Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases 2

I checked. My Bible Study blog really did come up on Google if I searched for "demon impregnation stories," but now it's been edged out by my last blog post. In fact, it's been edged so far out it doesn't appear, which I think means nobody's bothered to click on it (not surprising I suppose). And my Halloween drabbles are nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, I've tried to come up with some labels with words I might use in a post. A friend was helping with lots of great D words for Deeth, drabble, draw, draw out, discern, depict, and Deity... but I still couldn't make it come together. I guess I'm just too attached the whole "faith and science" thing - though Google brings up a ton of stuff (and not me) if you ask about that. Would three words work better...

Faith Science and Inspiration perhaps? FSI? I don't feel inspired, but IFS looks more fun: How about "Bible Study What IFS: Inspired by Faith and Science." Or do you think it's just too corny?

It's worth a try maybe, and I'll complete the experiment by reposting what's already there, with lots of "what ifs" "faiths" and "sciences" in the text.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brands, Labels, and Catch-phrases

I found this thing called Webmaster Tools at the bottom of my blogger dashboard a while ago. I'm certainly no master, but perhaps I can learn...

I signed up (easy), added my blog (likewise), and put the extra bit of code into the html (just followed directions). A week or so later the "query" field started to fill. People were actually finding my site. The problem is, they seemed to be looking for "what to do if you hear a fire alarm." Not quite what I intended.

A few weeks ago I added my new blogs - lots of nice scary stories for Halloween; my first three "what if: faith and science" Bible Studies; and my home page. The dashboard kept telling me "no information" for them, but I waited and hoped. Meanwhile I studied how to make Google look at my labels and list me more often.

Now my blog gets found by people looking for "Deeth" which is a slight improvement. And today I finally got some queries returning my Bible Studies. Unfortunately they were looking for "demon impregnation stories." Ouch! That might've looked better on the Halloween drabbles.

But then I remember, Google's just a computer program after all. If I label my post with "faith and science" but never use the phrase in the article, how's Google supposed to know it's not just words? And if I title my post "Bible Study" but don't mention study...

Okay; back to the drawing board. It's time to think of some useful labels and titles and phrases to match. Is that what they call "branding?"

I used to say I didn't want to brand myself - didn't want to be a square peg squished in a round hole. But now I'm trying to learn how to look square so that a program can see me. Ah, the irony. I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Keeping Diaries and Taking Notes

Bemoaning the fact that my novella's not going to turn into a novel by the end of the month (why do I set myself such tasks?), I find I'm reading lots of blogs that ask if I keep a diary or write notes. Perhaps the novella would have a better chance if I didn't wander the blogosphere, but that's a different tale.

So, no. I don't keep a journal though I tried, many years ago. Somewhere hid away in a box upstairs there are lots of scarcely used diaries; I don't think there's much of a second hand market for them. January usually has a few entries. February less. There might be a shopping list or two in March, and some notes - yes, yes! I sometimes write notes - tucked in pages in June or July. The notes will be scraps of poetry, or a five-line story, a character study or two, written on a bus, or from a chair in a doctor's waiting room. As notes go, they weren't very effective, lost in a diary, lost in a long-lost cardboard box. But my theory is, and was, that thoughts and scribblings are never really gone; they just become a part of me.

Of course, the question was more like do I write notes at the same time as reading. While I'm reading a math book maybe? No, that's not what she means. I don't take notes while I'm curled up on a chair - it's hard enough just holding onto the book. But I do on the computer, which is where I read most of the books that I end up reviewing. And yes, notes help reviews.

Do I take notes while I'm dreaming my stories and turning novellas into novels? No. I ponder the sound of the words in my head and the shape of the pictures they paint. I walk round the green in deep conversation with invisible characters. If what they say stays with me later in the day then I'll write it as soon as I can. If not, it probably wasn't worth remembering anyway.

