Flash Fiction : Crazed Cosplayer

6 o’clock. Time for a cup of coffee, I can smell it brewing in all of its vanilla caramel glory and I smile slumped over the counter listening to the tiny kitchen television spewing the news. The flashing red scroll starts rolling across the screen and I groan waiting for news of another car accident, traffic jam, or baby animal at the zoo; nothing on the news is ever exciting. I reach out and grab the handle of my mug and release a sigh of early morning tension as I smell the life force steaming from the top. Just as I get the mug to my lips, who comes busting through my front door, screaming like a madwoman? My beta reader, Iva. My coffee sloshes all over my hand with a screeching yelp. My eyes dart up to her as though I could cause her to explode, but that was only something that Aaralyn Segarus was able to do in Alcaron, the world inside my book series. Iva was hyperventilating and I swear every breath was making her paler and more flushed at the same time. She snatched up the remote and made my tv yell louder than she did when she got here. “Listen!”

In breaking news, a crazed fan was found stocking up on all copies of the Alcaron Adventures books from several bookstores, and arrested on the spot. This morning, detectives finally were able to get him to speak. The suspect claims his actual name IS Yoska Tolko, one of the main characters in the book. Authorities say that he repeats the same two phrases in loop, “I just wanted to protect them” and “Only to Aara”. No one yet knows the man’s identity but hope that a picture of a strange tattoo will help someone to find his true identity.

A picture of a celtic knot style ink quill was put up on the screen, a picture that I knew very well. “You have your first real psycho fan! You’ve made it!” Iva was jumping up and down, and it was driving me nuts. I climbed up on the ladder in my bookshelf and started looking through my photo albums and scrapbooks. “Um, boss? Why aren’t you excited? Your books are so totally awesome that you have people trying to BE your characters!”

“I know that guy, I swear I do.” I wrenched one of the old green and gold binders from the back of the shelf and started ripping through the pages. “There! He’s not just a fan, he’s my FIRST fan!”

The picture was of the two of us at the first convention I was invited to after the first book came out, so I dressed as Aara so people would have a visual. He was an illustrator by trade, and wanted so badly to illustrate my works. I hadn’t thought to pursue it until recently. I had finally given him a call to do some sketches of my characters. I thought for a minute before I knew what I had to do. I dug out my Aara costume and made my way to the station, with Iva tacked to my heels as usual. After explaining the situation to the guards several times, they finally agreed to let me see my first fan.

I walked into the windowed room and he charged to me, kneeling down and taking my hand. He smiled up to me from the ground and his face lit up.

“My authoress. It is I. Yoska Tolko. You have come to me as Aara once again.”

“Yes I have. Now give me your arm.”

I studied his arm and looked very, very close. There it was, his name hidden in the knot. Carl Wytt.

“The crazed cosplayer. What happened to you Carl? You were supposed to do illustrations to help promote the next book tour, not cause a scandal!”

He started laughing, hysterical giggling. Incessant guffaws. Annoying chuckles.

“It’s a stunt! The bookstore owners get publicity out of it too, nobody is pressing charges, they’re letting me go once they know I’m not totally nuts. But really, what better  way to illustrate a character then to give him flesh and blood?”

He must have been able to see how unamused I was, because he stood up and cleared his throat nervously.

“The sketches are at my house. Promise they’re done, they’re beautiful, and just what you wanted.”

The officers that let us leave growled at Wytt for wasting their time, and having no sense in his brain. Telling him that the idea would never work, until Iva ran into the lobby of the station squawking again, this time simply pointing out the door. Out front, there were a hundred people or so, dressed in Alcaronion garb with signs that said “Free Yoska” “down with the wolves!”. And my jaw..hit..the ground.

Carl grinned with his head held high. “I told you it would work. Does this mean I can go on the tour now?”

What To Do After Your Blog Takes A Vacation

Blogging. The writing of random articles online. That’s easy!…Says anyone that doesn’t blog. It’s not always a basket of roses. There are many things that can stop you from posting any given week, or even posting regularly. A missed post isn’t the end of the world, but if you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the middle of the Twilight Zone wondering how long you’ve been gone. One week, two weeks. Three weeks, four months?!

