Monday, April 30, 2012

From the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop - Blogging, Branding, and Social Media, Part 1

As I mentioned last week, earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop.  The overall event was wonderful, with members of Erma's family on hand to read some of their personal favorites from her work and some excellent (FUNNY) guest speakers. 

From a writing standpoint, the Erma probably wasn't the best fit for me.  The focus, naturally, was on humor and I write mostly mystery and suspense, but there were a number of breakout sessions that crossed genre lines.  Three that I enjoyed were on blogging and using social media to create and promote your brand.  These were led by Debba Haupert, Anna Lefler, and Nettie Reynolds

I planned to do a post today on all the good tips I gathered from these three sessions but there were just too many for a single post, so this morning I'm going to focus on blogging and I'll follow up with the rest next Monday.

13 (gasp) tips on blogging from the EBWW:

Know why you're blogging.  Have a mission statement (even if it's just for yourself).

Keep your voice consistant.  Your regular followers should be able to pick out your voice in a crowd.

If you're a writer, your blog voice should be the same as your writing voice.  (More on this when we get to branding).

Have your own set of blog rules and stick to them, i.e. In my blog I always _____, but I never _____.

Maintain a common thread throughout your blog.

Coin a word or phrase that becomes your verbal logo.  (This one ties into branding, too.)

Add related magazines, web sites, etc. to your blog roll or sidebar.  Search engines check for incoming and outgoing link activity so you want as much traffic flowing through your blog as possible.

Include at least one link (if it's truly relevant) in every post.

Keep your blog roll fresh.

Embed a good quote in a graphic and add your blog link as a watermark.  People are more inclined to share pictures and wherever the graphic goes, your link with go with it.

Use numbered lists in your posts, i.e. Five tips for..., Ten reasons to ...

Use categories on your posts, in addition to tags or lables, so you can pull up all related posts in one block.

Keep an inventory of "evergreen" content - old posts that won't become dated.  Consider these your "classics" and re-use and/or promote them when appropriate. 

Okay, that's it.  How about you - got a blogging tip you'd like to share?

(Please forgive the late post this morning. Blogger and I are not playing well together today.) 

Groaner of the Day: A fellow received a mouse for his birthday and he loved it so much that he never parted with it. He took this mouse everywhere, to work, to parties, to the opera... One day, a good friend of his died and he was asked to serve as a pallbearer. Naturally, he took the mouse, which was perched on his shoulder.

On his way home from the funeral, he realized that the mouse was gone! He retraced all his moves for the day and realized the last time he had seen the mouse was just before they placed the casket in the hearse. He raced back to the funeral home and searched everywhere but the mouse was gone.

The man was filled with grief as he remembered the old adage his mother told him when he was a kid:

Never lock a gift mouse in the hearse.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Well, it's the end of my first week back in the Blogosphere and it's been great to touch base with so many on-line friends.

Today's post  is a mixed bag.  A little of this and a little of that.

First - a question:  As a test, I made a deliberate error in my Wednesday blog.  In the title, I said I was introducing Sophy.  In the text, I spelled her name Sophie.  No one made a comment on the discrepancy.  Now I really want to know - were you just being polite or did you not notice?  Come on, be honest.

Second - a request:  You may have noticed I added the NetworkedBlogs widget to my left sidebar.  I tested it using my Facebook account, but it looks so pitiful sitting there with no little faces but my own (well, okay, mine and my beloved spouse).  Would someone, please, follow this blog using NetworkedBlogs, just so I have another face in that blank white space.  I'd really appreciate it.

Third - an award.  I mentioned on Monday that I received the

from fellow blogger Margo Kelly.  (Thanks, again, Margo.)  As with many blog awards, this comes with a couple of do's when the award is accepted.  I have to:

1. Share ten things about myself, and
2. Pass the award onto six other bloggers

So here goes -

1. I have four grandchildren, age 10, 11, 12, and 13.  No, they're not all siblings so you don't need to have sympathy pains for their mother.

2. I'm a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan.  This has prepared me for the heartbreak and disappointment that comes with being a writer.  This also means I believe in miracles.

3.  I love writing fiction - mystery, suspense, sci fi, and a little romance.  I also love writing humor but that's usually non-fiction.  Some stuff you just can't make up.

4. We (my hubby, two sons, and I) moved to Ohio in the middle of the Blizzard of 78.  From Los Angeles. We didn't own a pair of boots, a winter coat, or a pair of gloves.

5. My biggest food weakness is ice cream.

6. I've spent my entire adult life on a diet, just coming off a diet, or getting ready to start a diet (see item 5).  I've lost enough weight over the years to build at least three clones.

7. I've been a disaster relief volunteer with the American Red Cross for a couple decades.  I've responded to tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, and floods.  I also worked the respite station at Ground Zero-World Trade Center after 9/11.

