I’m Recommending

The Ragtag prompt for today is RECOMMEND

An accessible, practical, delightful word.
I love recommending.
Doesn’t everybody?
Lecturer

I could recommend all kinds of things.
Places to go, things to do, books to read.
Today I’m going to recommend something to you fellow bloggers.
You see, for the sake of a better blog, I’ve just broken my #1 November Rule.

One thing I have consistently recommended to fellow Canadians is:
IGNORE ALL THIS BLACK FRIDAY STUFF!

We don’t have “Black Friday” in Canada and I hope we never will. Consumers hear enough hype about Boxing Day Sales—but in our day they stretch out from Dec 26th to 31st. Then on Jan 2nd businesses start on their New Year’s Super Sale, followed at the beginning of Feb by their MID-WINTER BLOW-OUT sales. Then we’re into the MARCH MADNESS sales and then…

Any reason for a till-ringing money exchange, right? I don’t totally blame Canadian retailers for trying to get into the action on some pre-Christmas sales, but we already do have “Pre-Christmas” and even “PRE-Boxing Day” sales. When I read what Black Friday has degenerated into south of the border — from family-gathering, blessing-counting gratitude on Thanksgiving Day to the grabbing, shoving, stomping greed on Friday — we can do without it.

But I sat up and took notice when I saw this morning’s e-mail from WordPress advertising a Black Friday sale: 30% reduction on the price of all upgrades. For some time now I’ve wanted to get rid of the ads on my other blog, Tree Top Haiku. An upgrade that would do this cost $60 CDN, so I’ve put it off. Today, seeing the price drop down to $40, I sprang for it.

I may not like the idea of “Black Friday” but I don’t like ads on my blog, either. I get blog posts from other writers still using a .wordpress.com address and there are always ads underneath the title and brief except. Some of these are video-type ads; I find the motion annoying.

It’s your blog, your money, your call…
but I recommend getting rid of the ads. And 30% off is a pretty good deal
— even if it is connected to that “infamous sale day.”

Oh…and I recommend getting your free e-copy of Silver Morning Song this weekend. 🙂

Reading
Pixabay photo

The Journey of a Blog

From 0 to 2000 Followers

I’ve had one eye on my stats lately, watching the number of Followers slowly creeping up to 2000. I wanted to mark the occasion but while I was busy with other things this week, my newest followers vaulted over the magic number. Still, here’s my planned celebration and a few historical notes.

Fireworks.pink cropped
2000+ Party

I’m Too Tech-Dense to Blog!

Back in January of 2012 a friend and fellow writer was talking about her blog, and the usefulness of blogs in general as a platform for one’s writing. I already had a website, set up by someone who knew what they were doing, and was enjoying posting on it. But I told my friend, “I could never BLOG. Not me! I could never figure out all that tech stuff.”

She said, “Blogging isn’t hard at all.”

And I said, “Well… Okay. Tell me how and I’ll try setting one up. If I can manage it with my limited technical smarts, anyone can.”

So she rattled off instructions, I wrote them down, I came home and started my blog. And it actually WASN’T hard. And now, 6 ½ years later, over 2000 readers have clicked my Follow button. Who’d’a thunk it!

I’m thankful for all those votes of confidence, and I really appreciate those of you who have stayed, liked my posts, left comments, and helped me to become a more dedicated writer. To those of you who make up my readership today, thanks so much and bless your dear hearts. 🙂

Faces.jpg

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. Here are some things I wished I’d known when I started out:

#1. For my first blog address I picked christineevelynvance, which made a too-long web address. It’s getting tough to find short-and-simple names; the easy ones were taken by bloggers years ago. And so many wannabes only posted once or twice, then quit. But newcomers who choose themotherofjosephsabrinaandcrystal or theavidreaderofhistoricalromances as their web address aren’t doing themselves any favours. Fine for a blog title, but for a web address, stay as simple as possible. Be creative if necessary. I called my last blog “Waverations.” Simple; easy to remember.

My second blog, set up to divide my longer prose from short anecdotes and poetry, was “Swallow in the Wind.” In time I merged it with my first. My third blog was “Tree Top Haiku”, which is still going — when I get over there. After trying to keep up with three blogs for awhile, I saw the error of my ways.

#2. You don’t need a separate blog for every genre. Keeping up several blogs can be mega-stress. (Plus I got leukemia, so was dealing with that for several years.) My first blog fell by the wayside and I started “Christine’s Reflections”, with my domain name as the address. Two years ago I renamed my first blog “Friday Tales” and posted flash fiction when I was doing the Friday Fictioneers challenges.