Maybe your week was stressful, maybe a family matter came up. Perhaps your work schedule went into hyperdrive and you didn’t have the time. Sometimes you can find it hard to stay on topic or keep your focus. After a break, you will find it tough to get back into the swing of things. You will have to completely re-plan your process. It can be daunting. But it can be done.

Here are five tips to get back into blogging after a long break.

1. Evaluate your content.

When you’ve taken a break from your blog, it can be easy to forget what it looks like to your visitors. The same can be said for those who go into the back end of their website and fill in the pages without logging into the website itself. Look at it with your newly rested eyes. Check out other websites and blogs in your niche too. Active competitors will be a good reference for aesthetics and content.

Some things you might not even think of could affect the traffic your website gets. Are you writing about the current topics in your niche? Are you putting out quality information? Has there been an event in your niche lately? Keep an eye on your topic in the news and social media. If there’s something going on, you should be referencing it.

For more information on evaluating your content, check out How To Complete A Content Audit.

2. Timing is Key.

Be sure that when an idea happens, you write it out. Don’t just shorthand your thoughts either. If you don’t have time to write the article in its entirety then you need to make bullet points at the very least. How many times have you found a slip of paper with a phone number and no name and completely forgot what it was for? I have the tendency to write random thoughts for stories or for work blogs.

When you finally have an idea – even if it is just a small one, don’t wait up until you can turn it into big ideas. If you keep things aside for a while, you might forget about it and before you know it, you are back into a long break. Jump right into it! It doesn’t have to be perfect at first. The important thing is that make the ball rolling once again. Just start writing and more ideas will come soon after.

You shouldn’t feel bad that you took some time off from blogging, but you should encourage yourself to get back into it. Take small steps in writing new blog posts so as to restore your excitement in creating content in the future. Don’t stay too much on the thinking part, and start implementing what you have planned right away.

3. Personalize Your Content.

Whatever you write about, be sure it reflects you. Your message and your voice should be coming through. That is what gives your words a hook that interests your audience. If your blog is dying, think about your voice. If you’re writing in a “writer’s” voice, or the voice of your profession, maybe you should switch it up. At my last agency, I wrote with MY voice. You know the one. I use it here all the time. Conversational and witty, yet knowledgable. I tend to know what I’m saying, (or I’ve researched it like crazy), so I feel free to write it the way I would like to read it. Personalizing your content this way is a huge step to overhaul your blog after any amount of time. If you posted yesterday, you could realize your voice is all wrong and pull a switcheroo in the next post. It doesn’t have to wait for a long break.

Some people like to post separate pages on their site. Perhaps like, “Work With Me” or “Blog With Me” to distinguish different styles or topics. This shows your voice as well as your personality and interests. Yes, you know a lot about your career in personal fitness, but did your readers know you’re an expert fly fisher? I use a page for my professional knowledge (you’re on it now!) and a separate page for my personal writing. That way, when you come to my blog for SEO tips, you can go to just that page if you wish, or you can take a peek at what it’s like in my head. This lets your readers connect with you and feel more comfortable opening up in say comments, likes, or subscriptions.

4. Organize To Strategize.

After a break, your goal will be to stay consistent. You’ll want to be sure you have lots of topics to write about when you return, you know what is trending in your field while you’ve been awol, and that you’re not just dumping information. Keep to your brand, and think about how readable your articles are. Yes, I said readable. If you have giant blocks of dry text that make no sense because you were rushing to get anything on your page, people won’t read it.

Take a breath, organize your thoughts, then organize your blogs. Write a bunch of them in a day or two when you don’t usually post to practice getting back into things. You get back into your work, and you get ahead in your posting schedule. Double whammy! That being said, do you have a posting schedule? Now would be a great time to make one.

5. Be A Goal Getter.

A huge demotivator for anyone is unatainable goals. Mayhaps this is because we set end goals with high self-expectation without breaking down the little steps to get there. You have to approach your blogging like you approach any other goal. Have you ever tried to lose weight? Did it work better when you said “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” or did it work better when you said, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds, at 2 pounds a week, that would be 10 weeks”? If you chose the second option you would be correct! The first goal had no idea of timeframe which automatically puts your brain into thinking now. Sadly, this is how the world works these days. With the internet, and fast food, and streaming on the tv, everything is instantaneous; so your brain will look at that general statement and think instant results. 