Then all the words become a part of me. The characters return if they feel I've let them down and nothing's ever lost. It just doesn't all get written down on the page.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaves continued

I cleared them again. Four wheel-barrows full of leaves today, compared to twelve last time. And I find myself thinking, twelve baskets of crumbs left behind when the five-thousand fed. Perhaps I've just served lunch to five-thousand spiders. (And perhaps I'd better get my next Bible study ready to post.)

Still, clearing leaves is good for the head, throws out those frustrations with yellow and brown and red. There's squirrels out there digging now in earth that was sticky and sodden before. And maybe the squirrels that wander my mind will find treasures behind those dreams.

No more spiders. Tonight I'll dream squirrels with thick bushy tails telling tales in my sleep.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I cleared them. Honest I did. On Tuesday. Before the son came home. And the sun was shining and the colors were bright and the leaves like paper plates all shapes and sizes flittered in the breeze. And drifted from trees.

When they told me books had leaves I wondered why the pages don't crack. But I was younger them, and I'm digressing. Still, paper's made from trees.

California son was impressed by the sun and pleased that Oregon obliged by not being wet, till it rained the next day. Then leaves, like sodden layers of spider-silk, like teeming nests of bugs, dead and alive, like slime that oozed from the Black Lagoon, dripped murkily down on the ground.

I cleared the sludge and detritus again into piles that lie by the road. As long as the fence and half as high, wet leaves and feasters on leaves, but at least it was dark so I couldn't see them crawl and the wind wasn't blowing.

Now I'll leaf my way through pages in books and try to stop looking spiders that flash by my eyes. Fat spiders. Hungry spiders. Evil, black-eyed crawling spiders that are feasting on leaves of my dreams.

But I cleared them. I did. Till the next lot fall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Watching silly movies with the guys

Actually they're watching football (soccer) now. You know; the one where you actually use your feet to kick the ball. But we watched a really silly movie first, and listening to the guys play spot-the-mistake was quite fun. Apparently it's okay for movies to be illogical, but only if they have enough action to keep you watching. Soul-searching without logic's not allowed, they say.

So I'll keep that in mind while I edit my writing tomorrow. No introspection without external action, unless I'm sure my facts can stand the readers' scrutiny.

Meanwhile I'll scribble illogical drabbles, and check for inspiration on Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials. It doesn't take so long to write 100 words, and it leaves me free to turn round and watch all the goals.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Terry's Place

I'm blogging over at Terry's Place on Tuesday, so please pay her a visit and read all about my exciting experience self-publishing with Lulu. (You could come back afterwards and click on the "BOOKS" link above to preview the end products if you're interested. It will give you an idea of what Lulu has to offer.)

But you really should stay a while on Terry's site and wander through her past posts. I've learned a lot about the life of a real author, with real deadlines and edits; read some fantastic true-life police tales from Detective Hussey; and added to my list of writing tips to keep in mind (floating body parts most recently); all on the front page.

I'll plan to pop in from time to time during the day, so do please leave me a comment and I'll leave a reply. Meanwhile, thank you Terry for inviting me; I almost feel like a real live blogger at last!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm a Christian and...

“I don’t know how anyone can call themselves Christian and believe in evolution.” So says my friend, who knows me as a Christian. I have to remind myself she’s not judging me, just making a statement about what she doesn’t know.

I’m a Christian, and I believe in gravity, the Big Bang, and evolution. But I wouldn’t normally phrase it that way. “Belief in” seems kind of faith-based, as expressions go. I believe moving cars might kill me if I walk out in front of them. I don’t “believe in” what they might do; it’s just the way things are.

Still, I believe in evolution because:
1. I love to know how things work; God made me that way.
2. I love it when things make sense; God makes things that way.
3. I love the beauty of research that brings together so many questions and answers, that branches into so many different fields, and ends up in the same great place; God loves beauty too.
4. I love the way the Biblical story agrees with the scientific one – and I really do believe that they agree; God spoke and it was so.
5. And I love the fact that the God who made it all, including me, seeks to call me into relationship with Him.