Waverations I set up as a private site to try out new themes without messing up the look of my active blogs. It has morphed into this one. I applied my domain name to this and had the folks at WordPress beam the Friday Tales and Christine’s Reflections subscribers this way.

#3. Use proper categories and tags from day one. A subject all its own — I’ve written about it HERE — and the reason why I felt the need to start over from scratch. Now I’m in the slow process of reblogging all those past posts into this blog. Tree Top Haiku will stay as is.

Over the years I’ve tried to “share the love” by letting my readers know about other great blogs and posts. I could — and plan to — do more of this. Which is why I got enthused about the new “From the Heart” blogging award. You can tell your readers about other interesting sites without putting any obligations on those bloggers. (In fact, my brain is concocting another idea along these lines as I’m writing this. 😉 )

Since I started out, my husband has also gotten enthused and now has his own blogs, one in English and one in French.

And now…here’s my virtual Happy 2000 cake. Cut yourself a piece (it’s zero-calorie, no preservatives 🙂 ) and celebrate with me.

Birthday cake.rainbow.jpg

Preserving the Daily Prompt

A Quick Look at Six Word Prompt Sites

As most WordPress bloggers know by now, WordPress Daily Post has bailed and bloggers have been left in free-fall. There are oodles of writing sites that offer word, topic, and sentence prompts, but they lack the interaction that the blogging community enjoyed through The Daily Post. Some bloggers have become frequent back & forth visitors, even good friends over time. But wait! Parachutes of different cloths and colors have been popping up to fill the gap. Our Word of the Day Challenge has not been left to fall by the wayside.

Up From the Rubble

The Daily Post may have become estranged from its blogging community — it died, actually — but a dozen or more bloggers like Scott and Fandango have done the honorable thing and offered their services. Vehemently refusing to be disconnected from each other in what was once the Daily Post community, a number of them have set a precedent, starting a new blog offering Your Daily Word Prompt.

I only wish one of today’s prompt words would be ANALYTICAL — an adjective a friend once applied to me. Another word suitable for this particular post, would be OPINIONATED. But poets would sigh in frustration and haiku writers would abandon all hope. There’s not much you can add when the prompt word uses up five or six of your seventeen allowed syllables.

And in my opinion, this is the tendency of the new prompters. A challenge it may be, but my brain is too indolent to conceptualize stories about collaboration and camaraderie. Give me simple any day. Nevertheless, many thanks to all of you who’ve dished up this great sampling to suit everyone’s palate.

Need a New Word? Check Here:

Daily Addictions word for today:  RUBBLE
This new blog, only for word prompts, has a nice front page with a lot on the sidebar including a list of other writing challenges. Uses InLinkz to connect contributors.
Prompt words last week: indifferent, dub, authority, respect, gasp, ancient

RAGTAG Community word for today:  PRECEDENT
The Home page header image was chosen to fit ragtag theme of this new, only for word prompts, blog. For some reason it’s duplicated, giving the blog a quite ragged up-front look. Home page is one where Recent posts plus pic are displayed. Seven bloggers each offer a word prompt on their day. Bloggers connect through pingbacks.
Prompt words last week: rejuvenate, heart, pond, Italian, check, shaken

Fandango‘s word for today: ESTRANGED
If you’re a person who doesn’t like clutter, Fandango’s busy Home Page is disconcerting, especially those two eyes staring at you. 😉 This blogger has added a daily word prompt to his repertoire, but has kindly listed One-word Challenge in his top menu so you can pop into it easily. He’s been faithfully posting words this month and bloggers have definitely rallied, connecting by pingbacks.
Prompt words last week: allegiance, artifact, cerebral, preposterous, almost, stark

Over at thehouseofbailey, Scott’s daily prompt: PARACHUTE
This is his blog, so his own various posts are mixed in. A clean home page, easy on the eyes, the prompt word found as a tab on the far right in the top menu. Most of his word prompts are versatile and easy for poets to use. Bloggers connect by pingbacks.
Prompt words last week: commemorate, deport, hid, perceive, love, employ.

