Eight Things I’ve learned about blogging

I celebrated my first blog-iversary yesterday. (Isn’t that the coolest word my fellow WANAmate, Liv Rancourt, made up?)

Today I want to talk about eight things I’ve learned about blogging over the last year.

1.   You don’t have to be an expert on something to blog.

Be yourself.

Write as if you’re sitting on the front porch talking to your best friend.

2.   Blog often.

It’s a cliché, but blogging is like gardening. Think of your blog as a plant in that garden.

For a garden to thrive, you must tend to the plants daily. And water.

If you only water a plant once every two weeks, it will shrivel. Unless, of course, your garden is a cactus garden and then maybe water once a month will work.

It doesn’t work for blogging.

A blog needs lots of consistent attention to thrive and grow.

3.   Change things up.

Unless your blog has a very specific target market, offer a smorgasbord of content.

But maintain consistency. If you normally blog on Mondays, don’t skip.

Your readers expect certain things on certain days.

For example, guest blogger posts from Chicken Wrangler Sara about life on the Miller Farm on Fridays.

4.   Try your best to spell words correctly and use proper grammar.

I have misspelled words and posted typos over the course of the past year. Not on purpose, though. I happen to be my own worst copyeditor.

I’m never offended when someone catches a mistake. You shouldn’t be either.

I thank them profusely and sing praises for the day they were born.

That’s the beauty of electronic publishing. Mistakes are easily fixed.

WordPress provides a handy button called edit for fixing the mistakes when a reader emails alerting me to a typo.

5.   When writer’s block happens, push through and blog anyway.

Sometimes the muse hides and no amount of pressure can coax her out of hiding. A what am I going to blog about? panic creeps in.

You can’t let it stop you from blogging.

Grab a chocolate bar or a handful of M&Ms. (It helps!)

Then head over to YouTube and do a topic or word search.

Or do a Google topic or word search for graphic images.

No words necessary when you post videos or graphic images.  

That’s what I do and those posts prove to be some of my most popular blogs.

6.   Let your topics set themselves naturally.

I’m talking about the writer’s pantster vs plotter argument for bloggers.

I started out with a plan for what topics to post on what day. (I tend to be a little on the OCD side that way.)

Didn’t work.

Instead I’ve discover I’m most comfortable rambling about the same things I’d talk to my friend about. (See #1 above)

7.   Treasure every person who takes time out of his or her day to stop by your blog.

Respond to their comments.

Acknowledge their tweets or FB comment about your blog post.

Tell ‘em you love ‘em. Regularly.

8.   Relax and have fun.

It isn’t only about vast numbers of readership.

Whether you have a small group of regular readers or zillions, I found that if you blog like nobody’s watchin’ (kinda like dancing like nobody’s watchin’) – you really can’t go wrong!

me blogging-webpage

Me blogging when I THOUGHT no one was watching except Toby. He’s the humpback whale looking object reflected in the mirror.

Now you go blog and join the fun.

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Blog Anniversary

1 Year Blog Anniversary

WordPress.com dates my blog origin from its creation, but I count the first blog I published as the beginning.

That was February 24, 2012, which makes today, February 24 2013, my one year blog anniversary. HAPPY FIRST BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY to me.

It’s been a fun year.

Anniversaries mark accomplishments. Today I’m celebrating 4,200 views, 425 comments, twenty shares, and many blog friends.

My original plan was to blog every day. I managed less than one hundred. You can read that very first blog, here.

No procrastination for me next year, I plan to double the number of posts, which, I hope, will mean more comments and followers.

As a special thank you for sharing in my successes, I’m offering a FREE Kindle or Nook copy of THE PENDANT’S PROMISE to one lucky commenter today.

The book blurb:

For twenty years, Lily Johnson’s life, albeit a life of lies, is good. Then her daughter falls in love and her world is turned upside down.