To avoid another hiatus, you have to set clear goals that are well thought out and realistic. Whatever goals you have in your life, be it blogging, or losing weight, or writing a book, or winning that fly fishing tournament, make sure you have ways to measure your success. Hold yourself accountable with schedules, and analytics on your journey. It will become a second nature again in no time. 

5 Ways to Drive Website Traffic

If you’re looking at this blog and asking what it means, you should start with my What Is Website Traffic blog. But you should definitely come back here when you finish reading. The short story is that website traffic is your customer base, if you had a brick and mortar, your traffic is anyone that comes through your door. Since you have a website, your traffic is anyone that lands on your website.

I’m guessing you’re on mine because you’re looking to boost the number of people that end up on your page right? Well I’m going to tell you five free ways to do just that. There is always the option to pay for your advertising, but often times, that’s not enough. There are hundreds of things that will determine your traffic, especially the returning customers that want to make a purchase.

  1. Check Out the Competition

Did you know there are ways you can “spy” on your competitors? You can keep tabs on their blog content, their services, products; even their social media shares. Sites like BuzzSumo allow you to track what they’re up to and how their social media is performing. This will let you know what topics are hot right now, and what people are looking for.

2. Get Social

You’re watching your competition and what they’re doing on their social pages, how are yours? Do you have all the popular channels? How often do you post things, or interact with people that comment or share? These things will effect how your consumer base sees you. Positive, helpful feedback on a negative comment, or even a positive one, can go viral. There’s no quicker way to drive traffic than positive vibes. If you’re not using your platforms regularly, your fans will not care about your website. Use the tools as they were designed to be used, and often, and your followers won’t get bored.

3. Links Are Your Friend

Yes it’s great when someone else references your website with a link in their post. How often are you linking to your own content? Internal links (like the one at the start of my blog) will get people to click through your site more. One great post is great, but have you seen this other one? Now your consumers are seeing more than one snippet of your work. If it’s good, they’re more likely to check out other posts and pages. Link to your blog on your social media, send your links in your emails, and use internal links!

4. Read All About It!

How catchy are your headlines? Do some research on what draws people into an article. You could be the top search result on Google, but if your titles are boring and bland, nobody will click it. There are tricks to make your titles stand out. There’s also Clickbait-y titles. “Who is ready for a donut!?” Could really be an email for a tire company trying to get you into the shop to rotate your tires. Be creative with it.

5. Invite People!

Yes you can go head to head with your competitors, but why not invite them to guest star? Hosting guest bloggers not only gives you business connections, but it will expose you to one another’s subscribers. If your competitor has an SEO expert and you don’t, ask them to guest blog in exchange for your clean web design tips. Mutual success right there. You can also invite experts in your field to explain a topic to your audience. If you’re a writing website, invite a published novelist or a publisher to speak on your page.

These are just a few ways you can boost your traffic, but there are so many more. You can do some research, or you can follow me for more upcoming tips and tricks.

The 3 C’s of Content

No matter what your business is, your web content needs to shine a light on your company. Updated visuals like color schemes, the page design, and even your social presence are all still necessary, but without the proper copy, your website won’t get much traction. Writing good content is a crucial business skill, especially these days. In the days of quarantine, your web presence is more important than ever. While you’re unable to put on the charm face to face with your customers, you have to draw them in through your writing.

Any good blog or report or website page has a lot of moving parts, so it is often best to jot down your outline before you start writing. There are three major components you need to consider before crafting your copy – the three c’s; company, customer, and competitor.


Before you can tell the masses that you are trustworthy and your products or services are worth the purchase, you must understand who you are as a company. “Well, I’m a book publisher.” That’s great, but that’s what you do, not who you are. Without a completed sense of who you are as a company and what you stand for, you can’t confidently sell your product.

If you believe yourself to be one of the many businesses in the boat of misunderstanding, start from the very beginning. Why did you start your business venture? List the reasons why you see your company as a leader in your field, and be sure to show that in your web copy. This is a great time to perform a content audit on any existing information to make sure it’s all serving the same purpose.