Your Daily Word Prompt word for today: Honorable
This is a new site, prompt words only. Clean look overall. Personally, I don’t care for the chunky header + letters, nor the gray background. I prefer a bit of background color, but never have liked gray. On the other hand, easy-to find prompts + dates are displayed in neat cubes. Bloggers link through pingbacks, as with most of these sites.
Prompt words last week: lake, amicable, perpetual, adulation, wrangle, situation

Word of the Day Challenge word: Vehemently
Four bloggers have combined their talents to produce this new “Alternate Haven for Daily Post Mourners.” I’d give this blog an A+ for appearance, love its colors and open look, the neat header. But I’d drop down to a D rating for prompt words; these gals use the heavyweights. Haiku writers, these aren’t apt to appeal to you.
Prompt words last week: epiphany, possibility, squabble, dalliance, anticipation, camaraderie

Swimmers is just getting into the swim of things and hasn’t offered a word every day yet. This blogger’s new site, designed to fill in for Community Pool as well as offer a daily word prompt, has a nice clean look about it. Time will tell how Swimmers manages to keep fresh water in the pool.

And there you have my thoughts on what I’ve sampled in the smorgasbord of one-word daily prompts. For convenience sake I’ve reworked my BLOG ROLL at right so that for a time you’ll find these listed under Writing Help.

Writing Prompt Sources

Like so many of you, I read the announcement last week that WordPress is discontinuing some of its regular features, including its Daily Prompts on May 31st. I haven’t been using their one-word prompts for a long time; nevertheless, this announcement sparked my curiosity. I decided to have a look at how many other sites on the net offer writing prompts.

Hello Mr Google… WOW! I could write a story a day for a hundred years with what’s available out there.

Some sites are maintained by publishers like Writer’s Digest. Some are blogs by published authors like Graeme Shimmin and John Matthew Fox. (For your convenience I’ve put their links at the bottom of my sidebar under Writing Help)

Searching specifically, you can find random first line generators, random plot generators, random character generators, movie script generators. There are prompt sources for teachers, for students, for songwriters. There’s one titled, “Twenty-one writing prompts to help you finish an entire novel this summer.” There’s even “80 Letter-writing prompts” from Compassion International.

Just for curiosity I clicked on THIS ONE and generated a random set of ideas; you can click the buttons and come up with a story line that suits your fancy. Much like WriterIgniter, a site I’ve used before.

Just for fun I clicked the buttons and this is what I came up with:
MC: A young man in his late teens who is very wise
2nd character: A woman in her late thirties who is very lively
Setting: The story begins in a nursing home.
Situation: something precious has been lost
Theme: It’s a story about justice
Character action: MC reluctantly becomes involved

This combination called to mind a real happening, back when I worked in a seniors’ home. Something precious really did go missing. I don’t know if the truth was ever revealed, so I’ll have to fake it. Stay tuned for my tale — with details changed to protect the guilty. 🙂

The Daily Post also has a free e-book of writing prompts that can be downloaded as a pdf. Get it HERE.

When I go to Amazon.ca and do a Writing Prompts search, again I’m bowled over by the 84 pages of books containing writing prompts — and I see a lot of these are “Read Free with Kindle Unlimited.”

The down-side of picking a prompt at random instead of using a central source like Daily Post Prompts is lack of the sense of community. You’re on your own; there aren’t hundreds of people using the same word or photo. For those of you currently connecting via the Daily Post will you miss this? Will you try another community like The Write Practice (link in side bar) or one of the various Flash Fiction groups going?

And for anyone reading this post, what writing prompts sources have you found useful?

Blogging: Using Categories and Tags

Some time ago I started dropping in on First Friday to meet and greet a few new bloggers. A lot of them are just learning the ropes and open to a little guidance, so I often leave some advice about categories and tags. I’m posting this here today in case these thoughts may help some other newbies and maybe some longtime bloggers who haven’t attached much importance to this angle.

Categories & Tags

…are very useful creatures. You can create them as you publish each post, using the sidebar on the right. Tagging our posts is how we invite other bloggers to check out what we’ve written. For example, if I create a Personal, or an Education, category or tag for my post, it will send my post title and a couple of lines to the Reader. Other bloggers searching for posts on Personal or Education will see mine listed and hopefully come and read what I’ve written.

Note:
WordPress says they allow only fifteen C’s & T’s per post. If there are more, their SPAM detectors will boot the post off the Reader. Like coming to a beach party in tux and tails, golden cuff-links and a flashy silk tie.“Too much is overkill; go home and change.”

