Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Manage Your Avatar So People Can Find Your Blog

As I’ve been reading posts and comments at various WordPress blogs, I’ve found more than a few bloggers whose avatar does not link to their blog site. If you’re one of those people and that’s what you intended, skip the rest of this post and move on to something more interesting. 🙂

If you’re reading this thinking what the heck is she talking about?, then maybe you’ll find this useful.

Evey time you leave a comment at a blog site or one of the forums, it leaves your avatar and your public display name along with your comment. If the blog at which you left a comment has the “Recent Comments” widget displayed (as mine does), you may also see your avatar and public display name there as well.

So what, right?

Well, I find the avatars useful as a quick link (public display names provide a link too). I just click on the avatar and like magic, I’m virtually transported to another blog where I can check out their action. Cool!!

I can do that unless the avatar is linked to another web site (not blog site)— or to nothing at all. If you happen to click on one of those avatars, you’ll either get to a web site or an error message such as: “the URL is not valid and cannot be loaded” , or “sorry we couldn’t find that site”, or some other message that lets you know you’re not where you thought you’d be.

And depending on how a blogger sets up their profile, their public display name is not necessarily the same as the blog name (my public display name is Nancy, my blog name is Another Writer’s Space). So, it may be very difficult or impossible for someone to locate them from a comment if their avatar is not linked to their blog site.

Luckily there’s an easy way to check your link—or lack of it, and fix it.

First go to “My Account” in the WordPress menu bar displayed at the top of your blog, and select “Edit Profile”.

Under “Contact Info” you’ll find “Website”. This is where you’ll enter the complete URL to your blog site. (Mine is https://nancyluckhurst.wordpress.com).

If you have a separate web site and want your avatar linked to it instead of to your blog site, enter the web site URL instead. Just remember, doing so may confuse the person who is trying to get to your blog. ( I put a link to my editing services web site on my “About Me” page and also my “Favorite Links” page, so that people who visit my blog can easily get there if they’d like to check that out too).

After you’ve entered your blog site’s complete URL, you’ll need to save your changes. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Edit Profile” page; you’ll find an “update profile” button. If you don’t click on this, none of your changes will be saved and you’ll have to go back and re-enter them.

Finally, go leave a comment somewhere (remember, it’s International Leave A Comment Week!) and check it to make sure the avatar link is functioning. If not, you probably just made a typo, so go back and re-edit your profile.

Posting comments with a linked avatar should start increasing the traffic to your blog. Give it a try.

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Hooked On “Hooked”

I love to read. I always have, from the time I was a young girl. These days, however, the amount of time I have to read is much less, and therefore more precious.

I see lots of stories that might be good or even great— if I could manage to get through them. How the story begins is a good indicator as to whether I’ll spend my limited time reading that particular story or not.

That is the premise of Hooked by Lee Edgerton, a great book for anyone writing a short story or novel they hope to get published.

We all know that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but if the beginning doesn’t start in the right place, it’s not likely any agent or editor will continue reading after the first few paragraphs.

In a world where mountains of manuscripts are rejected on a regular basis, how does a writer get theirs off the proverbial heap?

Hooked was written with the intention of helping writers do just that. The secret is in the beginning of your story. This book covers modern story structure, opening scene dos and don’ts, where to put that backstory you’re just dying to fit in, and more. The last chapter contains some thoughts from editors and agents about what they’re looking for in manuscript submissions— and what they don’t want to see.

Don’t waste time polishing up your prose until you make sure you’re giving your story its best chance at success— with a beginning that’s worthy of the rest of your story.

International “Leave A Comment” Week!

I’m fairly new at blogging- less than three weeks, so I don’t profess to know what readers are looking for in blogs. News? Information? Laughs? Friendship? I’m sure the answer is as varied as the blogs themselves.

I do, however, read at many blogs of the desire for readers to leave more comments. Or any comments.

Hello, are you there? I can hear you breathing.

I’m guessing that most bloggers appreciate the validation they receive from readers comments— which help forge a connection between writer and reader, however brief it may be. It lets us know that we’re not alone in this big old blogsphere.