I’m a Christian and I love to see God’s hand in creation.
I’m a Christian and I delight in evolution.
I’m a Christian and I believe the Bible is God’s word. Its interpretation, unfortunately, is all too often man's.

Oh, and I'm really enjoying Richard Dawkins' new book - the Greatest Show on Earth. Of course, he has to get his little digs in at us God-fearing folk. But it's not a book about faith or God, neither pro nor anti either. It's a book about science and evidence and this wonderful,marvelous world that's all around us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another drabble

This one was another gather challenge, from the Genre Shorties group. The piece has to be 100 words or less, and should be a newspaper article about Cell phones, Reality TV shows, High calorie foods, The Weather, or The price of beans. I might use it again sometime, but I wrote my drabble about cell phones.

And I emailed a submission to an agent that I met at the Muse Online. If you're not there this year, and you're looking for great writing tips, great internet tips, great connections, great advice, etc... well, I'd certainly recommend you sign up for the next one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anatomy of a Drabble

It's Wednesday again. It must be time for Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials. I feel like I've scarcely got time to think this week, with the Muse conference to attend, but I'm sure I can manage the odd hundred words.

So, here's the prompt that I read when I logged on this morning:
• include the thoughts of an animal
• something needs to be incongruous
• use the Visual Thesaurus' Word-of-the-Day on the day that you write to this prompt
• use the word happy or sad, but not both

A quick trip to the dreaded Visual Thesaurus yielded "swashbuckler" for the word, so, knights and animals...

There used to be a swashbuckling fox on childrens' TV in England. I don't remember much about him, except he wore plumes in his hats and he was, well, swashbuckling... But that got me placing my knight on a trusty steed with a fox in the trees.

Something incongruous? Well, it is October, and if you've been following my drabble blog, you'll know I've got Halloween-itis at the moment. So the favors hanging from my brave knight's sword might still be attached to the hand of the woman that wore them, and then... and then...

All that remained was to stick the pictures together into words, then slash and burn till only 100 remained, and then "publish post." You can see my effort here if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nearly November? Really?

I've had another busy and productive day at The Muse Online Writers Conference. I'm really enjoying the chats and workshops there. And they even persuaded me to buy a domain name - at last!!! So now, if you type into your browser you'll end up on my home page.

Meanwhile I've got the first part of the math book (no, it's really not just math) almost ready to send out. The scifi novella's ready - I'm just trying to take enough deep breaths before I push the button. And I'm polishing the picture book stories...

Oh, and it's nearly November. Really! Honestly. So if you're looking for a way to make a bit more of Thanksgiving at home as well as in the stores, you could give my Thanksgiving book a look - Thanksgiving! From Eden to Eternity in 100 words a day. Hundred-word stories and bright-colored pictures for every day in November. (Click here for review.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dreaming the Taste of Success

I met an editor at Wordstock on Saturday; she said I should send one of my novels to her, so I skipped round the room in delight. Today, at the Muse Online Conference, another editor asked for one of my novellas. (A third said no, but hey; that's okay. I'd rather know upfront that it wouldn't work.) There's also the possibility of sending a children's picture book out, but I'll wait till I've learned a bit more about how from one the Muse's great chats. And then there's my one about math...

The Muse is great - you should try it next year. Great chats. Great workshops. Great opportunities. And life is exciting and busy. But one day soon I want to write.

Still, I did write a drabble for Halloween - albeit a very quick one: My drabble blog

Friday, October 9, 2009

Busy Days Coming

It's Wordstock tomorrow in Portland; I'll spend a couple of hours on the VoiceCatcher stall, telling people all about the wonderful collection of essays, stories and poems by Portland Women Writers. The rest of the time I'll listen to speakers, meet writers, read books, buy books, find books, etc...

Next week I'm "going" to the Muse Online Conference. That's "going" as in "sitting still at the computer." But it's also "going" as in not going anywhere else. I'll be pitching a couple of novelette's as well, so please wish me luck.