Some bloggers use C’s and T’s; some may use only one or the other. It’s up to you. Both go to the Reader. However, categories and tags also become, over time, your blog’s filing system. I wish I’d understood better how they work when I started blogging. In fact, I started a brand new site last year and am slowly reposting all my writing so I can use Cs & Ts properly for each item.

For my own blog, I use Categories as the drawers of my filing cabinet. The big sections: Poetry or Fiction. Then the tags are like files within the drawer. Under Poetry you’ll find tags like: Nature, Seasons, Children, Inspiration, etc. Under the Fiction category you’ll find tags like Travel, Truth, Children, Relationships, etc

Among the Widgets there’s one bloggers can install that puts a list of Categories on your blog’s front page. You can put them in your top menu as I’ve done on this blog, or you can display them in your sidebar. Another option is to install the widget that gives you a Tag Cloud. You can choose how many tags will display.

To each his own, but in my opinion it’s better to limit the number displayed, or choose “Display as a drop-down list,” rather than having a list of seventy-five categories running down your Home Page sidebar. Generally speaking, try to make things as simple as possible for your visitors.

Be selective when choosing C’s & T’s. Pick something pertinent to your post, topics people are actually going to be looking for. “Aunt Sue” may be an intriguing person, but not a very compelling tag for someone who doesn’t even know who YOU are. Ditto with Flowers or My trip. Titling your post Cheap Vacation Spots and tagging it Travel, Adventure, River rafting, Timbuktu would be far more apt to draw visitors than Vacation. The specific English language tag will draw readers more than the general Grammar. For more ideas on what Categories and Tags to choose, check out the Reader:

One Sour Note:
When I first started blogging the tags were much simpler: Articles, Opinions, Home, Family, Religion, Books, etc. Thankfully these tags still show up, but one sad thing I’ve seen in recent years is some sites creating tags with their own (usually advertising) posts. So you get a tag relevant only to purchasers of, say, women’s t-shirts. As one example, right now I see a tag: Baby Bodysuit Designs. It appears that one site selling some of these outfits has published almost 3000 posts — most of them TODAY! Sigh.

Uncategorized Posts

I often see posts listed as Uncategorized. I consider this the waste of a perfectly good tag. Like dropping a luscious ice cream cone in a puddle.

Uncategorized is the default setting that comes with every new blog. It tells no one anything about your post. My advice: get rid of it.

A blogger can change their default by going to the left hand sidebar and selecting Settings. Next you see a screen where, across the center at top are four words:
General, Writing, Discussion, Traffic. Click on Writing
The first line under writing is for Categories. You’ll see how many you have and what the Default is.
Click on the arrow at right. Now you get to add more categories and also change the default to something that better suits your blog’s general theme. I’ve chosen Reflections.
If there’s a Save Changes button somewhere on the screen, hit it. You should be good to go.

And now I shall use as many pertinent categories and tags as possible, and hit publish. 🙂

New Friends And Nosy Critters

We had quite the windy, cloudy day yesterday and our Internet wasn’t working for most of the day. Which was okay because we had friends join us for dinner and a nice visit after. In the evening we worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully this morning the wind was down and the net was up and running as usual.

Among the e-mails that came through was one from The Drabble, telling me they’re publishing another of my short stories today, titled A Friend Drop By. This one has never appeared on this blog so if you want to read it, Click Here.

We went to the city today to do some shopping. Among other things I looked at shoes, but would likely have to give an arm and a leg in exchange for a nice pair. (Around $130 CDN.) Tried to stock up on groceries to prepare for the coming writing marathon.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow at midnight. Will anyone be up typing at 12:02 am? Here’s the synopsis for the children’s story I’ll be working on:

In the summer of 1957, 14-yr-old brother Gerry and 11-yr-old sister Joy take the train to their widowed Aunt Patty’s new home beside a small town. She’s hoping to earn a living for her and her two children by growing a market garden. Gerry and Joy are going to be her “hired help” this first summer.

Among the various characters living in and around town there’s a retired map-maker, now a famous writer of the “wild west” teen adventure stories —of which Gerry is very fond. Reginald Gentleman (who writes as Reg Savage) has just prepared a manuscript for posting when it disappears. Gerry and Joy help search for it.

I plan to work some other excitement to keep the summer hopping. A touch of romance, too. A widowed farmer from the district helps Aunt Patty whenever he can and talks the School district into having an old fashioned “Box Social” to raise money for sports equipment. Of course he’s hoping to buy Aunt Patty’s box and thus get to know her a bit better. Oh, do those plans go awry!