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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloweens Past


This was a photo moment that I'll never forget. My husband had just carved this pumpkin and set it out, when our cat, Champ, jumped onto the railing and poked his nose in to see what that other CAT was doing on his deck. Champ isn't with us anymore, but this delightful moment is, and I trot it out every Halloween to remember and enjoy.

When I debuted with my first book,  I was lucky enough to be in a group called the 2009 Debutantes. A lot of those writers had a lot of experience in promotion, something I sorely lacked. Here's one of their ideas that I took part in that October. We competed to see who could bake the best Halloween cake. Mine was a graveyard cake. I thought it was First Prize material, but I didn't win. Someone much more clever than I baked a Red Velvet Pulsing Heart Cake. I had to admit it was special and creepy. But here's my attempt. 


What do you do to celebrate the ancient holiday? Has anyone done a theme on the A to Z about Halloween? I know it's hard to think about pumpkins in April, but it might be interesting. I'm thinking ahead, you see.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Blog?

When I first started my blog, I did it just to see what blogging was. I knew so little that I fumbled around just trying to figure out how to first format it, and then second, what to put in it.
Later, when I was ready to publish my first novel, I became mercenary in my intentions. I wanted to sell books.  The blog became about selling and getting my name out into the Internet universe.
Over the last three years I’ve become more serious in my intent. I’ve discovered that blogging is truly my journal. It isn’t just about selling or getting my name out there anymore, though both of those are still very important to me.
Instead, I’ve learned a few lessons, as we all do, along the way. Like, I want feedback. I want people to read my blog because they find it interesting and/or informative enough to follow “me.” I need to express my emotions and/or thoughts sometimes, to let them breathe outside of my self.  And yes, I want people to read my novels, to be curious as to where my ideas come from, or where they can find out more about a certain subject I’ve written about, perhaps the real life aspect of an issue. But most of all I’ve found I love blogging. I didn’t think I would so much, but I do.
Below is a link to an article on blogging that seemed to hit my nail right on the head.
Why are you a blogger?

Lisa Buie-Collard is an new member of the A to Z Team and is excited about all she's learning "behind the scenes." She posts on her blog which can be found through the link on

Image from:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blogging Under the Influence

A lot of the decisions we make for our blogs are based on the views, interests and behaviors of outside forces, whether we realize it or not. These forces are influential in almost everything bloggers do -- from the design of our blogs to the frequency of posts we make and maybe even the platforms we choose to use. Here are some factors that play a part in our habit of blogging under the influence of our immediate and distant surroundings.

The Personal Interests behind your Blogging
A person’s favorite colors, bands, hobbies, foods and the like are all personal interests that can have an impact on how he or she blogs. It is worth considering the possibility that incorporating blogging elements based on the things, people and places you love tends to give your blog more personality and make you more relatable to readers. The design of our dear late great Tina Downey’s Life is Good blog has sunflowers and flamingos on display, as they are among the greatest forms of living organisms she favored most. This is an example of how bloggers make a blog their own while also creating a way for visitors to familiarize themselves with the space and person behind it, even before reading a single word that we write.

Your Blog Visitors and Readers
The people who visit, read and comment on our blogs also influence how we manage our little corners of the online world. Chances are slim that posts will be frequent if you don’t think anyone is reading your blog. On the flipside, you might be more likely to keep a consistent blogging schedule or at least post more often if there are people visiting your posts to discuss whatever you have presented to them. Our readers also impact the topics that we blog about and how we deliver this information. When similar questions related to the A-to-Z Challenge arose among various participants – such as categories and Adult Content, some A-to-Z Challenge Co-Hosts centered our blog posts on subject matters that addressed these concerns.

The Topic(s) You Blog About
If your blog focuses on a certain topic (writing, fitness, books, music, food, art, etc.), or several thereof, this tends to influence other elements of your blogging – from the fonts and colors that you use to the overall tone of the blog. For example, the dark background and glowing text on Jeremy Hawkins’ Being Retro blog is very reminiscent of Halloween and other creepy cool stuff. This works well for his blog because he writes about zombies, comics and monsters. The same type of color and font choices would likely be off-putting for a blogger who wrote about…say…bird-watching or the history of Jamaicans in the Olympics.

Your Favorite Blogger(s)
Anyone who has been blogging for a while knows there are times when we make decisions for our blogs based on what someone else is doing with his or her blog. Have you ever noticed a layout, style, social media button, sharing banner, design or blog post topic on another blog and then adapted that very same thing for your own, because you liked it so much? Sometimes our favorite bloggers that we look up to (or we think are just doing it right) inspire us to make changes or updates to our blog that wouldn’t have even been considered if they didn't do it first.

