On Blog Hops and Challenges

April is shaping up to be a slightly above average month. It’s not fabulous, and it’s not dismal… just slightly above average.

I’m doing the A-to-Z challenge this month, which, all things considered, is not all that much of a challenge, since I make blogging a part of my daily routine, anyway. My theme is the letter M. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. The general idea is that each day, there’s a post with a different letter of the alphabet, and also an M. It’s not a bad idea. It keeps me from settling into the familiar, and I’m learning new things, mostly by diving into wikipedia at the last moment and searching for something—anything–that fits the theme.

I started the month with a modest spike in traffic. Several days a little bit higher than I usually get. And now, that seems to have trailed off.

The past couple of days, I’ve actually been lower than usual. That may be that my readers don’t really want to hear about basketball or physics, and it may be the fact that tracking down those subjects took me longer, so the posts weren’t out anywhere close to my usual time. I’m not sure.

I’m expecting another spike at the end of the week, when I do the StoryTime blog hop. Which, by the way, I’ve worked out a way to fit into the A-to-Z challenge. (So much easier when you get to make things up! Thank you, fiction!)

So, all in all, April will wind up being slightly above average. I’m not knocking it.

The thing is… I’m not sure to what extent it’s the challenge or the hop, itself that drives the numbers. I’m starting to think it may be the interaction, the going out and meeting people. The enthusiasm for it. The sheer convenience of having people listed in one neat, orderly place.

I wind up with good results, whenever I’m out there, starting conversations. But when I do it on my own, I’m looking for people I have a lot in common with, instead of just working down a list.

And I’m usually working on my own blogging platform, so it’s easier for people to follow me and interact than it is when I’m on somebody else’s list. (No, I don’t know whether that’s a good thing in the long run. From time to time, I’ve thought about running a mirrored site, so that one or two of the other platforms get in on it. I don’t know.)

So, I’m thinking about what my next steps should be, and honestly, I think they’re going to be more seeking out people than blog hops or blogging challenges. I know I need to get out there more often.

What do you think? How have you grown your websites and blogs?

Blogging Ahead

So, in order to get some blog posts queued up and ready to go on the days when I’ll be at the Fabulous Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, I’m taking a quick peek at the A-to-Z Challenge schedule, and I find that if I include travel time, I’ll need posts V-Z while I’m there, and also one more post for the 1st of May.

April 26th also happens to be the StoryTime Blog hop, which means that letter V will have to be a short story in a sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction vein. It doesn’t necessarily have to be aimed at children, but it probably does have to avoid sex, violence, and language.

And I believe the theme for my alphabet challenge would be the letter M.

I don’t have the faintest idea what I was thinking.

Oh, well. Too late for buyer’s remorse, now.

The thing is, If I start early and stay ahead of it, I may be able to cram just about anything into my letter M theme.  If I slip behind, it’s going to take more and more time to find today’s appropriate letter. (As opposed to “hey, I can throw that over here.”)

The process might get me ahead of schedule for good.

The Great Theme Reveal

Anybody who’s read this blog for long knows I’m not much of a “theme” person. I have to drag themes kicking and screaming out of my novels, and most of the time, I have no particular desire to build or work with a theme. I’m not someone your tenth-grade English teacher would like. My tenth-grade English teacher(s) spent the entire year hinting about ways to do drugs in class, on the premise that stoned might be an improvement, and ultimately wound up being sainted for not killing me in my sleep.

At any rate, my theme for last year’s A-to-Z Challenge was a Fly-By-The-Seat-of-Your-Pants stroke of brilliance: Whatever the hell happens to pop into my head. It worked well enough. I made it through.

This year, I thought about doing an upbeat complicated relationships thing, because that always seems to work its way into my stories, but let’s be honest, I’m not really sure all my readers are up for a recitation of A-to-Z relationships, and quite frankly, it would almost certainly devolve into a list of rare and exotic paraphilias. Why no… I just needed something that started with the letter U. Why do you ask?

That could sure get thorny fast.

Do I really need a theme?

Okay, so the one that finally popped into my head was…

Words that begin with the letter M.

That doesn’t seem so unreasonable. I’ll need to add words that don’t begin with the letter M to make it fit the challenge, but with some effort, I think I can make it work.

Words that begin with the letter M it is, then.

If you want to join in the challenge, all the details are here.  Let me know if you’re playing along.

StoryTime Blog Hop: An Invitation

The StoryTime Blog Hop is a hop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative fiction writers to show off their short stories. While it’s not specifically aimed at children, we do avoid adult content for this one. The amazing Juneta Key has been suckered into hosting graciously volunteered to host this month’s hop yet again, and she’s inviting anyone who has a short story that fits the bill to join in.

If you are interested in participating, the rules and deadlines are here: http://www.junetakey.com/posts/rules-guidelines-storytime-blog-hop/

If you’re still not sure what this is all about, I have links to some of the past stories, including my own StoryTime contributions here: StoryTime links so you’ll be able to read what people have done in the past. (It’s possible that needs updating. I’ll look into it.)

