Website Updates

I’m writing this as I wait for the junk people to come pick up a chest of drawers.  It’s one of pieces that I’m getting rid of as the budget permits and replacing.  I bought them when I first transferred here for the military, and they’re no longer me.

I had a bad last year because the day job was pulling me in two different directions–which tends to happen when you’re one person trying to do a job that 3-4 people should have.  So getting rid of old furniture is at least a way for me to make a different on the home front.  Little changes, but important changes.

Man sitting on floor, up against wall, staring out into space
There were some days at work where I felt like doing this.  It amazes me that companies always say “Make do with less” and not change anything–without understand the impacts.


I’m also updating my website.  There were two reasons for it.

The first was that someone visited my site and then emailed me and asked if I had any books on Amazon.  I’d thought it was obvious on the site…but apparently not.

Embarrassed happy face

I’d done actor David Hedison’s site for many years (1997-2007) and duplicated what I did there, which was the same as what I was seeing on big name writer sites.

Of course, there was a nuance that I didn’t catch: If someone came to the site, they were already looking for David Hedison or checking on one of his films.  The discoverability already existed for him by his name.  Whereas, I need to make it easier for people who are stumbling across me for various reasons to find my books.

Then came the second reason, which was a timely blog post from Gill Andrews on websites. I love how things sometimes show up right when we need it.

But most of the advice I see assumes one or ten books.  After that, it gets pretty unwieldy.  I had to quit David’s site because it was very unwieldy.  He has over 200 credits, and we were putting up photos to help promote him.  The site had hundreds of pages and was time consuming to update.

And with Facebook changing algorithms, a website is actually the one thing I have total control over.

So I’m both trying to simplify my navigation and make my books more visible.  And also have some fun with it.

Christine McAlister mentioned that she wanted to know where I got the idea for stories from.  I’ve always thought that no one would be interested in that.  Yet, I have a post on the military that I thought was so routine that I almost didn’t do it, and it’s one of my most popular ones.  So, why not?

And I’m having some fun with the graphics as well.  You can see it on the My Books page itself, and the ideas in the captions on the pages I’ve already done.  Onward!

Mystery Blogger Award

Thank you for the nomination from my my regular reader Pearl R. Meaker.  I’ll have the rules for this below, after the questions.

Three things about me…okay, I got five.

1)      Does your blog have a theme? If yes, why did you choose that theme?

The theme is me.  The hardest thing for fiction writers is figuring out something that works.  A lot of writers land in “How to write” craft posts, and often pass along bad advice (and I’ve been guilty of that myself).  Most blogging advice says to blog as an expert, and fiction writers were directed to blog about the topic they had researched for their book.  It’s silly advice to me, because it doesn’t get you the right kind of audience.  I did a book set an alternate world that was Hawaii called Rogue God, but if I blogged about Hawaii, I’d have attracted people wanting to go to Hawaii, not readers.

2)     Where is your favorite place to go for a vacation – or where you would like to go if you could go there.

My favorite place is the beach.  I’m from Southern California, so I grew up seeing beaches pretty regularly.  We used to drive north to Morro Bay, which is in central California.  It has some beautiful–but cold!–beaches at the base of Morro Rock.  There was a cool beach called Montana Del Oro that I really liked.  It had all these rocky black cliffs–and a cave!  Never could go into it, since it was facing out into the water, but I imagined exploring it.

3)     Has your favorite subject in school stayed a part of your life? (As in, if it was art do you still do art things? Music – are still playing or singing?)

-I didn’t really have a favorite subject in school.  I liked creative writing, but the schools only had two classes. I got into one, but the other one I was turned down for–likely because I wasn’t a good student.  I’m a visual spatial learner, which means I learn better by pictures.  Audio learning and nitpicking about details, which was how schools taught then, are the poorest ways for me to learn.

4)     When was the last time you played a board game or a card game using real cards? (FUN QUESTION)

The game was gin, and it was about ten years ago.  That was when I was still writing with a co-writer, and he introduced me to the game.  I was pretty horrible at it.  Takes a while for me to process how to play and figure out strategies.

5)      Do you read to relax? If you do, do you have a genre that is your go-to relaxation genre?

I read all the time.  Someone on a productivity board asked if reading two books a week was too aggressive.  I’d done five…no six.  Hmm.  I bounce around genres a lot.  I just read Tamara Pierce’s new book that just came out (about time!), which was a YA Fantasy, but I was also in progress of reading Dean Wesley Smith’s Thunder Mountain book bundle and there’s a really interesting book called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.  Always something new to read…

Guidance for the Mystery Award

The creator of this award: Okoto Enigma has this to say: “I created the award because there are a lot of amazing blogs out there that haven’t been discovered, yet.”