Anyone who has participated in the A-to-Z Challenge after seeing other bloggers they know signing up is a prime example of others in the blogosphere having influence on when and how you blog. If you've ever written a blog post in response to another blogger, that right there shows that someone else had an impact on your blogging decisions. A few years ago, one of my blog friends posted photos of his movie collection and invited readers to do the same with an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” persuasion. Welcoming the invitation, I not only posted a photo of my messy batch of VHS tapes and DVDs but I also took the subject matter a bit further, responding to his original post by blogging about My Top Ten Independent Films. This is an example of how our favorite blogger(s) can influence the topics of the next blog post we make.

Statistics and Trends in the Blogosphere
Common technical and behavioral factors such as turning Word Verification on (or off), having music on auto-play, responding to comments and page-load times are things that affect our blogging decisions. Knowing that people are less likely to return visit or comment on your blog if it requires them to sign into Facebook or perform some other annoying task, will determine the features that you choose to implement for readers. Bloggers who place importance on engagement and interacting with their readers will be mindful of the trends that work against their blogging goals versus those that help them. The flipside of that would be bloggers who place their own interests above the visitors, and thus, would only receive a smaller sector of visitors who are members of whatever platform they limit the blog to.

What influences YOUR blogging decisions the most?

Are there any other influential factors that YOU think play a part in how someone blogs?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers discusses the misadventures in cinema at The Madlab Post. She is currently supporting the American Red Cross and chatting with funny folks on @MadlabPost on Twitter.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - 90's Pop Culture with Nicki Elson

Today we welcome extra hip author, Nicki Elson!

Your theme was 90's Pop Culture Favorites – what made you choose that theme?

I firmly beleive that the 80s were, like, the best decade ever, and as a result, I don't typically give the 90s their due. But when I think about it, the 90s contributed a lot of pop culture that I still enjoy today, so my theme for this year's A to Z was a way to give tribute to a decade I tend to underrecognize.

Which letter was your favorite?

S: Sex and the City. I know that's way girly to say, but I just loved that show (and the first movie. I'm still pretending the second one doesn't exist). That self-deprecating humor and camaraderie between women as they navigated treacherous romantic waters pushed all the right buttons with me. And ahhh, Mr. Big---has there ever been a more intriguing love interest? Not for me.

Which letter was the most challenging?

Probably the same letter most people have trouble with---X. I had to resort to naming a show I hadn't actually you've diligently noted below. *ahem*

What pop culture things did you leave out for lack of room?

Wellll, these were left out more to protect my street cred than for lack of room: Blue's Clues, Arthur (the aardvark, not the drunk) and Thomas the Tank Engine. I had wee ones about the house in the late 90s and was surprised to feel a bit melancholy when they stopped chain-watching these shows in the aughties.

What music from the 90’s still tops your chart?

Smashing Pumpkins. Those guys still rock.

Do you still go all Martha Stewart sometimes, like at Christmas?

Who told you I was ever Martha Stewartish? Oh, right, I did. *sigh* I think that exquisitely decorated ship has sailed for me. Every year I take out fewer and fewer holiday decorations and give another box full of them to Goodwill. Though this reminds me---I should probably set out a couple ceramic pumpkins or they'll take away my Suburban Mother Card.

Your choice for X was The X-Files – have you finally started watching the show?

Look, I've been really busy...Netflixing How I Met Your Mother. I don't know how I completely missed that show until now! Anyhow, I'll have an opening once I finish that, and it looks like The X-Files just moved to the top of my list. ;) Thanks for the warning about the last season.

What theme are you considering for the Challenge next year?

I have a chick-lit set in Chicago that's slated to release next spring, so I've been thinking about a "Cool Places in Chicago" theme to highlight interesting spots in the city that the average visitor might not know about. It's a great city, so those would be fun posts to put together. And fun is what it's all about, right?

Thanks so much for inviting me over!

Nicki, thanks for visiting, and looking forward to a tour of Chicago next year!

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, October 24, 2014

Characters Who Blog

It's the final countdown to Halloween, T minus seven days. I'm new to the A to Z team, so you won't yet have become familiar with obsession with holidays (but stick around, you'll see). I love getting into the spooky spirit, so in honor of the upcoming holiday I started reading one of my very favorite Gothic novels, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's the perfect story for this time of year when the days get shorter and the characters get more and more terrifying. 

And speaking of characters, as I read along I couldn't help but wonder what Dr. Frankenstein would be like. Would he be a cool guy to catch a movie with? Grab a drink? I imagine his stories would be . . . interesting to say the least. And if he had a blog, well, just imagine what that would look like. I did. And now for my second 'Characters Who Blog' post, I give you: 

I hope you enjoyed this post and it helped get you pumped for a spooky and spectacular Halloween! Muah-ha ha ha ha . . . 

A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy can be found blogging at Pensuasion