We’re also looking into a stand-alone StoryTime website, and some great ideas for promoting and growing the blog hop, so be sure you join in the conversation.

That Morning Non-Routine

I am awake and staring at a blinking cursor. I’ve had breakfast, and I’ve remembered to put my laundry in the clothes dryer so it will be dry in time for me to go to work. I have checked in on the giraffe that is supposed to be having a baby, live-streamed from the whichever zoo it is. (No baby.)

This is what happens, by the way, when people inform the older generation about live streaming video… hundreds of hours of giraffe. Now live in a computer near me.

I have checked in on the forum where I’m a moderator, and answered a couple of questions. This is one of my bigger morning activities. Something I really do need to do on a regular basis. It’s a good forum. One of the best I’ve seen for writers.

And I have checked the news, the email, and a couple of ads, featuring things I didn’t know existed, but now desperately want. Especially at the fabulous prices listed. Closing and deleting.

Part of this is, of course, that I get up early. It was before 3 this morning, when I finally decided it was time to give up on that last chunk of sleep. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that, or to the idea that sleeping til 5 is “sleeping in.” I’m sitting under an electric light, pretending that it is not completely dark outside, and more or less bracing for the day.

If I had my creative, write when I feel like it choice, I’d probably be writing all night, and then going to bed… well, right about now. Last night, I wrote until that MUST be in bed moment, and then finally did go to sleep.

Things to See and Do in the Cybersphere

Holly Lisle is bringing back her  How To Think Sideways course, starting right now. It’s a comprehensive course on how to write a novel, from the idea to–well, dropping it in the mailbox, if you’re publishing traditionally, and publishing, if you’re going the indie route. It also–and this was the tipping point for me–comes with access to Holly’s forums, which are some of the nicest, most supportive, and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. It’s a good community.

I happen to be a moderator over there, so be sure you say hi, when you’re there. Yeah, mostly, it means I answer questions, but sometimes I also get to be moderate.

This month, Juneta Key is hosting the StoryTime Blog Hop. The basic rules are:

 

  • Short Story/Flash Fiction up 1000 words
  • (PG RATED–No Violence, Erotica or Foul Language)
  • Genre:      GENERAL Speculative Fiction
  • DEADLINE JANUARY 20TH, 2017 (Get your links to Juneta by then.)
  • MUST DO:  Pre-schedule post to Go Live with other participants.  Failure to do this may cause your link to be removed from the lineup of story participants when the rest of the links are live on the day.  Info for pre-scheduling here (required). 

The stories don’t have to be for children, but as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t use anything that will make the children’s authors in the hop put a bag over their heads.

I’m still chugging away at the 52 Week Writing Challenge.  One of my good influences just dropped out because of a family thing, though, so if you wanna join in, and be my new icon of writerly virtue, there’s an opening. Or, you know, if you want to join in and be a bad influence, or just write quietly in the corner. Plenty of space for everyone, and only a week in.

 

 

Glitches, Progress Reports, and The Dreaded Day Job

For some reason, the blog hasn’t been automatically approving comments. All the right check boxes are checked, and some of the “please moderate” comments are definitely from people I know, and who comment all the time, but… they’re still getting flagged. I’m working on that.

I’m adding two new pages, today. The first one is an accountability/progress report for my 52 week 52 short story challenge. It has a space for every week in the year. So far, I’ve filled in two titles, and the first one probably doesn’t really count. I don’t know if it’s going to be of interest to anyone but me, but you’re welcome to  take a look and either cheer me on or give me that kick in the ass, depending on where I am.

The second page is My Writer Scout Sash. I despise that cluttered, everything and the kitchen sink look that some blogs get. And yet, I’m gradually increasing my collection of snazzy web-badges from the various events and groups I play with on line. So, my not quite regulation solution? Writer Scout Sash. A page where I can put them all, to remind myself of my accomplishments, and all the fun I’m having, but where no one else has to trip over them.

Also, some of my feeds have been picking up the wrong picture to go with the posts–or whatever picture’s available, when I don’t have a featured image–and that’s probably not a good thing. I’m contaminating brands! Worse than that, ones that don’t even belong to me. Well, this will fix that.

The Day Job is still going. The Good News is that we have a new person… and it’s not even a new hire. It’s a reliable, been-there-forever transfer.  The Bad News is that there’s already an office pool on how long it will take New Person and Supervisor Person to tear each others’ throats out.

There is no wagering on who will win said confrontation. No one will take that bet. The answer is New Person.

That Edge-of-Your-Seat 2016 Recap and Statistics

2016 was the year I started posting regularly on ReprobateTypewriter.com.

Posting regularly was a new thing for me, and I didn’t really start until April, when I did the A-t0-Z Challenge. I’m going to be up front about it, and say that part of my discipline for finally putting my butt in my chair and doing it was that after my sister died, getting up and doing a blog post every day was more or less the only solid thing I could think of. I didn’t do it because I believed it would actually result in anything.

