Way way back in early August, Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord Blog Magazine tagged me for a “little fun and distraction.” Before I could respond, I got distracted! Finally, I’m taking the opportunity to play.

As usual, there are a few rules:

Use the Blue Sky banner  (that Rachael Ritchey designed).

It is sort of polite to mention the person who tagged you.

You need to answer the 11 questions set by your tagger.

You will need to make up 11 original and interesting or funny questions for those you tag.

You need to tag 11 people.

Here are Sally’s 11 questions:

1. What was the name of your first pet and what did you love most about them?
My first pet (that I remember) was a beagle named Gypsy. She was lovable and lived with me during my entire childhood. It wasn’t until I went off to college that she passed away. I have a special place in my heart for dogs that can’t resist porcupines and roll in anything that stinks.

2. If you could meet anyone from history, who would you meet and why?
Hmm. Probably Jesus. I’d like him to clear up all the misinterpretations that are tearing people apart. I’d videotape and share on TV.

3. What is the most common misconception people have about you?
Maybe that I’m outgoing… I’m an extreme introvert.

4. If you could buy any car in the world what would it be and why?
A 1950’s era Chevy Univeral pickup truck. It’s what I rode around in during high school and brings back fun memories.

e-zchassisswaps.com

5. Do you have a hobby your friends don’t know about?
Some friends may not know that I enjoy painting to relax. Here are a few pictures:

6. What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?
Avatar. 2009! There just aren’t any theaters near me.

7. Describe your perfect day?
Totally alone, lying on a hammock, reading.

 

8. Summer or winter?
I like spring and autumn. Darn, not the options! Summers are over-the-top hectic around here (not good for introverts), and I’m usually desperate to hibernate by the onset of autumn. Winters in the rainforest are long and dreary, rainy and vitamin-D starved. The only good thing about them is I’m stuck inside WRITING!

9. Looks or Personality?
Personality, definitely! I couldn’t care less about looks.

10. City or countryside?
I’m a country girl at heart and live out in the woods without neighbors. Cities have great restaurants and I love good food, so I’m not completely writing them off.

11. Action or comedy?
When it comes to life, I’ll go with comedy. When it comes to writing, I’ll choose action. Though my preference for movies can go either way, my husband and I watch lots of action movies because he’s ten.

Now for my 11 questions:

  1. What country have you never visited but would love to, and why?
  2. What person in your life (not including family members) has most shaped who you are today?
  3. List three things that make you happy?
  4. What’s your favorite genre to read?
  5. What time period in history most intrigues you, and why?
  6. If you could add a new talent to your repertoire, what would it be, and why?
  7. Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?
  8. What animal best describes your personality, and why?
  9. What’s your favorite recipe (and please share it)?
  10. Hiking boots, sneakers, heels, or flip-flops?
  11. Would you rather have tons of love and little wealth, or tons of wealth and little love?

And I tag… everyone who wants to play. Enjoy!

And be sure to stop by Sally’s and check out her amazing blog. If you write, read, travel, eat, or enjoy learning something new, her blog is a great place to visit. 🙂

#Blue Sky Tag – Time for a little fun and distraction…#TGIF

A Blogging Break & The right way to write?

The Peach Clan Reunion is fast approaching, and a break from blogging is in order. My parents are coming for 2+ weeks. They’re in their upper 80’s, and their health has declined over the past couple years. My brother and I have planned a 4-generation gathering.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy time – beach, Iris Festival, bonfires, crab-bakes, and lots of loud talking since my mom is vision-impaired and my dad is hearing-impaired. I’ll be focusing on them and making sure that we all have a wonderful time making memories.

Since I won’t be around for almost 3 weeks (Wowza), I leave you with a beautiful post by blogger Sue Vincent. I hope you hop over to read.

I’ve closed comments here since I’m off to the airport to pick the folks up. I’ll see you soon. ❤

The right way to write?

by Sue Vincent

There was a bit of a conversation going on yesterday over at Serendipity about finding your voice as a writer. It is something with which many writers are preoccupied and with reason. Your voice is your signature. The tone, the flow, even the choice or repetition of words will, if you are lucky, make your work appeal to a reader.

For a writer, the best thing in the world is to know you have been read and that what you have written has been enjoyed or has struck a chord with a reader. Most of the time, we just don’t know… a book goes out into the world and we hear very little unless we are fortunate enough to get a review. Sales don’t matter in that respect… they only show that a book has been bought…you still don’t know whether they were even read. The odd review or a comment always feel like a gift. And sometimes, they make you glow.