Comments can also help bloggers improve their blogs by letting them know what kind of posts you like to read… or maybe not so much. Do the math; better blogs=better reading. And frequently your comment will be followed by a curious blogger visiting your site to learn about you and what you have to offer. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; it’s a win-win situation.

I try to visit three or four new blogs each day and leave a comment on something I read or observe there. I’ve even alerted a few people to broken links on their blogs— it’s no biggie, but they let me know it was appreciated. If I particularly enjoy a blog, I add it to my blogroll and let them know I did. It’s what I consider being a good neighbor.

So, I would like to nominate this week as “Leave A Comment” week, and encourage all readers to go out there and write at least two comments each day for one week. It doesn’t really take much time to leave a thoughtful, sincere comment- either about a specific post or the blog itself. Search out some new blogs to explore and tell them what you think. And then keep doing it.

And, as always, please feel free to leave comments here at my site. I really do want to know what works for my readers and what they’d like to see. My goal is for my blog to be a friendly and useful resource for anyone who happens to stop by.

Now get out there and comment, comment, comment!

Online Writer’s Groups- Are They For You?

As someone who has joined various local writers’ groups only to be disappointed time and time again, online groups may be an attractive alternative. That is not to say that all local groups are worthless- I’m sure there are some fine ones out there. The problem is that they can be difficult to find, and the best ones limit the number of people (and sometimes genre) for practical purposes, so they may not be available when you’re ready to join.

Online groups have the advantage of convenience; log in whenever and wherever you want, and spend as much or as little time as you want. They also hold an appeal to writers who want to receive a critique of their work but don’t want to actually face their critics. There is the added advantage of not having to critique pieces in which you have no interest (although generally, the more you critique, the more feedback you will receive in return). And for some, it’s easier to give an honest written critique than to face someone and try to tell them what isn’t working.

It’s never a good idea to tell a writer how great their piece is just to spare their feelings… or your own. Strive to give thoughtful, helpful feedback and be prepared to receive the same. Writers groups are not intended for people who only want to hear how wonderful they are, and if you find a group where that is the general practice, run! That kind of interaction might feed your ego, but it’s not going to help you grow as either a writer or critic.

There are many groups who welcome writers of all levels and interests. One I found just by doing a simple Google search is called Critique Circle (www.critiquecircle.com) You can join for free, or upgrade to their premium service for $24/year . The web site is loaded with FAQ’s on how their site works and how to critique- there are even critique templates available to use. It’s worth a look if you think a group might be right for you.

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A Free, Easy to Access Resource For Writers and Readers

A couple of year’s ago, I took a fiction writing class taught by Thomas B. Sawyer. He recommended that anyone who wanted to improve their writing, regardless of what they were writing, should spend a few minutes each day reading the New York Times. (No, he doesn’t work there, and he lives in California).

He was right.

I registered at the web site (it’s free) and suddenly had access to all kind of stories, story ideas, and more importantly, good writing. I have learned to take my time there and really luxuriate in the words and the flow of the prose. Still considered by many to be the best newspaper in the world, their pieces are undoubtedly well written.

The web site is appealing and easy to navigate. You can even sign up for free email alerts on various topics. And their Sunday Book Review is a great way to check out new books and author interviews. You can even search within the SBR back to 1981.

Podcasts, videos, and even online book discussions are available as well. I encourage all writers (and readers) to make the trek to www.nytimes.com, pick a location, and enjoy- even  if only for a few minutes. It will be there, ready for you whenever you can make it back.

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“The Lost Saranac Interviews” by Joe David Bellamy & Connie Bellamy (Writer’s Digest Books/ Oct.2007)

From 1976-1980, the Saranac Writers Conference was held at Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, hosted by Fiction International and St. Lawrence University. A number of major writers were among the participants at the Saranac Writers Conference, including Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Gail Godwin, Anne Beattie, Jayne Anne Phillips, Annie Dillard, E.L. Doctorow, and Carolyn Forche. The Lost Saranac Interviews consists of the photographs and interviews that are left from that time. Still relevant today, the issues discussed by writers at Saranac are still very much the same issues writers discuss today. Anyone who writes or enjoys literature will love this beautifully bound hardcover book.