The main reason you’re writing is to gain an audience. So you need to know who your audience is. Who are they? What do they need? What do they want? Look into the purchasing history of your customers, and remember they are the most important part of your business. If you have no customers, you have no business right?

Once you have the answers to these questions, research trends. That will be the map to where your audience is coming from, and where they are going to consume the most content.


An often overlooked piece to the puzzle is your competitors. This is part of that customer map we were talking about. To know where your consumers come from, you have to know who else they are consulting, aka, your competitors. If you’re selling blankets in the winter, how are you going to stand out? Look at the top results when you search your product. How are they connecting with their audience? What does their branding look like? Now, the most important question. How can you do it better?

Book Review: Undercurrent

After the great floods, the world’s coastal cities survived by building huge domes that kept them safe from the rising waters, but they couldn’t protect them from political upheaval. The Wave Party’s leader Saxon Cole is trying to wrest control of the government. A deadly explosion in the underwater city of Aquataine causes a mass evacuation to the surface, and the secretive group known as the Undercurrent suspects sabotage.

When one of the Undercurrent’s senior officers is viciously attacked for what he knows, his nephew, sixteen-year-old Phelan Maxwell, is compelled to act. But even the resourceful Phelan couldn’t have expected the adventure he was about to embark on. Ariana Torrent, the confident and smart girl he meets during the evacuation, offers her support. It’s a good thing too, because Phelan underestimates just how dangerous Cole’s men can be.

-Undercurrent, by Michael Crowl (Goodreads)

Undercurrent creates a future for the world we live in if things do not change. With so many pieces of the future unknown, it is refreshing to find a novel that shows us a future where we aren’t all turned into cyborgs and daleks. There is plenty of updated technology, but the uses aren’t to enhance people like with many futuristic sci-fi novels.

Phelan Maxwell and his friends navigate the waters of peril so elegantly in this story, that it is hard to remember they are high school students. Though they learn a lot of real world workings, and overcome many impossible obstacles, Phelan and his friends manage to save most of the underwater domed world that once was Baltimore. The question is, have they truly saved the dome? Or have they only delayed the inevitable?

Saxon Cole is not a man to be messed with lightly. If you are going to take him on, you better have a good team with a good plan. Cole knows how to conduct his business from behind the curtain when he needs to, which makes covering his tracks much simpler for him. But we know that what is simple for the villain, is not such an easy challenge for our hero. Codes and puzzles are strewn throughout this novel, keeping you on your toes as you turn every page. You never know what riddles you will encounter as you follow the team.

As Cole plans his attacks and scandals to take down the current system and overthrow the government, there are many things to take into consideration. Not only is he focused on his government campaign, which is full of lies to get the position he wants, but he attacks the city itself through his wide variety of lackies. Drug circles, fist thumping goons, and his own SWAT team of vandals, destroy the city in pieces giving him things to tidy up and look good.

Like every good novel, the main character could just ignore the issues and continue with his own life and pretend it doesn’t effect him, but the sense of duty kicks in making that choice a pointless one. Phelan meets his power trio team finds each of their individual strengths to formulate a plan to save the dome they grew up in. While motivated by the mystery shrouding his family’s past tragedy, the desire to do the right thing shines through the excellently developed characters.

This being said, am I the only one that is constantly drawn to the “sidekick”? Yes Harry Potter’s name is in the title, but I have always held Ron Weasley in high regards for his attitude and humor in even the worst situations. We follow Tris Pryor, but I prefer the bumbling Peter, partially because we don’t know what he’s going to say or do on any given page. Tyrian Lannister isn’t the main character in most stories, but he will forever be my favorite. His satirical visage just makes me smile. Destyn Albright, will forever join these ranks in my opinion, and is perhaps in the first runner up spot. Ok, he’s definitely my silver medal character. He’s hilarious and refreshing.

The book is a great read, and could easily be shleved along side series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, and The Blackthorne Key. The second book (The Rise of the Wave) is also already available, and I know for a fact a third installment into this series is in progress already.

For fun, today is Founder’s Day in Aquataine!

Join Cole’s hunt by making your own “I Am Phelan Maxwell” post!

Undercurrent by Michael Crowl / 342 pages / YA / Science Fiction / Dystopian / Coming of Age
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