8. I have a terrible weakness for online jigsaw puzzles.  They're my favorite procrastination device when the writing isn't flowing.

9. I drive a 2001 Saab Convertable.  I love it.  The first car I ever owned (actually, shared with my brother) was a ragtop.  Now...warm day, top down, wind tossing my hair, and the oldies channel playing my favorite music...for just a moment, I feel 16 again. 

10. Last one - I really hope you'll leave me a comment.  It makes my day when I get comments.

Now - I'd like to pass this blog along to:

Jessica R. Patch
Stacy McKitrick's Ranting and Whatnot
Sarah Ahiers Writes
Angela Brown in a Pursuit of Publishness
Maryann Miller - It's Not All Gravy
Mary Curry - My Place by the Sea

Please join me on Monday when I'll be sharing some of the tips I learned at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop on blogging, branding, and social media.

Have a great weekend.

Groaner of the Day: (long post, short groaner)

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Hump Day Special - Heeeere's Sophy!

Happy Hump Day.  How ever did you get over the mid-week hump without me these last couple months? 

Since I usually devote my Hump Day post to pictures selected to give you a smile, I'm going to combine that with my important introduction.  I'd like you to meet Sophie.

Sophie came to us from our county animal shelter.  She's approximately six years old but she entered the shelter as a stray so we have no history for her.  She's very friendly with people but not so much with animals.  Gets pretty nervous with other dogs. 

She's also terrified of thunder and lightning.  Something I discovered the first night we had a storm and I woke up to find her sitting on my head.

She's a lady of discriminating taste.  I knew the first day when she checked out every sleeping spot in the house and selected the bed with the Boston Red Sox blanket.  Sophie's a SOX FAN!  That's my girl.

She also claimed the hot tub in the back yard as her special perch.  Not only can she survey her entire domain but the top is nice and warm on a chilly day.

But her biggest claim to fame is her skill as a great white hunter:

I know it's up there, Mom.  I chased it myself. 

Maybe it went around this side.

Well, I'm just going to sit here and wait until it comes down.

Sigh.  I guess I lost it.  What?  Why are you laughing?

Did I miss something?

What raccoon? Where?

That's my girl.  What do you think of her?

Groaner of the Day:  A man walks into a coffee shop, and is given a huge mug which he takes to his table. But when he tries to drink it, he find that instead of coffee, the mug contains a pair of beige cotton trousers. So he goes to complain.

The counter staff are not very helpful, so after arguing with them for some time, he eventually gets them to call the shop manager. The manager is very indignant - "But it's exactly what you asked for", he says.

"No it isn't!" says the customer, "how can this possibly be what I ordered?"

"It's a cup o' chinos", says the manager.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I'm Back - And Guess Where I've Been.

Hi.  I'm back.  Anyone miss me?  (Please lie and say you did.  I need the ego boost.)

So, I'm gone for longer than I expected to be and the first thing I discover is Blogger has changed everything while I was gone and nothing is where it used to be.  Rats!  This is going to make getting back up to speed a little harder so if I'm not commenting on your blog right away, please forgive me.

This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. 

As a lifelong Erma fan, just being part of her legacy was a real treat for me, but I also learned a lot and I'll try to share some of it here over the next few weeks.

So much has happened in the last couple months.  On the personal front there were some health issues and some family issues and some family health issues.  Plus, the biggest news - we added a new member to our family.  This news will get a post of its own in the very near future (hint: she has four legs and sheds a lot).

I also had a visit from blogger Margo Kelly who stopped by while I was gone and left me this very nice award.

Accepting this award does require some action on my part so I will do that in an upcoming post, as well.  Margo is in the middle of the A to Z blog challange and I'm looking forward to getting caught up with her posts.  Stop by Margo's blog and check it out.

Getting back to the Erma Bombeck workshop - I attended a couple sessions on blogging and social media.  I want to try out some of their suggestions so I'll be doing some experimenting with this blog and would appreciate your feedback.  Don't worry, I'll point out the changes so you don't have to hunt for them. I'm going to stay with my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for now so please look for me then.

And since I know how much you've missed your regular "groaner" fix, here's your...

Groaner of the Day: The television game show was being recorded. The contestant was in the hot seat for the last big question.

The host turned to him, and read the question slowly and carefully. But the contestant didn't know the answer.

Fortunately, he had a backup plan (there was no way he was missing out on this million bucks!). He let out a peircing whistle, and from the back of the stage, four mounted knights-in-armour appeared, waving their lances threateningly at the show's host.

The host looked scared for a moment, and then a steely look came over him. He leapt into the air and karate kicked the first knight onto the floor. He picked up the lance from the stricken knight, and fought off the second, who also fell spawling on the floor. The second knight's horse shied, and bolted, colliding with the third knight in the process.

The game show host was just begining to enjoy himself now. He waved the spear he was still carrying at the fourth knight, looked back at the contestant, and said "Is that your final lancer?"