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Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar, author of “Tremolo”

This is one of the last stops on the Tremolo virtual book tour, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to interview a wonderful author, Aaron Paul Lazar.

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Tremolo, set in the summer of 1964, is the prequel to Lazar’s Double Forte’ from the LeGarde mystery series.

Eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde, the protagonist in the LeGarde book series, is in Maine for the summer with his parents and best friends, Elsbeth and Siegfried, and their parents. The youths idyllic vacation at the lake is violently interrupted by a sudden brush with death, and in the same evening, an encounter with a terrified young girl running wildly through the woods– pursued by an apparently drunken man. She disappears before Gus can get her to safety, and he remains haunted by her image as he vows to find her. His quest uncovers many peculiarities along the way that indicate there may be much more going on in this quiet little town.

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The interview with Aaron Lazar:


Q: E.B.White once said, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar”. Do you agree?

A: Hmmm. Good question, Nancy. An act of faith? I’m not so sure if that works in my case. To me writing is more like the proverbial itch that needs scratching, a fundamental thirst so strong it must be quenched before life can go on. I feel cheated if I don’t get my writing “fix” each day.

Of course, I do trust my readers – in an intimate act of faith – to process my words without turning on me, which is unfortunately part of writer’s angst. I guess that really is an act of faith! And naturally, I don’t expect them to read stuff fraught with grammatical errors. That said, grammar is not the essence of writing, just a necessary cousin to words poured from the heart.

Q: Do you think there are inherent differences between writers and non-writers?

A: Another excellent question, one I haven’t pondered before. I guess if we define “non-writers” as those who don’t currently write and who don’t have the skills/talent/drive to write, then I’d be able to analyze it properly. Some folks are “writers,” but don’t know it yet. But they share many inherent mechanisms with established writers. Let’s lump these “potential/future” writers into the “writer” category and compare them with the folks who have no desire to put pen to paper, ever!

I’ve noticed some commonalities that propagate across writers.

– Writers soak up every little detail in the world around them and are consumed with the need to record it for all time. This is much like an artist or photographer in many regards.

– Fiction writers have stories that pummel them from the inside, begging to be let out. They dance with delight when given an opportunity to spin a story from an original idea. For example, my critique partner, Patricia Fowler, just sent me a scene that popped into her head. No story line was attached to it, but the characters captivated me and the setting was glorious. I wanted more. I suggested a few twists that could happen to these lovely characters, she countered with a few spicy ideas, and I added some fanciful notions to that – and we were both in Heaven, delighting in the possible permutations of this book-to-be.

– Fiction writers pay special attention to dialogue and dialects. They often have a talent for mimicking accents with the written word, and can masterfully recreate life-like conversations.

– Writers often read voraciously. A frequent complaint is that they can’t find enough time to do both – read and write. But by reading, they are taught by some of the best. That’s how I learned to write – by reading and absorbing the literary nuances of my favorite authors.

What about non-writers? I think these folks – whether readers or not – are equally absorbed by their own passions, whether they be medical researchers, astronauts, or armchair quarterbacks. Being true to one’s soul is the key here. It doesn’t matter if you write or don’t – as long as you pay attention to your calling and love your family.

Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

A: My favorite part is that mind-dumping whooshing that happens when a story flows out of me for the first time. It’s immensely satisfying – like an amusement park ride. The scenes tumble out – sometimes planned, sometimes popping out of nowhere. The characters deepen. The action gets my blood pumping. And I can’t wait to get back to the computer each day to dash down the next chapter.

Q: What makes a character interesting?

A: I can only answer this from my own point of view as a reader. I am drawn to characters who live and breathe, to whom I can relate, and who I distinctly visualize. I usually am drawn to “real people” characters who exhibit heroic efforts in their own lives and who sometimes have a twist of the exotic. But occasionally I’m taken by an “evil” character, such as the character Jenner, in SW Vaughn’s series that starts with “Broken Angel.” (coming soon from Lachesis Publishing)

Q: How well do you feel you know your characters?