The week after's when the oldest son visits, on his way to an interview. And the week after that the youngest son will be home filing application forms and sending off portfolios.

Christmas bazaar season starts at the beginning of November. I'll need to book a few more tables if I hope to sell more books.

Then Thanksgiving! Then Christmas! Then.... HELP!!!!!

Okay, I'm officially overwhelmed. Do I really have to go out and buy a new printer this afternoon? (If I hope to send any snail mail query letters to publishers, I guess I'd better. Ah well. That's life.)

Meanwhile, I'll keep trying to post a drabble-a-day on my drabble blog, and keep adding reviews of my books to my home page as and when I get permission.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turning a Blog into a Website 2

So, I did it! I searched the web for advice, found lots, then got myself another blog - - and tried to set it up as my home page.

(The most helpful advice I found was from Camy Tang, a pdf on how to blog your website - highly recommended.)

1. I want my "posts" to appear like separate pages, not all down the screen, so I set the new blog up with 1 post per page, and enabled post pages under archiving. I think that was so I could find and edit (and link to) each page separately, but I'm not sure. I'm just a beginner. It's what the pages I looked at said I should do.

2. I want the "welcome" post that I put on my home page to keep appearing there. But blogs always show the newest post first. So I use the "post options" button at the bottom of each new post and set the date to sometime in the past. It's really neat.

3. I don't want dates appearing my web pages, so I edited my layout and used the "edit" option in the "blog posts" box to take them away.

4. I wanted the links I made yesterday to go to pages on the new "site." So I wrote more posts (or web pages)and pasted their addresses into the text box - I changed some of the names as well.

5. And finally I wanted a way to access my blog posts by topic from my site. I used SEARCH BLOG to find the right posts, and added them as links in my new pages.

I've lots more stuff to do I'm sure, but this is much more fun than looking for a job. Thanks for dropping by, and please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Turning a blog into a website

I read an article about turning blogs into websites and it got me thinking. Maybe I could try. So if you've noticed anything odd about my blog today, that's why. I'm going to start posting my drabbles on their own special page (which is really just another blog) - see the DRABBLE link above. And I'm trying to tidy up some Bible studies that I worked on for my books on Lulu - they're under BIBLE STUDIES, not too surprisingly.

HOME is here, till I work out a better place for it, GATHER is my gather profile, TWITTER my page on Twitter, BOOKS takes you to my Lulu storefront, and BOOK REVIEWS points to a page listing all the books I've reviewed on Goodreads. I'll work on making some more logical pages to jump off from later. But meanwhile I'd love any feedback you care to give.

I'm even learning the odd scrap of HTML as I work on it. And the links bar is just a nice plain boring text box dragged to sit at the top in my layout, with words and links and colors typed into it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Self-Publishing Blues

A very good friend has started to talk about maybe trying to self-publish. I suddenly feel guilty. Have I painted too rosy a picture of this game in my strenuous efforts at positivity? So here, to counteract the sweet smell of perfume, are some thorns to give the other side of the tale.

The rule of 10s: Out of 300 online friends, 30 will tell you your writing’s not only wonderful but also publishable, and ask, please let us know when it comes out. Out of those 30, 3 will buy copies of the book.

The rule of 3s: Out of 30 real-world friends, 20 will tell you your writing’s wonderful, 10 will pre-order the book, and 9 will buy. But those 9 will buy more than you ever thought all 20 would. Unfortunately, that will still be less than you ordered…

…because you planned to sell more at Christmas fairs.

The rule of 2s: Out of every 2 people who stop at your stall, only 1 will smile at you. Out of every 2 people who smile at you, only 1 will look at your book. Out of every 2 people who look at your book, only 1 will talk to you. Out of every 2 people who talk to you, only 1 will say they’d like to buy it. And that one will promise to come back later, then studiously avoid your gaze as they wander the rest of the stalls and quietly leave. Two sales in a day is a big success, and profit a hopeless dream.

