte and sitting you butt in your cubicle each day.

There’s marketing yourself for one thing. Calling up or emailing people saying, “do you want an article on” sort of thing. Making connections. Getting people to know who you are. Using social media, correctly, as in “not spamming, just hamming”, way.

Then there is time management. The temptation to play Zimbio games must be ignored in favor of making some queries to find work. Then, once securing such work, doing it and sending it in.

And employing the ability to wait for payment, graciously. Yes, it is strange in this era of Paypal, to have to wait for payment, but I have a few clients like that. So sometimes I have to make a few other calls, as in to the electric company, to smooth over our latest “misunderstanding.”

Yes, diplomacy is part of the skill set. Especially in getting along with my boss. Working for myself isn’t the easiest thing. I’m a real bitch to work for.

But I have to do it. No other profession merges so well with my heavy television watching schedule.

“I make money, daughter.” I replied. “You can make money freelancing.”

She smiled. “But you have a niche. People know who you are.”

And right there is another clue about how to freelance successfully.

So don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. (Though, please be sensible and don’t do self-destructive things.) When someone tells you that you can’t make a living freelancing, tell them:

“Watch me.”

Photo published under a Creative Commons License issued by Flickr user JamesCarlson

Writing Evocative Book and Story Titles

Writing Evocative Book and Story Titles published on 2 Comments on Writing Evocative Book and Story Titles

How much thought do you give your titles? Do you wonder what makes a good title and one that’s so, so? Is there any way to know? Yes there is.

In my newspaper circulation days, we would regularly look at what headlines sold the most newspapers. I would even write reports about what kinds of headlines were more effective from a sales standpoint. Not so unusually the journalist editors would look at me with a jaundiced eye. They were there for reporting the news. Sales was not their responsibility. But they would complain if they thought that the newspaper wasn’t selling like it should. Somehow I was supposed to pull the magic selling fairy out of my nether regions and get those papers to fly off the shelves.

They were wrong. Headlines and titles have everything to do with whether or not people pick up that paper, read that story, or buy a book. We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to reading material, that is exactly what we do.

So what do we do to make a title evocative?

According to Advanced Marketing Institute, we need to up the emotional content in it. They divide up emotional content into three categories, Intellectual, Empathic, Spiritual. No one category is better than the other, but one category fits better with the market you are trying to reach.

Additionally, you need to keep your titles short, under five words and the fewer the better.

Once I initially discovered the Title Analyzer I started looking at how I wrote blog titles. Now, writing blog titles is different from writing titles for books and stories because you have to write SEO words into the title to get search engines to recognize you. But anecdotally I can tell you that once I became aware of using emotive language in the titles, my readership went up on blog posts that used emotive language. Titles matter.

For example, one of my most successful evergreen posts on Astrology Explored is this one:

The Astrology of Relationships: Fated–The Yod in the Composite Chart

You can see the SEO. The title contains the keyword “astrology”, but except for two words, “relationship” and “fated” the rest would be gibberish to the average reader. I don’t expect the average reader to understand “yod” or “composite chart.” But people do understand fated relationships. And those two words made all the difference. That post stood number one as the most read until just recently.

Since we are all writers, we understand emotive language. So push for the most emotive, evocative language you can for your title.

But how do you know if your title works?

The Advanced Marketing Institute offers a Headline Analyzer which is effective. You enter a title and it tells you on a percentage rating how it does using evocative language. Unfortunately, the Advance Marketing Headline analyzer only works as a one shot deal. Once you enter a title and get a quick report, it doesn’t allow you to enter a rework work of the title. It didn’t used to be like that, but they changed it, so as it stands, their Headline Analyzer is useless to help you get the best title possible.

But I did find something that is almost as good. The Lulu Title Scorer will analyze your title and compare it to best-selling titles of the past to give you a projected percentage of how it stacks up. And you will be surprised at just how sensitive even minor changes can impact the marketability of your title.

For instance, the title of my first novel is Mindbender. For the longest time, I didn’t know whether to use the title as one word or two. Using the Lulu title analyzer I finally made my choice. Mind Bender has a 35.9% chance of being a best-selling title, while the single word Mindbender 63.7% chance.

Now, let’s check another title, this one a current New York Times best seller, Missing You. That title, according to Lulu has a 55.4% chance of being a best seller.

While titles aren’t everything, it doesn’t hurt to give your book or story the best chance possible of being read.

Setting Up Your Website (for writers): Part 2

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Twenty Ten If you followed my advice you have your domain name and you’ve picked out your webhost. Good. You are on your way to setting up your own self-hosted website. Now to do the deed.

What we are going to do is the following:

Get your webhost and domain name provider talking.

Set up your domain name on your host provider.

Install WordPress.

Pick and install a WordPress theme.

Get Your Webhost and Domain Name Provider Talking

You may have bought your domain name from your host provider. This is the simplest solution, but not always to the most cost effective. However, if you did, skip this part and go to the next topic. However, if you did not then you need to set the Domain Name Servers on your domain provider’s site to the nameservers of your hostsite.

Your hostsite will provide your with your domain nameservers upon activation of your account. Nameservers come in pairs and look like this & Log into to your domain provider, pull up your account, and choice whatever option gets you to “Set Nameservers.” Type in your nameservers an press update. Though the process is the same, every site has its little variations, so I can’t get more specific than that, except in the case of GoDaddy.