The Rules:

  • Put the award logo/ image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself
  • You have to nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  • Share a link to your best posts

And questions for the next group:

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
  2. What’s the best way to market your books?
  3. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
  4. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
  5. The weird question: Do you believe in sea monsters?

Bloggers nominated:




Discoverability Adventures: Week 2

This week, I got my feet wet with something I have very mixed feelings about: Content marketing.

That’s like writing for the Huffington Post for exposure.  Of course, they don’t pay the writers.

Even before the internet, fiction writers have always been told to get exposure by writing for free.  At one point, I ran across numerous magazines that made it sound like they were doing a favor by publishing the writers at all, even though they wouldn’t have had any business without the same writers.

Plus the big name publishers have been trying to cut paying the writer out of the process as much as possible.  The advances are getting smaller and smaller.  Some publishers do a “royalty-splt” which translates out as not-much in the payment department.

One of the BookBaby panelists said to everyone, “You need to get over getting paid.”

Yeah. Right.

But I also need to get more visibility so people will discover my books.

So I’m wading in content marketing.

I’m looking at doing them from the woman veteran perspective.   In all the anthology calls I’ve submitted to, I’ve often been the only woman soldier.  There might be other women, but usually a daughter or a spouse of a male soldier.

I tried one site, really on a lark.  It’s site that is an active publisher of military books.  They had a blog up and were looking for content for it.


That part of the site hadn’t been updated in almost a year.  The rest of the site was current, so it made me wonder if the veterans simply weren’t submitting stories.  Writing is challenging to learn to do well for publication.  Writing about military experiences is another story entirely, especially if they’re painful.

So we shall see what they say.

A second one was just an opportunity that landed in my lap, from a class I took about 6 years back.  They have a new session coming in January and were looking for blog posts to promote.

For a third, I’m following the blog and monitoring what they publish to see if I can do something for them.  It’s a site that publishes all things about the military.

I’m also gathering sites that might be possibilities and just thinking about what I can do.  Not all of them are good fits.  I want to make sure my time is being well used.

If any of these get in, I’ll post the links here.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting site (aside from the annoying pop up) that I ran across that talks about content marketing and has some interesting ideas.  Hmm.  Slide share.  Could I do something there?

I also emailed my local library. They had a WWI exhibit of women veterans that was pretty awesome, so I told them I was a Desert Storm vet and asked if they wanted a Q&A session on “What was it like?”  Or a writing session on how to write military characters if you’ve never been in them military.

Adventures around the web July 15- 21, 2017

It’s been a hot week in DC.  As I write this, it’s 91 degrees at 5:45 AM.  And it’s supposed to be even hotter.   Even the pool water will be hot!

Rūta Grašytė on Bored Panda

Illustrator Reimagines Fast Food Mascots As Anime Characters And Now Everyone Wants To Read Their Manga

A little fun for Friday.  Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and Wendy’s all reimagined as anime.  I really liked the Colonel Sanders one.  The Hamburglar appears on page 2–not one that’s been seen in years–and he definitely looks more on the bad guy side.

Kristen Lamb

The Creative Benefits of Being Bored

There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about how people are always on.  The slightest hint of boredom and they head over to play a game or look at email.  Sometimes boredom is where the creativity comes into place and the leaps of intuition take place.  At least take a walk today and look at everything around you.  And keep the cell phone in the pocket.  Hopefully it isn’t too hot outside.

Domagoj Valjak on The Vintage News

Patrick Stewart, prepared to play Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was reluctant to audition for the captain

Gene Roddenberry originally wanted an actor more like William Shatner in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It’s amazing how much difference an actor casting makes to an entire series.

Nate Hoffelder on Valiant Chicken Digital

Four Things I Learned at WordCamp DC

WordCamp was a weekend conference on WordPress in DC, which I wish I’d known about–I might have gone.  But it lists a couple of interesting features about WordPress that are worth looking at.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

How To Write Fast, Publish Slowly And Focus On Your Author Marketing With Rachel Aaron

This is an interview with a writer who writes full time and takes on the myth of “writing fast means your story is crap.”

One of the early books I read

One of the earliest books I read was the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Michael Landon put it on TV in the early 1970s, and I watched the adventures of Laura and her family every week.

These are some photos of the real Laura throughout her life.  There’s even a photo of Laura when she was a little girl!