So, here are my results. The interesting ones, anyway. I had 758 views in 2015. In 2016, I had 5,683. In July and December of 2016, I had more views than I did in the entire year of 2015. If I follow this rate of growth out through 2017, I wind up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 43,000 views. I’m not sure if that’s a practical goal, or not. Still distancing myself from that, a little bit.

I did the StoryTime Blog Hop Four times, the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and NaNoWriMo in November. (And theoretically camp nano, but it got swallowed. Life.) Then, I did the Nano Blog Hop. I’ve also become a regular at the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. So, much more social than I have been in the past.

Oh, and look at me. I have followers. I’m not filling sold-out arenas, just yet, but there are more people following this blog than in my first school. Including the teachers.

My top pages for 2016 (not including my home page or stuff like “about me”) included a few of my short stories:

And the Storytime Blog Hop Page.

Over all, I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten. Among other things, I’ve started to see growth as something that can be measured in years, instead of centuries, and progress as being a realistic, and possible goal.

So, how has your path been?

And Medium Sent Me 2016 Statistics

Today I got a year-end email from Medium, informing me that I’m in the top 10% of readers and writers (whatever that means) on their website. That surprised me, since I’d hardly consider myself a power user. Most of the attention I get seems to be for non-fiction, and more specifically, for responses to other peoples’ writing. Oh, I export some of my stories from here to there, but in general, the response isn’t all that much.

Top 10%?

I can’t decide if that means I’m making progress. It might just mean the platform is dying, and I’m the only one left. Or it might mean the platform is still growing, and that I have a chance of growing with it.

The email broke down the more flattering statistics on my “stories” which means fiction and non-fiction. Not everything I’ve put there. 4 out of 8 pieces I think; possibly not including responses. 184 people have read things I wrote on Medium. Huh. Just guessing I’m more on the top reader end of things, with 1,034 minutes spent reading. 3 minutes a day? No, that seems wrong, too.

Super-secret algorithm, I guess. I’m winning. Why would I doubt it?

Medium hasn’t sent any readers to ReprobateTypewriter.com. (I checked.) And the link from ReprobateTypewriter.com has sent two whole readers Medium-ward. It’s not a frenzy of activity. But then, again, I haven’t really focused on Medium the way I have on Twitter, or on my own website.

Part of it is that my relationship to Medium just hasn’t clicked, yet. I don’t know where it fits into the rest of what I’m doing online. I don’t know whether I should just import stories, and basically turn it into a mirror of Reprobate Typewriter, or if I should use it as a more specialized off-shoot. Somewhere to put the political rants, and the over-sexed pieces that might stir up more debate than I want to bring home.

I envision it as being–in a way–a much broader audience than I have here. A place for my thoughts on education, and presumptive paternity, and communication in general. Did you really want to hear a rant on paternity being contractual? What about sex-ed and consent? You know. That kind of thing… Over there.

I have a few drafts. Most of them are responses to other people. The others are a little more soap-boxy than I’d usually put here on Reprobate Typewriter. I’ve written a few things… and then my self-censoring mechanism kicks in. Most of the time. And I don’t push the publish button.

I haven’t spent much time on Medium. Not working on my own things. Not promoting them. Almost all of the time is reading time.

Four stories, and ten or fifteen minutes reading over my lunch hour a couple of times a week. I’m really not sure what to do with that information, either.

I really like Medium. I like reading on it. I like the things I find there. I just… haven’t gotten to the point where I completely see it as a place to be a writer. I talk to people there… but if I want to tell a story about dragons, I usually put it here.

What about you? Do you ever use Medium? Tips? Hints? And if you do… have you ever thought about starting a publication?

What My Friends Are Up To

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post with links to fun and exciting things on the internet. So…

My friend Juneta Key (From Holly’s Writing Classes, From the StoryTime Blog Hop, IWSG, and just about everywhere else) has a guest post on Christine Rains’ blog What Makes Good-Flash Fiction And I’m blushing a little, because she recommends one of my stories as an example!

And as it happens, my new friend Christine Rains has a guest post on Juneta Key’s website about where she lives, and some of the animal totems she lives with. If you’re curious about other writers’ spaces, Christine’s Post shows some of her home and life.

Juneta is also the Advent Calendar post of the day. Yes, I’m pretty sure someday we’ll find out the entire internet is powered by Juneta’s spare energy. Go check out her Christmas story Wild Magic.

AJ Mullican–I think I just met her through the nano hop–is holding a Q&A in character as Clare from her dystopian. a post in character as Clare from her dystopian. It sounds like a fun idea, so I’m passing along the link. It reminds me of the Valentines’ party I went to with one of my characters this year.

Marquessa Mathews from Simply Marquessa is taking a different approach to her New Year’s goals–52 of them in 52 weeks!–and she talks about that here, and gives several links to other websites dedicated to this challenge. I’m thinking about joining in, but no commitments, yet. Stick around and look at some of her amazing travel photos.