Here are specific instructions for changing nameservers on GoDaddy:

1.) Log into your GoDaddy Account. On the “All Products” tab, go to “My Account”, then hit the “launch” button on “my domains”. Click on the little square box in front of your domain name and then the little “name server” box will light up. Click on “set nameserver”, then the “custom nameserver” radio button. Click on the link “Custom Nameserver” (You’re almost there) and enter your first nameservicer in the top box and an the second nameserver in the bottom box. Click the black “OK” button and the screen will say “validating”, then show a black “save” button. Hit the “save” button and the screen will return to show your domain name. Log out of GoDaddy.

Depending your domain provider’s site it can take several hours to up to a full day to connect to your hostsite.

Set Up Your Domain Name on Your C-Panel

Now its time to go to your hostsite and log-in to your C-Panel. Once there scan down the line of items to “Domains.” Click on “Addon Domains.” Type in the name of your domain with the “http” or “www” part of the name, for example “”. C-Panel with automatically fill the boxes except your password. Enter the password you created for your website. Click on “Add domain.” Click “home” to take you back to C-Panel’s front page.

Install WordPress

Scan down software/services and click on Fantastico Deluxe. In Hostgator now there is also a button that says “Get Started with WordPress Today.” Either button is okay to click on. You will be sent to a screen that has a list of different blogging platforms. Click on WordPress. (And if necessary “continue.”) You’ll see the top line starting http:// and the name of your blog listed. Fill in the next boxes as listed and hit “Install.” (Oh, you are so close now.)

You’ll be taken to a screen that shows the installation. If you are prompted to add a email address and a password, do so. Finish up following the prompts. It’s time to pick out your WordPress theme.

Pick and Install a WordPress Theme

Let’s take a look at your website now. Every new WordPress installation comes with a standard theme. Go ahead, type in your brand new domain name into your browser and as long as the domain name provider and your hostprovider are talking, your site will come up. And it will look like the picture at the top. If the site doesn’t come up, because you just entered your nameservers, and the changes haven’t cycled, then wait a few hours.

Are you happy with 2010? Its a basic theme, clean in design and flexible. But if you want something extra, its easy enough to change the theme.

Type in

This will always get you to the log in site. There should also be a “Log In” button on the page. Either way works. What you’ll see is the basic dashboard of your WordPress site.


Click on Appearance and then themes. You’ll be brought to the theme page. Click on the “Install Themes” tab at the top. Don’t worry, you aren’t doing any installing yet. You see a list of filters to click on. Click on any that appeal to you and press “Find Themes.” Up pops a selection of themes from which to choose. Take your time. Play with the filters or don’t use any filters at all, find something you like. When you do, click on “Install” and WordPress does its thing, and you now have your blog!

Congratulations! You are the owner of a self hosted blog. How professional is that?

Setting Up Your Website (For Writers)

Setting Up Your Website (For Writers) published on 2 Comments on Setting Up Your Website (For Writers)

Your Writer's BlogI started my professional writing career blogging. Yes, I know, most people don’t make money blogging, but I did, with an astrology blog on a now shuttered network. While I didn’t earn much money, I earned some, and while doing so I learned the fine art of blogging.

Its a given these days that writers should have their own websites. Every blog about writing I’ve seen advises so. There is nothing like putting yourself out there on the ‘net announcing you are a professional writer.

There are those of you who set up your Google Blogger blogs or your blogs and are happy with them. First off, they are free, which is a boon to underpaid writers everywhere. Secondly there is ease of use. If you don’t know how to set up a website there is nothing like preset templates to get you started.

But if you want to announce yourself as a professional writer there is nothing like the cache of your own domain name on a self-hosted site. Even with a free WordPress template you can make a very professional looking site for very little cash. There just isn’t a reason anymore for anyone to spend hundreds of dollars on a personal website even if my son, the website designer, needs the work.

WordPress is my platform of choice. There are literally hundreds of free templates and plug-ins that add functionality to your site.

So what are your first steps? First you need a domain name. Again there are hundreds of domain name providers, all with different pricing. I went with GoDaddy, and currently keep all my domain names there, though I might, when the price is right switch them to my hosting provider, Hostgator. Depending on various sales you can get your domain name from $10 to $20 dollars a year. Some domain providers advertise cheaper prices though those are usually one time sale prices for the first year. If you can manage it, buy your domain name for more than one year. It looks better to people like Google if your domain name has a shelf life longer than a year, but we’ll talk about that more in another post. If you can’t afford that, you need to work harder selling your work. The second is deciding on your host provider. I use Hostgator because I got a deal where I pay $15 per month for unlimited number of sites. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of buying domain names you start collecting them like you eat potato chips. Well at least I do, though it is a well known fact that I can eat only one potato chip and walk away from the bag. So it is a boon to have such a deal. And since the sites don’t draw mega traffic it works out just fine.

I like Hostgator though other people complain bitterly about them. They are cheap, relatively speaking. They keep my sites up. I can add as many new websites as I like, and access to WordPress templates through Fantastico, an installer program, is free. If you are searching for places to host your site, beware those that charge for every feature, such as email addresses and templates. It just isn’t necessary.

Once you get the hang of this not only can you snicker when your friends proudly display their Google blogger sites you can say with some pride, “Well, I self-host mine.”

Next post we’ll talk about actually setting up your site so until then buy your domain name and find your hosting site.

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