A: I know them inside and out. I have to – since I’m a series writer! But sometimes I forget a stray element when I move from one series to the other. Thus, I keep a list of “reminders” about their history, etc. on hand to keep me honest.

Q: Gus LeGarde seems to be a virtuous and admirable husband, father, and friend. Will we see a darker side of Gus in future books?

A: There is no darker side of Gus. What you see is what you get! LOL.

Of course, Gus will always be faced with failings or flaws that keep him humble. I believe there is enough “darkness” portrayed by commercial vehicles today and purposefully created a character of great inner strength and tenderness, one who young people would strive to be like and from whom all folks could learn.

Q: Are there any types of scenes you find particularly difficult to write?

A: Fortunately, I have a rather vivid imagination. If I can “picture” the scene, like a moving playing in my head, I can write about it. For scenes based in areas where I have little or no experience, I’ve got movies and other books to help me create it.

Perhaps, though, I do avoid such material. I don’t have any scenes where a surgeon is operating on a patient, or a smart-as-a-whip lawyer is cross-examining a criminal. Since I don’t have a lot of experience in those arenas, I guess that’s why I don’t write about them!

Q: Is it difficult is it to stop tinkering once you’ve completed a story?

A: God, yes. It’s impossible. If I pick up something I wrote a few years ago, I cringe. It’s never good enough. If I didn’t have deadlines, I’d never be done. Of course that absurd desire to perfect the book is balanced by my all-consuming need to start the next novel. So it works out in the end.

Q: Have you ever trashed a story before it’s completion? I remember reading how Stephen King threw out his initial work on Carrie, and only after his wife Tabitha retrieved it from the garbage and encouraged him to continue with the story did he decide to complete it. Of course, we all know how that turned out!

A: Not yet. But I’m considering it with my current WIP. LOL!

Q: Gus is portrayed in your books as an avid gardener and cook. Are you a good cook and do you have a specialty dish? Do you have any plans to write a cookbook and incorporate some of the recipes for dishes you’ve mentioned in your writing?

A: I guess I’m a pretty good cook. My family seems to think so, anyway. I love using fresh garden vegetables and making all kinds of soups. But I don’t have a specialty dish. Hmmm. I guess I’ll have to work on choosing one! But I do hope to publish a Gus LeGarde cookbook some day. All of the meals Gus prepares in his books are based on real meals I made. The only problem is I don’t measure anything. Ever. I just throw it together and it comes out tasty. So I guess when the cookbook comes out, I’ll have to back track through Gus’s meals and recreate them with photos and measurements.

Q: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that engineering is your “day job”; do you find engineering disciplines helpful in your writing career?

A: Indeed I do, because I work with a wealth of wonderful people whose lives I share in one respect or another. The stories that come out of real life are superb fodder for plot ideas and spin-offs. There is also a great commonality in the realm of solving mysteries in engineering. Whether you’re solving a complex problem in a digital printer or trying to design a new dry ink to meet tough industry standards, the methods required to solve such challenges can be similar to that of solving a murder mystery.

Q: Some people feel it requires selfishness (in addition to hard work and a lot of luck) to become a successful writer. Do you share that opinion?

A: I agree with the hard work and luck comment, but I don’t think one necessarily has to be to selfish to get one’s writing done. It’s possible to balance your writing with home life and still be a loving spouse/parent/friend to those around you. Note I said, “possible,” and not “easy!” It’s hard to balance both without making yourself into a martyr or becoming too self-involved.

Q: If you could write only one more book, what would it be about?

A: Oh, Nancy, you just made my heart stutter. Only one more book? I can hardly imagine it. But if I were diagnosed with a deadly illness and had to choose today – it would be one more book from Gus’s childhood, a literary romp through the sixties that would make readers swoon with nostalgia.

Thanks, Nancy, for the unique and insightful questions and for being a host on the Tremolo book tour.

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Tremolo is the third book in the Gus LeGarde mystery series after Double Forte’ and Upstaged. Read excerpts from all three books (and much more) at www.legardemysteries.com. Mazurka, the fourth book in the LeGarde series and Healey’s Cave, the first book in a new series, Moore Mysteries, (www.mooremysteries.com) will be released this summer from Twilight Times Books.