Her daughter’s fiancé turns out to be the godson of her daughter’s biological father–the Green Beret Lily thought died in Vietnam.

When they meet face-to-face, the years melt away and old passion returns. Only he believes she betrayed her promise to wait for him. And, Lily’s convinced revealing the truth would mean losing her daughter and the only man she’s ever loved.

Can the smoldering flame of love be re-ignited, or have there been too many lies?

The winner will be drawn on Monday, February 25th and notified by email so be sure you include an email contact with your comment.

Thanks for visiting the front porch during the past year. I hope to see you again next year.

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Chicken Slumber Party

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I have previously mentioned how the adolescent roosters resemble adolescent boys, i.e. chest bumping.

Now that the roosters are no longer around, I have noticed how much the hens resemble adolescent girls. 

Without the imminent danger of the roosters forcing them to band together in self-defense, the hens are now picking on each other. The “pecking order” phenomenon is especially observable at bedtime when each hen has her spot on the roost.

However, I have seen some of the older hens chasing the younger ones around the chicken yard. This usually happens after I have thrown some kind of food.hens2

 

I keep telling them “Be nice to each other. You are all you have.” 

They aren’t listening – any more than adolescent girls listen.

Last night the hens were making all kinds of racket. Rachel, who had shut the coop door, was concerned that something was posing a threat. 

The sounds were reminiscent of the possum ordeal so I walked out with the flashlight.

The minute the chickens spotted me, they got quiet.

It reminded me of a girls’ slumber party. All manner of noise comes from the room, but as soon as mom enters – silence.

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With the hens, I could at least go back inside knowing they were safe. You never know what girls at a slumber party are going to do.

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Do you use weak passwords on-line?

A weak password is one way your computer can be compromised according to computer security experts at Webroot.   

I taught computer literacy for nine years. Computer and internet security was one component of that class. I use what I considered strong passwords.

Yet my email account was recently hacked. It was embarrassing and annoying, but at least I was in good company.

Six e-mail accounts belonging to members of the Bush family were recently hacked with some of the contents posted online. For the full account, read here.

After the Bush episode, most computer users recognize that hacking could happen to ALL of us. After personally being hacked, I am more convinced than ever that no one is immune to a hacker.

If you have weak passwords, you are at even higher risk. I offer these tips to making your password stronger.

  • AVOID dictionary words.

Password cracking programs contain a dictionary filled with commonly used dictionary words which means your Harriedme201 is crackable in mere seconds.

  • AVOID names.

All of us like to use pet names, favorite book characters, actors or actresses names, or names of places we’ve been. Hackers always look for these. Again easily crackable.

  • AVOID using any part of your email account as a password.

This is a hard one to follow because, as professional writers, we all want name recognition. What better way than using our name at our namewebsite.com  as our email address. Experts tell us we are asking for trouble without a strong password.

Wt4e-79P-B13^qS  is an example of a strong password.  So how do you create a STRONG password?

  • USE a minimum of 10 characters in your password. Best are passwords with more than 15 characters. Why? The more letters the harder to crack.
  • USE uppercase, lower case letter, numbers, and special characters randomly throughout your password. Be creative. Don’t substitute obvious symbols for obvious letters, i.e. 1 or ! for the letter L, @ for A, etc.

Here’s a chart of useable special characters acceptable for password use.

keyboard-signs

You can also use emoticons smiley faces such as these to create a strong password:

keyboard-smileyfaces

For more ways to change your weak password, check out this site.

Once you have your strong password, follow these suggestions:

  • USE a unique password for each site you visit. It’s a daunting task-creating and memorizing multiple passwords. However, it is the smartest way to avoid being hacked.
  • CHANGE your password at least twice a year. Better: change it every 45 to 90 days.
  • GUARD your passwords. You can use password programs or create your own method, but decide how you’re going to keep up with your passwords and begin keeping track.

Edie Melson has some excellent ideas for safeguarding your passwords. Check out her blog here.

