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Monday, February 29, 2016

#atozchallenge Blog Check Up in 7 Steps

       Here's some good words of advice from one of Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassadors team.  

Blog Check Up in 7 Steps
Guest post by J Lenni Dorner
The April A to Z Challenge is fast approaching. Time to do a Blog Check Up! I've encountered many blogs that need a few minutes of tender loving care. Here's a seven-step checklist to help you:
Step 1- Using a computer (not a phone or tablet), surf to your webpage. Not your admin area, but the page that the public sees. Do you like the way it looks? If not, note what you want to change. Use the A to Z list to surf to three other blogs (any random three), then surf back to your own. Do you still like how it looks? (This is a color test.)
Step 2- Click on your links. Does your Twitter icon go to your Twitter page? (As opposed to going to "https://twitter.com/http://twitter.com/username" If you think I made that example up, you haven't clicked on as many Twitter icons as I have. I found that error 42 times last year.) Check your Facebook link, Pinterest link, Instagram link, etc.
Step 3- Even though I just discussed clicking your links, I'm going to make this a step onto itself. Check your Goodreads icon. (Skip this step if you don't use Goodreads.) People come to your blog to connect with YOU. If you have a Goodreads icon and it goes to Goodreads.com instead of to your Goodreads profile, that isn't helping you or your blog. (Unless, perhaps, you're getting paid for that click.)

I see many people making this mistake. Go to https://www.goodreads.com/user/edit and click on Widgets. There you will find pre-written code that will link your guests to you. It gives you various options to suit your needs.
Step 4- Can your blog be followed? You just joined a massive blog hop. A majority of bloggers who make this commitment do so because they want to be found, heard, and followed. The marketing blogs will tell you to create an email list for your blog army. That's certainly good advice.

I'm going to toss in that you should offer at least one other method. Why? Because some people will visit over 300 blogs in April. They do not necessarily want 300 new emails a day, a week, or a month. However, those same people might follow your blog with services such as:
·         BlogLovin'
·         LinkyFollowers
·         Networked Blogs (limit of 200 blogs that a person can follow, requires Facebook)
·         Google Friend Connect (only on Blogger, possibly being phased out)
·         Wordpress Reader (only those with a Wordpress account can use)
·         RSS feeds (several options for those people who use that service, but must be set up correctly)
Step 5- Site rating. Look over your blog posts. If you have adult material, you need to note this up front. Most importantly, you NEED to have an AC label on your link at the challenge sign up page OR YOU WILL BE REMOVED.

What is adult content?
·         Excessive Violence — If your blog reads like a how-to guide for Hannibal Lecter, you have excessive violence. If you've written the A to Z guide of how to beat up anyone, make bombs, and kill without detection, you have excessive violence.
·         Nudity for sexual purposes — If you write erotica, you have adult content. This gets tricky with art blogs. If you fall into a gray area, ask the challenge hosts for a ruling before April.
·         Strong and frequent harsh language — If the F word is being used as a verb, or it is used more than three times in a blog post, that is considered adult content. If your every blog post drops at least three curse words, that is adult content.
Adult Content blogs are not written for children. The purpose of the rating is to protect the young and those sensitive to such topics. Those people are not the core audience for such blogs, would not follow such blogs, and possibly present legal trouble if they land on adult blogs. The hosts and their volunteer teams take on the responsibility of keeping the challenge safe and legal for everyone. Please be respectful of this.
Step 6- Check your site on a mobile version (smartphone, some tablets). Can people still access your social media? (If that's important to you.) Do you like the look of your blog?
Step 7- Is your blog a blog? There's always someone trying to get their "click to buy sunglasses" site in the linky. Guess what? They get removed. The difference between a selling website and a blog that has some items for sale is all about content. There must be actual posts with actual content that people want to enjoy.

There are plenty of good people who are willing to help you get your blog ready for the challenge. This is the time and place to ask.

J Lenni Dorner is a speculative fiction and reference guide author who blogs at: http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com
This is the fifth year that J is taking place in the A to Z Challenge, and the second year serving on Arlee's team. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

#atozchallenge Meet Your Co-Host: John Holton


John Holton (photo: Mary Holton)

This is my fifth Challenge, my second as a co-host. I started my blog, The Sound of One Hand Typing, on Wordpress in January 2012, specifically so I could participate in this Challenge. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for a while, anyway, and had in fact started several blogs in the past, all of which I was embarrassed to leave lying around. It gets its name because a stroke nine years ago deprived me of the use of my right hand, but I wasn't about to let that stop me. What encouraged me was reading about the author Walter Wager, who wrote novelizations of TV series and tie-in novels based on them. I read somewhere that Wager only had one hand, and I decided that, if he could do it, so could I.