When Fiction Writers Blog

When I first started blogging, I was somewhat late into it.  I was cowriting then, but wrote most of the blogs then.  Everything we saw online said “You have to be an expert” and “you have to have a platform.”  I was a fiction writer.  Exactly what was I supposed to do with it?

I could see how the advice related to a non-fiction book writer because they came with those parts as a function of what they were doing in their business.  But fiction writing?

Ah ha!  Writing!

* Sigh * Yeah, I fell into doing writing how-tos for a while.  Surprisingly, it’s a rather boring subject.  There just isn’t a lot of versatility in it.  I’d write on them for about a year and then run out of topics.

Plus, all we got were other writers, not potential readers.

After I broke up with the cowriter, I moved the blog to where you’re reading it now.  Still continued the how to posts, but it was often a struggle.  I did the A to Z Challenge one year using writing as a topic.  I tried to stay away from how-tos, but it was still hard to come up with enough topics, and I didn’t finish.

I took a blogging writing course that was for writers, thinking that would help.  The emphasis of of the course was to find your own voice — but not do how-tos.  The other writers eagerly flocked to everyone’s blog at first, posting comments and eagerly cheering people on.

Mine was the first one they dropped.

It took about two weeks.

At the time I was very frustrated.  What was I doing wrong?

In hindsight, it was probably because I did stop doing the how-tos.  Everyone else still did writing topics in addition to other topics.

But the one thing I did do was use it to figure out how to manage writing time.  Even then, I wanted to write full time, so it would be training.  I tend to write at the same time most days, so I picked a time when I normally wouldn’t do any writing to do posts.

It also cheered me on to writing fiction faster.  I could put out a post almost as fast as I typed.  Why was it so much harder on fiction?  But writing posts helped reinforce in my head that I could write faster.

I also had an additional problem that was a bit of a challenge:  My name.  It’s kind of ordinary, and a lot of other people have it.  At the time, there was another writer with my name who turned up on searches.  But if I kept producing new posts, I would turn up higher in the search.

So I kept writing and trying to reinvent myself.  But I kept writing the posts, kept them mostly to a schedule.  The sheer act of doing the writing and trying to find other topics besides how-tos is how I found my blogging voice.

But the process to get there was really hard.  I kept watching how low the numbers were for a long time and despaired at one point that maybe it wasn’t a good time investment.  I debated giving up the blog several times.  But I kept returning to the problem of my name and that a blog was probably the easiest way to keep my name showing up.

I think that’s a lot like writing fiction.  A lot of writers expect to write one book and have it turn into a best seller so they can kick back and never work again.  The more I’ve written, the more I can see what else I can write.

The most important thing is to write.

Inspired by a blog prompt from The Daily Prompt

What’s the most important (or interesting, or unexpected) thing about blogging you know today that you didn’t know a month ago?

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

Last year, when I finished the A to Z Challenge, I said I wasn’t going to do it again. The topics I picked made it hard to come up with enough posts, and I’d found myself scrambling for the last few entries, and repeating myself a few times. I mean, it’s hard doing so many posts, especially when you’re a fiction writer.

That sounds kind of weird, because writers write, right? But if you read about how to blog, it’s all for business owners who are selling a specific product like time management or planners. The blogs tell us we need to be an expert and that translates into doing posts like the “10 Writing Tips that Will Get You Published!”

Over the last year even, I thought that maybe I should stop blogging because I still wasn’t getting many people stopping by and I wasn’t sure it was worth the time I was spending.

So what changed?

What I enjoyed about the A to Z Challenge

I kept noticing that though no one commented, two posts kept getting visits:

I was surprised that a topic that I found rather routine was getting such interest. So I started shifting the blog over to more posts about the military and saw an increase in visitors. Every time I had thought about writing about my experiences in the military, I thought I had to do the big things. Instead, I’ve found that people are fascinated with the ordinary (to me) life of the military.

It’s also been something that, now 24 years after Desert Storm, that I do need to write about, now that I can do it without being angry or complaining about it. A blog is a very nice form for doing that. So that’s how I picked my theme for this year, and contrary to past years, I actually had more ideas for posts than I needed.

What I could have done better

1. Tags. Tags have always been a problem for me to come up with, and I need to learn how to be better at them. People do search off them, but they’re sometimes hard for me to come up with.

Copyblogger says, “To a certain extent, they could be used to replace searching, if done well.”

2. Subtitles. Anne Allen’s blog on how to write blog posts also appeared last week and reminded me that I need to pay attention to subtitles on future posts (which, as you can see, are in in this post):

“Subheaders aren’t just for drawing the eye through and letting the reader know what’s coming up. They also need to spell out your most important points. And include keywords.”