Will using a strong passward prevent hacking of your accounts? Maybe, maybe not, but following these tips can’t hurt.

YOUR TURN: Are you using a weak password?

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Advantages to Raising Chickens

A guest blog from Chicken Wrangler Sara

There are advantages to raising chickens. They get food and water and sometimes grass, and they are happy.

hens2

Humans, on the other hand, need many things.

Last Wednesday proved the last. It’s my usual my day to clean the bathrooms and mop the kitchen floor, but that didn’t happen for three reasons.

  1. Beekeeper Brian called at 8:30 to ask if I could bring him his ID, which he had left on the dresser. Not a problem – I had something to drop off near his school anyway.
  2. Then Rachel texted and asked if I could meet her at the band hall at 10:50 with her jacket. OK, I could still get some things done at the house between taking the ID and taking the jacket.
  3. Then Matthew texted – “Can you go by Thorn (music store) and pick up some drum sticks?” By this time, I was a little frustrated so I told him I would have to see.

After a bit of thougt, I decided taking care of family was more important than a clean bathroom.

As I left the house to make the deliveries, a woman was putting a flyer on my mailbox for a maid service. Rather ironic, it seemed to me considering I really wanted to be at home cleaning house myself.

Instead, I was off delivering things to my humans…

Beekeeper Brian his ID,
Rachel her jacket,
and drumsticks to Matt.

This morning as I fed the chickens I thought about how simple it was to take care of them.

Chickens don’t need IDs.
Chickens don’t need jackets.
Chickens don’t need drumsticks – they already have them.

However, not one of those chickens said “thanks, sweetheart” or ‘Mom, you’re the greatest.”

I realized while there are advantages to raising chickens, they do not outweigh the advantages of raising a family.

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Love words are in the air today – Ten quotes you can use

I hope you read my Valentine blog on Monday and you have already gifted your someone special with a homemade valentine today.

In case you need some love words to use before the day is gone, here are ten of my favorite Valentine quotes.

• I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame of that heats our soul, energizes our spirit, and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other. -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, The Wheel of Life

• “kisses are a better fate than wisdom.” -e.e. Cummings
(I love any of e.e. Cummings words. I mostly love that he doesn’t capitalize.)

• “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” -Robert Browning

• “A bell is no bell ’til you ring it,
A song is no song ’til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love
‘Til you give it away.”
-Oscar Hammerstein, “You Are Sixteen” from the film Sound of Music

• “For twas not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
Twas not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” -Judy Garland

• “True love never lives happily ever after – true love has no ending.” -K Knight

• “Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice.” -Nora Roberts

• “For you see, each day I love you more. Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” -Rosemonde Gerard

• “Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds hearts together.” -Unknown

Lastly, no blog on love words would be complete without the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love Thee?”

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Valentines are the Mirror of Romance

As a romance writer, I love February 14th. St. Valentine’s Day is THE romance day of the year. To me, valentines are the mirror of romance.

According to legend, Saint Valentine was a real priest who lived in 270 A.D. He provided Christians with sacraments outlawed by the Roman Empire such as marriage.

Saint Valentine is also said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.”

And thus began our custom of giving cards and reminders to loved ones on February 14th. Today, the Greeting Card Association estimates one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.

The first mass-produced valentines appeared in the 1840s. Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” used “scrap” to make elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester holds a large collection of her valentines.

If you read my blog often, you might remember that I have an ephermal holiday post card collection. I shared some of my Thanksgiving cards. Here are my favorite Valentines. While not as elaborate as Ms. Howland’s, I love the way these cards speak of romance.

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Valentines tell others of our love. Homemade valentines are extra special. I found this wonderful site, www.neoformix.com  where you can create your own heart-shaped tokens of love.

screen shot heart site-1

If you’d like to create heart-shaped design with special words, click on the heart to go to the site. You have time to come up with the perfect token of your love.

YOUR TURN: How will you show someone you love them today?

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