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. 

How To Write : Poetic Writing

Poetic prose requires brevity, but when written well it has longevity.

Emotion and imagery, meter and rhyme. Take my advice, be a pro in no time.

Not all poetry has to rhyme, or have a certain iambic pentameter. While poetry isn’t as prominent as it once was, but it is much easier to incorporate in day to day life than you would realize once you know what to incorporate.

  1. Short and Sweet. When writing a novel, there are certain requirements on length depending on the genre you are working on. The same goes for poetry. But when you’re trying to simply be more poetic in your everyday writing, keep the “short and sweet” method in mind. Think of it like this: an unlimited character Facebook status, vs the 280 character maximum on a Tweet.
  2. Brave the Elements. Do some research in what poetic elements are out there and think about what you can incorporate. Rhyme scheme and alliteration won’t fit effortlessly into any kind of writing, but metaphors and imagery absolutely can. Think about how the structure of your writing flows too. Where lines break and how many sentences are in each paragraph can definitely change the way a piece is read.
  3. Avoid clichés. I personally hate reading the same clichés over and over. Nothing will take me out of reading something faster than seeing “think outside the box” or “keep your eye on the ball”. I’m not in a box, nor do I play sports (because I have horrible hand eye coordination). Instead, you should think about the meaning of what you’re saying. If you want someone to be creative, tell them to use their imagination. If you’re trying to up the focus, tell them to pay better attention. Simple language is better than an overused piece of filler text.

I enjoy channeling my inner Shakespeare and Dickinson when crafting something informal as a way to keep the mood light. It gives an air of humor that I quite enjoy. But the use will 100% depend on the type of writing you are working on. Think about it during your planning stages, maybe it will work, maybe it’ll stand out in your professional blog and make the reader ask why you’re baking a cherry pie with oranges. It will be your call. Choose wisely dear poet.

Spring Cleaning For Your Website

Spring is approaching, slowly for some of us, but it’s on its way none the less. Time to bust out the carpet steamers, power washers, and wash the windows. But hey, quick question. How does your website look? Just think about that while you’re ridding the spider webs from the corners in your ceilings. That’s just from one or two seasons right? How many seasons has your website been through?

First thing you should do, is look at your website storage to see how much you might NEED to sweep under the rug. If you have a lot of space left, you might not need to delete too much. But if you have an olde….more experienced site, you may have less space to post new ideas. This is when you decide if it’s time to upgrade that storage or delete a bunch of things.

Personally, when I ran a quick content audit on my website after nearly a year of being MIA, I removed 6 posts. Now how does one decide what needs to be “cleaned”? I put together a few ideas of my own for just my site.

Your website looks great now! How’s social media? Anything that links back to what you deleted? Or references something out of date? Did you change your logo? Your color theme? It’s easy to lose track of what is where and what may need to be updated. This process could take a while. It’s like a content audit really. But at least this one isn’t looking at the mechanics. Just looking at to keep or not to keep.

Got questions? Leave them in the comments below!

What is Skyscraper Content?

In Google’s webmaster guidelines, it is stated that links should be earned as the result of a grounded link building strategy. In order to “earn” your popular links, you need to make sure there is value in the work the link leads to. You need better content than your competitors, something in demand because your readers love it.

Skyscraper content comes from a strategy technique rather than just a topic. It helps you get those high ranking link placements by using insight from other high ranking content.

Step 1: Find existing content that you can make better. If there’s room for improvement, there’s room for you.

Finding popular content to make a skyscraper opportunity from can be done through keyword research, or browsing the competition. In my research, I found that a lot of people use tools like Site Explorer to do the research for them. From the results you get, you can decide which of the sites has the best content. Site Explorer has a tab to help you with this called “Best by links”. This will pull the sites with the most link authority, aiming for anything with more than 50 other sites linking back to it.

Content Explorer will help you zero in on the most mentioned keywords and phrases in your niche. It will help you search the internet for sites with lots of back links, and even gives you the filters to help you find the BEST references. (Set your “referring domains” filter to 50).

Step 2: Now that you found the content you can make better, make it better.

If you found something that has a lot of authority and knowledge to share, ask yourself if you can actually make it better. Or is this your goal? There are four key ideas to look at when you’re trying to decide if you can elevate a piece.

  • Length – Did you find a top 10 list? Cool, make it 20!
  • Up to date – How old is the article you found? Are there newer studies? Newer statistics? Is the picture showing an author with an afro and a jumpsuit? Update everything! Make sure everything you have is within 2 years of your current date. This way you stay relevant for a while longer.
  • Visual – How is the design? People say you eat with your eyes. Guess what else you do with your eyes, you read. Can you read the page well? Do the colors not match? Make sure your updated epic version is easy on the eyes.
  • Authority – If I can name 5 ways to fill out your character profile with a paragraph to detail every way, and you say I can do it in 10 ways!; I better get more than a sentence for each. Make sure you’re showing your authority and knowhow, not just getting in a size battle.

Step 3: You have knowledge, share it.

This will take a little sweet talking, but if you can swing it, it’ll be worth it. Instead of sending your piece to family and friends to share on social media, reverse the search and talk to the sites that referenced the article. If I used a guide to self publishing article from four years ago, and you found a better way to do it with more recent tools, don’t you think I should link to YOUR article?

The idea here is that you would use that Site Explorer from earlier, and search the link to the article you found. You’ll get a list of people that linked that article on their page, that maybe should link to yours instead. Reach out to them, let them know you have updated information for their post and see if they’ll send some traffic your way. Remember to point out that all it takes for them, will be updating a hyperlink in their post.

Long article short, if you find something you can make better, make sure you’re really making it better. Don’t outdo the numbers just for kicks and giggles, really aim for your value here. This is your brand. This is your business. 20% cooler is an improvement. Don’t aim for 50% better if you can’t deliver the support to back it up.

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