I blog daily, which I started in July 2014. I have a few regular features, and participate in a number of blog hops I've found along the way. I'm also technically inclined, and found a way to simulcast my blog to one on Blogger, which I talked about last year. This year, I created the Challenge's Pinterest and Google+ pages. I also participate in the weekly chats on Twitter. See what happens when you retire?

You can find me at either of my blogs, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. I hope to get to know many of you during this year's Challenge! See you soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#atozchallenge Presenting Co Host Pam

Hi Readers (waving)!
I'm Pam, I'm one of the co hosts for the 2016 Blogging Team! I'm here to get to know you a little bit better. I'll share some stuff about me and then you share some stuff about you, ok?

Let's Go!


I'm the self appointed librarian of the Challenge.



If you need a book recommendation, I'll be happy to help you.  If there's research to be done, I'll do it. If there's a book to be read, I'll read it.




You see, I LOVE books. I can't get enough of books! I want all the books, all the time! I like to read them, talk about them, and blog about them. I blog at www.unconventionallibrarian.com  and I talk about books. Mostly books about diversity for children and teens.  I'm a supporter of the We Need Diverse Books movement, a judge for the CYBILS Awards, I have a column at Good Enough Mother called Moms Must Read  and I participate in many other bookish activities.  

I always have a book with me. In fact, when I'm not on the computer writing about books, I can be found reading a book.


But please, don't ever interrupt me while I'm reading a book. Emergencies like


cake (and maybe cupcakes or possibly cookies) are the only reason to interrupt me while I'm reading. 


And I don't believe in delayed gratification either; I want my cake and I want it now. And later.  In fact, I LOVE eating cake while reading a book. It's the perfect combination.

I belong to a gang. That's how hard core I am.


Ok so maybe gang is too strong a word. But I do belong to a book club (or two). Also? I love to hang out on Twitter! My handle is @Pamlovesbooks and I love making new friends, especially new Blogging from A to Z friends.

Next time you're on Twitter, give me a shout and let's be friends! It will be lots of fun to get to know each other and help each other along during the Challenge.




I look forward to getting to know you better.  I'll be waiting for you on Twitter.

Pam











Monday, February 22, 2016

#atozchallenge -- Theme Reveal Sign-up is Open!

Sign-ups for the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge are already under way. If you have done it before, you know how much fun it is (good for you!) and if you have not, this is your chance to give it a try. You can sign up to participate HERE.

One of the most burning questions participants ask themselves every year is: "Should I have a theme?" Themes are not mandatory, but definitely fun. They let your visitors know what to expect, and help you create posts that line neatly up from A to Z. They also have an added bonus – they let you participate in a whole separate blogfest!

Three years ago, A to Z participant Mina Lobo started the Theme Reveal, and we thought it was such a great idea that we made it tradition.

Here is how the Theme Reveal Blogfest works:

Sign up on the Linky List below. On Monday, March 21, reveal your theme on your blog and give us a hint of what to expect from it. Then, once your post is up, use the Linky List to visit all the other blogs announcing their themes.

This is a great opportunity for all of you to get a jump start on your A to Z experience. You can link up with fellow bloggers, scout out and bookmark themes that you look forward to, and lure in wandering participants with your awesome theme. This way, by the time the frenzied posting begins on April 1, you will already have an audience eagerly awaiting your posts.

Sign up below, ready your theme, and put March 21 on your calendar!



Friday, February 19, 2016

#atozchallenge -- Who the heck is Heather?

Hi. I'm Heather.

This will be my 6th year doing the A to Z Challenge and each year it gets more interesting.

My 3rd year I was recruited by Alex J. Cavanaugh to be a Ninja Minion and in my 4th year Alex conned me convinced me to be a co-host!

As for my posts, my 1st year (2011) I went completely random, but for the next three years my blog was taken over by the Gnome.


You may know him as Stormy the Weather Gnome.

He took a slight break last year when I hosted The Re-opening of The X-Files theme where I shared 26 days of my love for the show, old and new information, and all my memorabilia.

Is it possible that Stormy will be back this year? Only time (and glue) will tell.

You can find all my A to Z posts HERE

We hope you join us for this year's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!


Heather M. Gardner
Blog: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Twitter: @hmgardner

Facebook: HeatherWritesRomance

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

#atozchallenge -- Introducing co-host AJ Lauer

author AJ Lauer at Montserrat in Spain
Montserrat Monastery, Spain
September 2014
Hello friends! Nice to meet you!

My name is AJ Lauer. I am an author and educator living in the Front Range of Colorado, USA. This is my fifth year participating in the A-Z Challenge and my third year as a co-host. Can't believe it's been so many years already!