When someone mentioned that his Mum likes my work, it felt as good as winning a major literary prize.  I have also been paid what must be one of the ultimate compliments as a writer… I have been quoted. Am I bragging? Not exactly… though the memory always makes me glow and I struggle to find words to express the odd mix of pride, gratitude and honour such moments make you feel. You never know, when you put pen to paper, how your words will fare out there in the world or whether they will reach the readers… perhaps that one particular and unknown reader… for whom they were written. So moments like these are priceless…

Continue Reading: The right way to write?

Blogging: How to Increase Comments

All images Pixabay

I struggled with the title of this post because getting comments isn’t about stats; it’s about building relationships.

Some visitors to this blog might have noticed the number of comments here. It wasn’t and isn’t a goal, honestly. And there really isn’t any magic to it either. Comments grow out of a desire to genuinely connect with other bloggers, and a commitment to put in the time to do so.

Here’s how it happens:

I leave lots of comments on other blogs. These are my invitations to engage, my knock on a blogger’s door. They say, “Want to come out and play?”

Because blogging-time is precious, if a blogger doesn’t bother to reply to my knock, even with a simple “thank you,” I’m less inclined to knock again. On some level, they’ve declined my offer to engage.

At the very least, say “thank you” to someone who took the time to read and leave a comment.

What’s better than a simple “thank you?” A comment on the visitor’s comment! Even a kind thought, or sharing something more about the post conveys that you are delighted with their visit and the time they dedicated to your blog.

Then reciprocate! Comments are a two-way streets.

I reciprocate 99.9% of the comments I receive. I head over to the blogger’s site, read and share my thoughts.

This is the relationship-building part of blogging. It says, “I valued your visit and wanted to see what’s up at your house.” If I can, I learn the blogger’s name and reflect on something specific from the content. “Great post,” is fine, but it doesn’t invite conversation the same way as mentioning what was great.

Are there comments that will sabotage your efforts? Yes! Please don’t leave comments on anyone’s blog that say, “Follow me” or “Check out my blog” (or something similar). They come across as pushy, and I, for one, am likely to delete them. 

Some of the genuinely promising starts will fizzle, some will mosey along, and others will blast off with an instant connection. That’s okay; it how life works. Remember, the goal isn’t to amass tons of comments; it’s to end up with a collection of blogging friends that make this journey enjoyable.

And we all know that sometimes life gets in way, or our comments end up in spam. Or we get busy and need a break or for some personal reason just can’t respond or reciprocate. And that’s fine too. We’re not super-human beings. The great thing about building blogging relationships is that once in place, our online friends understand.

Keep in mind that there is tons of good content in blogland, and though quality is important, YOU are a huge part of what makes your blog stand out. Share yourself and invite others to come out and play.

That’s all there is to it.

Happy Blogging!

 

 

7 Steps to a User-Friendly Blog

This isn’t a new topic, but it seems worth a mention every now and then within the WordPress blog community. I love connecting with other bloggers and occasionally a website makes that hard if not impossible to do. Here are a few tips. 🙂

Definitely take a look at these if:

  • You are leaving likes and comments on other blogs and not getting return visits.
  • Everyone likes your old posts and seems to ignore your recent posts.
  • You’ve changed your blog address at any time (WP may still be directing your readers to the old deleted site!)

1. Make sure your links to your site are working. Unfortunately, this isn’t handled in just one place:

  • In your blog profile: Go to WP Admin – Users – My Profile. At the bottom of the page, make sure your website address is correct.
  • In your gravatar: Go to WP Admin – Users – My Profile. And at the top of the page, click on the tiny link that says, “edit your profile at gravatar.com.” Once in your gravatar profile, click on “Websites.” Be sure that your correct website address is listed. 
  • In WP Reader – this is important as it’s what points back to you when you leave likes and comments! Per WP Support, click on https://wordpress.com/me/account to get directly to your profile page. To get there the long way, open WP Reader. Click on Followed Sites and then on the little circle in the upper right-hand corner. Then select Account Settings and update your Web Address. 

2. Make navigation fool-proof. If readers can’t figure out how to get to new posts or the next/previous post, they aren’t going to stay long. This can happen for a number of reasons including the fact that WordPress sites have a lot of variation. The easiest way to handle this is to have a list of recent posts on your sidebar. Go to WP Admin – Appearance – Widgets. Then drag the box labeled “Recent Posts” to your sidebar.

3. Add a translate button. Readers probably won’t “like” or comment on a post they can’t read, right? And following becomes rather pointless. While you’re in Widgets, also slide over the button that says, “Google Translate: Translate to your language.” Sometimes a translate icon will appear in your taskbar, but not always. Adding this widget solves that problem.