…But maybe you’ll sell at bookstores, except they don’t stock half the small publishers, so why would they look at you…

…or the little local stores, but no one’s buying books these days…

…or the gift stores and craft stores, but books aren’t gifts or crafts…

…and the library says there’s so many self-published out there they just don’t want to look…

Meanwhile, because you can’t make a profit, the IRS thinks your writing’s just a hobby. So you can’t claim expenses, not even the purchase price of the books that you sell.

So why do I do it?

The rule of 1s: From one little acorn, a giant oak tree might grow. One day. Maybe…

If my husband had known then what we know now, he’d never have let me start, but I’m still convinced there might be roses in these thorns.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Catching Voices

It’s beginning to go dark. Cars crawl up the road then turn, re-turn. Someone’s waving and showing the way. I guess we’re lost as each other, same destination, same place beckoning in dreams and in space.

Warm light spills out through wide glass doors. “Blackbird,” it says over the entrance. Inside the birds of women stoop and stalk. Someone welcomes me in. “Congratulations.” And I wonder if it’s real.

Real cheese awaits, real vegetables beautifully displayed, and real figs—how I love figs. Real paper plates, but I almost forget to take one. It’s not the food or the wine that we’re here for though. In shadows at the back, stacks of books form a city on a table, Portland built by women’s words. Someone crosses off my name.

You can tell the writers from the editors as we mill about the room. Newly minted, newly published, we hold our books close to the chest, juggle plates and try not to smear the precious page. Writers look up at passing strangers and smile. “Are you?” They point down with their eyes. “Yes, page one forty eight.” “Page fifty.” “Page one fifty six.”

“It’s my first attempt at a sex scene,” Teresa says, and I wonder if she or I will be more embarrassed as I stand there and read. But it’s beautiful—bodies and nature and literary art, and how can my writing belong in the same book as this?

The editors are the ones with arms unencumbered; they’ve seen it all before. “I haven’t said hello to you yet,” says one. “And which is your piece?” The glow when she says how she liked it warms me down to my toes. Better than cheese. Better than wine.

We thank those strangers, faceless no more, who brought us here. They walked before us, labored over other people’s words, turned them into something more. Then we nudge each other to walk up to the mike and read. It’s wine to the ears, intoxicating, wonderfully pure and smooth. I’m not sure if I’m brave—are my words good enough?—but I know someone chose them and printed them and it almost feels like betrayal to stand back so I take my turn. It sounds okay, your average table-wine maybe compared to others’ champagne.

Afterwards I come home and read through the night, cover to cover, catching voices like stars and matching them to faces I've just seen. VoiceCatcher 4 is released at last. Will you listen to our voices? Let them captivate you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blocking the Writing Prompts

I used to wonder what Writer's Block was; I couldn't imagine not having something to write about. Then someone asked me to pen a particular piece and I finally knew. Writer's Block is when you don't have the right something to write about.

My usual problem's more like Writer's Glut - so many ideas I can't decide which to use. And that's where Writing Prompts came in. I joined Gather and other online writing communities. I found "Use this sentence," "Start with these words," "Include these word-pairs," "Build on this paragraph," and "Man called X meets woman called Y then something explodes," etc... And I wrote.

I wrote an awful lot of stories based on prompts. They piled up in an overflowing folder on my computer. Then I sorted them into mysteries, drama, scifi, childrens, tragedies... I edited, re-edited, fixed and changed them, and lost all sight of where they'd came from. Then slowly, oh so slowly, I plucked up courage to even try submitting to magazines.

This week I read an article which accused someone of plagiarism. Initially the claim was he'd used the same six-word sentence as someone else. Not hard to do I thought. But the accuser searched the internet and found more - longer sentences, matching phrases, even a whole paragraph...

And then I wondered what writing prompts might have inspired this writer. "Use this sentence?" "Start with these words?" "Incorporate this paragraph...?"

Perhaps I ought to try blocking those writing prompts and find another way out of Writer's Glut.