Subtitles are good for scanning, which is a key piece of internet reading.

3. More links to other sites. I need to do more links in my posts, but that’s always been hard. Writing about the military doesn’t always lend itself to other blogs. Sometimes all I get is historical sites.

What the A to Z Challenge Could Do Better

Last year, I suggested that the rule about post titles having to be something like “D is for dialogue” should be changed. After doing two challenges, I’d discovered that none of the posts got any further interest. The titles made sense in the context of the challenge, but six months after, when a Google search turned them up, no one found the titles interesting to click on. The requirement was removed from the guidelines this year.

I was surprised that no one else seemed to notice this had changed. The result was:

  • Hard to tell what posts were about: I did a lot of my reading through Twitter streams. I could easily scan the tweets and pick what I liked. Frankly, it was hard to find posts, and I couldn’t always tell what the posts were about. In a lot of cases, I may have been passing by posts that I would have enjoyed.  Titles are very important in drawing the reader in.
  • Posts sounded like a glossary, not a blog post: This was particularly a problem with fiction writers where the glossary posts made me feel like they were checking the marking box rather than genuinely participating.

So I think removing the requirement wasn’t enough.  It needs to be defined better and maybe actual examples given.  From what I can tell, I was one of only a handful of people who noticed it had actually changed.

Would I do it again next year?  This time, it was a good enough experience that I’m not saying no, but I’m not saying yes.  We’ll see.

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

I’ll admit it — last year when I did to the A to Z Challenge, I said “Never again.”  One of the challenges, curiously, is that being a fiction writer can work against blogs.  Blogger gurus tells us to be an expert, but writing fiction is that strange no-man’s land where that doesn’t really work.  The blog ends up appealing to other writers, but not to anyone else, and there’s only so much you can say before you start repeating yourself.  I ended up feeling burned out and frustrated at the end, rather than feeling successful that I completed the challenge.

But over the last year, I’ve finally found a theme that really is me and that other people enjoy.  So you’ll be in for an interesting ride.

Drum roll please ..

I’m going to writing about what it’s like to be in the military.

I was an enlisted soldier in the Army for about 12 years, and got out 13 years ago.  I was also deployed to Desert Shield/Storm when everyone was still buzzing about women going to war.

So this is your opportunity … what questions do you have about what it was like in the army?

A to Z Change Theme Reveal
A to Z Change Theme Reveal

Triberr Review: Useful Tool or Shiny Toy?

Does social media eat into your writing time?  There are plenty of social media tools that can help with reducing the time spent, while others can turn unexpectedly into time black holes.  I like checking out new tools, because sometimes I can find one that helps me out.

So what about Tribber?  I was introduced to it in Kristen Lamb’s class.  All the “We Are Not Alone” (WANA) writers of the class jumped into, built a tribe, and started sharing blog posts.  Triberr is a fancy blog reader.   Where it’s different from other blog readers is that you are getting all the blogs from your group, or tribe.  You can “Approve” or “Like” a blog post and send a link to it over Twitter.  There’s also a discussion section similar to Facebook.  The whole idea behind it is to support your tribe, and to reach a larger audience.

Digital image of five computers connected together on a grid, with a cityscape in the background.


It made all these blogs easy to scan and read.   I’m all for anything that cuts some of the time involved with social media.  It was also fun interacting with the other writers.  When I saw people sending out my links, it felt like maybe I was being successful in my blog.


There’s two:

1. The Help section is terrible.   It’s poorly organized and incomplete.  I ran across a useful topic by accident but when someone else asked about the same topic, I could not find it again.  Other topics frustrated me because terminology was not explained.  A visitor should not have to go outside the site to find information about the site.

2. Link Spamming.  This was the more problematic area for me.  Initially, I thought it was great to see my blog getting tweeted out everywhere.  But then I started to notice that people doing the tweeting weren’t visiting the blog itself.  They either had Triberr set to autotweet, or were just clicking send.  I want people to send my links because they think my posts have value.  Otherwise, it adds to all the junk on Twitter now.  Many bloggers like me are selective about the links we send.  I read everything  first before I send it out to make sure it’s going to be relevant to my brand and platform.

Triberr has since turned up for link spamming — from writers in my WANA group! — on Twit Cleaner.


Is it worth your time to help promote your platform?  In my opinion, it’s a shiny toy.  It looks cool, will consume time, but will not help you build your platform.

For you: Have you tried Tribber?  What has been your experience with it?  Post your commentsbelow.