4. Add a follow button. Also in Widgets, you’ll see a “Follow Button.” Slide that one over too. Sometimes a “Follow” will appears as a pop-up thingy in the corner of a post or it will appear after commenting, but not always. Make following as easy as clicking on a button.

5. Static Front Page versus Most Recent Post front page. One way to have followers engage easily with your most recent posts is to have those display when a reader visits your site. Go to WP Admin – Settings – Reading Settings. Set your “Front Page Display” to “Your Latest Posts.”

If you elect to have a static front page – which may make perfect sense for your blog – be sure that readers can access your recent posts by clicking on a menu item named “Blog Posts” or something similar. Make it easy. If readers have to hunt through all your menu headings for something new, they may give up after a few tries.

6. Speed up your blog. I follow a couple blogs that are slow, slow, slow to load, and they tend to bog down the whole system. I can barely scroll, and the little wheely-thing spins and spins and spins. I click “like” and close the site as fast as possible. This is because your blog is trying to load every page of every post you’ve ever written, ever, all at once. Go to WP Admin – Settings – Reading Settings. Where it says “Blog pages show at most” enter 10. Your readers will love you and stick around longer.

7. Make commenting easy. If you make your readers jump through three hoops to comment on your blog, they usually won’t. I recently read a post from someone complaining that no one commented. I tried to leave a comment explaining why no one was commenting, but it was so hard, I gave up. Go to WP Admin – Settings – Discussion Settings, and take a look at “Other Comment Settings.” Unless you have a specific reason for doing otherwise, I would not recommend making a reader fill out name and email, or even worse, register and log in. If you are worried about trolls, look at some of the options further down the Discussion Settings page for moderating comments.

I hope this helps you get lots of visits and follows and blogosphere friends. Happy Blogging!

The Benefits of a Blogging Break

Arches National Park, Utah – near my parents’ home.

I’m back from Colorado! Two weeks felt like a month, and though it was wonderful to be off-line, it feels good to be back.

 

Blogging Breaks seem to work miracles for me in avoiding burnout and reinvigorating my enthusiasm for this time-consuming endeavor. Seeking balance has been an ongoing challenge as my blog grows and worldwide friendships form with people I care about. It doesn’t help that there’s wonderful content all over blogland, too. It’s hard to look away.

 

A couple years ago, I tried taking weekends off from the blog, and it didn’t work. Notifications amassed, and I spent my Mondays staring at the laptop until my eyeballs shriveled. Days off due to other commitments had similar results – a constant stream of busy-ness of one type or another and days of playing catch-up. My writing time suffered, and my husband started looking like an abandoned puppy.

 

The question that frequently rambled through my head was, “How does anyone keep this up and not burn out?”

 

The answer to blog management, for me anyway, seems to be in taking longer breaks than one or two days. Dollie Freeman wrote a short article on the benefits of blogging breaks that rang true: “Avoid Blogger Burnout With Blogging Breaks.” I encourage you to read the full article, but here’s the gist of her advice:

 

  • Don’t work for your blog – let your blog work for you.
  • Don’t sacrifice your home life, health, and relationships for the next post, the next series, the next promotion, the next…
  • Schedule one week per quarter where you will NOT post anything on your blog. Write ahead and schedule if you’re inspired.
  • In addition to one week per quarter, Freeman gives herself 4 additional weeks of unplanned ‘floating’ time to catch up, get ahead, work on a new product or just soak in the things that make her life meaningful.
  • Stay grounded and humble. Although your readers are interested in your blog, they aren’t hanging on to your every word. They’ll survive without you.
  • Life is too short to live it in front of a screen.

Back to my break!

No major adventures to report. It was too hot to go outside except for some early morning weeding in the garden. I read some great books in lieu of naps and will post reviews over the next few weeks.

 

Due to the lack of excitement, these photos are all from my last trip when I visited my brother down the road in Utah.

 

I’m looking forward to visiting everyone. It’s going to take a few days to make the rounds, but I’ll be by.

 

Happy Solstice!

Featured Blogger: D. Wallace Peach

I had the great honor of being the Featured Blogger for October on Rob Goldstein’s blog: Art by Rob Goldstein. His is a wonderful eclectic blog full of art, photography, poetry, writing, mental health education and awareness, social responsibility, and blogger support and kindness. If you haven’t run across Robert’s blog, here’s your chance. On to the interview….

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My Featured blogger for October is author D. Wallace Peach from Myths of the Mirror. Before we begin, thank you for accepting my invitation.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Robert. I’m honored to be chatting on your blog.

Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and how that affects your point of view?

Great question as I do think our roots inform who we are. I come from a family that spent its free time in the forest. My parents used to drop my younger brothers and me off at a trailhead in the Green Mountains and pick us up 4 days later, 25 miles down the road. Sort of “Hansel and Gretel” except we carried maps. The first time we hiked without adults, I was about 11 years old and my youngest brother would have been 7. We were fearless and adventurous kids. Sometimes the raccoons got into our food or we got stuck in a snowstorm, but we survived. Those are some of the best memories of my life, and they had nothing to do with “things.”

I was also raised by left-wing liberals, and though I labored in business for 18 years, I hated the focus on money. After 9/11, I started working as a volunteer with grieving children, quit my job, and returned to school for a counseling degree, which I loved. Today, as an author, my fantasy books reflect an appreciation for a simple life, nature, and the human pathos that arises from choices: fear, greed, power, compassion, sacrifice, and love.

You mention that your profile that as a child you preferred television to reading until you read the Hobbit by Tolkien. What was it about the Hobbit changed your life?

Reading was b..o..r..i..n..g until I turned 13 and…

(Continue Reading: Featured Blogger: D. Wallace Peach)

Ultimatum from the Muse

the-muse

I’ve returned from my visit to my parents to find my muse practicing with her staff in the driveway. I see that she’s swapped her doeskin for some sci-fi gear that only a muse can pull off … barely. She gives me the weasel eye and impales a fence post with a shot of blue light at forty yards. Show off.

There’s a difference between writing and editing. Creative writing strikes me as right brain, the realm of poetry, music, art, and imagination. It’s intuitive and fluid. The other side, the left brain editor in chief, is practical and logical. It’s the domain of concrete language, organization, detail, and processes.

For the past eight months, I’ve been the nerd with the black-framed glasses, chewing on a pencil as I hunch over my books, one by one crossing off adverbs, fixing commas, and deleting dialog tags. My muse gave up on me in April and moved out.

She’s been lurking, though. I caught glimpses of her at the forest’s edge, keeping a keen eye out for a spark of fantasy while she communed with the green world and watched the night sky with the coyotes. When I heard the hoot of evening owls, I knew she was out there, waiting.

Apparently, she’s run out of patience.

“I’m back,” I state the obvious. “Want to come in?”

Not troubling to reply, she follows me up the rickety stairs to my writing room, her strange boots clomping up the steps. Today, she’s taller than I, a lithe flame-haired elf to my frumpy hobbit, and the small space forces her to duck. She sits across from me on a stone bench that suddenly appears along one wall, elbows on her knees, a wary spark in her green eyes. The magic staff rests against the wall, brimming with latent power. “Are you still a writer or do I go elsewhere?” she asks.

“Are you still brooding or do I need a new muse?” Two can play at that game.

She stretches out her long legs, arms crossed, her chin at a tilt. “You used to write ten hours a day. You were dedicated.”

“I’ve been busy. I had books to transition, babysitting for the Overlord, a patio to complete, my parents to visit.”

“All completed and the Overlord started preschool.”

“See. More time to write.”

“Write or blog?”

Ah, there’s what’s got her leggings in a knot. “Both,” I reply. “I have a lot of followers and more every day. I like reading their posts. They’re inspiring and talented.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“And I should grow my blog, right? Social media is an important part of building a brand, of being an author.”

She narrows her eyes. “At least do me the courtesy of telling the truth.”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes like a teenager caught with the car keys. “I just enjoy it. Blogging is fun, and I’ve connected with some wonderful people that I count as friends.”

“Maybe you need a blogging muse.”

“No.” I scowl at her. “I’m a writer.”

“Are you? How many hours will you write a day?” She’s trying to pin me down and I’m squirming.

“Four.” I toss it out with a wince.

“Insufficient. You’re wasting my time.” She gets to her feet, sleek and swift as a panther, and snatches up her staff.

“Five,” I shout. “Minimum of five.”

“Barely adequate.” She faces me, her eyes catching a glint of fire from the stained-glass window. “It’s a start, but I want a commitment. I want your oath.”

“Really? An oath? You’re kidding, right?” I groan, but she’s unimpressed. “Do I have to kneel?”

“Whatever suits you. I want five hours a day, six days a week. Swear it.”

I inhale and blow out a sigh. To my core, I know this is good for me. I need the discipline and the balance. My blogging time will go down a bit, but not terribly. “I give you my oath that I will write five hours a day, six days a week including blog posts.”

She studies me, deciding on my amended version.

“Blog posts count as writing,” I say with whining authority.

“Fine.”

I huff at her. “Fine.”

“Get to work.”

“Fine, I will.”

A smile quirks her lips. “It’s good to have you back.”

I return the smile, a small concession to her value. “I’m glad you stayed.”

**

Once again seeking balance.
Wrote all day yesterday and it felt wonderful.