In general blog about whatever I want - hiking/travel, gluten-free baking, education, writing. The same goes for my A-Z themes. I've done writing prompts, 'Things That Make Me Happy', random interesting things, and last year's super-fun interactive A-Z Pick Your Plot story.

On the Challenge Team I am a scheduling master - so I help our team keep track of all the things we have going on, including posts, our own A-Z Challenge participation, and timing of other A-Z related events (Theme Reveal Day, etc). I'm also a bit of a data hound, so the participant survey you'll get at the end of the event is a care package from me - please fill it out! :)

Here are all the places you can find me. Stop by and say hello:
The blog
Goodreads
FacebookTwitter @ayjaylauerBuy my book! Armageddon: Pick Your Plot
Join my email list! New subscribers get a free ebook novella. Hooray!


Have a wonderful Challenge, everyone :)


And! Don't forget, our first A-Z Twitter chat is tomorrow, February 18! Join us at 9pm Eastern time (USA) at #azchat. Co-hosts will be around to answer questions and share in general excitement. See you there!

Monday, February 15, 2016

#atozchallenge -- Meet your co-host: Csenge

Sziasztok!

My name is Csenge, I am your friendly neighborhood Hungarian co-host. This is my second year co-hosting, and my 5th year in the Challenge! It has been constant fun, and I am looking forward to yet another great year.

About me: 
I am a professional storyteller and author, currently working on my PhD in Culture Studies (my area of research is storytelling in role-playing games). Most of what I do revolves around epics, mythology, folktales, fairy tales, books, and RPGs. Usually in some combination of those. I am also a game- and comic book nerd, and I watch more TV shows than I care to admit. 
To my defense: I am minoring in Pop Culture Studies.
#PhDlife

Blogs and things:

Here I write about storytelling-related things. Past Challenge themes include Epics A to Z, Weird Princesses, and Tales about Colors. 

Exactly what it sounds like: My musings on weird and unique Hungarian things. Last year's theme was "26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary."


Book: Tales of Superhuman Powers (55 myths, legends and folktales that featured superpowers way before comic books came along - stories with notes, sources, and pop culture references) 

Oh, and I have an Old English Sheepdog. I thought that was important.
Sometimes I crochet mythical animals. 

I am looking forward to visiting with all of you in April! :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Why do I love the #atozchallenge so much?

 Today's post is from Vidya Sury, who is part of my team for this A to Z 2016.

Some of us co-hosts are still finalizing our teams, so if have participated in the challenge before, and want a turbo-charged AZ this time, email us at the contact address:  contactatozteam@gmail.com

---------Take it away, Vidya!

The A to Z Challenge is one of my favorite blogging activities.

Okay, okay, my favorite!

That I love to write, is a given. I do occasionally take part in other blogging/writing challenges. But why am I absolutely hooked to the A to Z Challenge?

I first learned about the A to Z Challenge in 2013 when Damyanti of Daily (W)rite tagged me on Twitter. I fell in love with the concept. Blogging daily with thousands of people in a specific pattern appealed to me tremendously. So many perspectives and so many genius themes and ideas to meet! The whole idea filled me with joy and I energetically jumped in. I could think of nothing but ideas for April - my kitchen shelf was full of my scribbling. My writing pad was filled with doodles and mind mapping for ideas. My friends and family got a bit tired of me trying to fit everything into the A to Z sequence. I suspect they loved it, though! So, in my first A to Z Challenge in 2013, I participated with one blog. In 2014, 2 blogs, in 2015, 3 blogs.

This year, 2016, I am participating with 4 blogs - I enjoy the challenge so much.

Why A to Z Challenge is my favorite :
  • It keeps my adrenaline pumping and my writing muscles flexed and ready
  • It cultivates a writing discipline I enjoy
  • I get back into the groove with posting regularly on two of my 5 blogs.
  • It encourages planning ahead - this is a major life lesson I follow in other areas of life, but not always with blogging. To truly enjoy blogging challenges, planning is critical.
  • It boosts my creativity, making me think of freaky ways to entertain my readers, rather than just give them info. Yes, I like to think they love me!
  • I get to meet new and wonderful bloggers via the challenge. I've met several who are fast friends now, location no bar!
  • I've been part of a co-host's team for two years and enjoy the team work behind the scenes, team spirit and fun. Sort of like a girl gang, only wiser! (You can join in the teams too-- write to the email on top!)
  • The A to Z is a great way to actually plan your book if you aspire to write one. I mean, write around a theme for 30 days and you have a pretty good premise for a book or an anthology!
  • If you believe that travel broadens the mind, youíve got to believe that blog-hopping also broadens the mind, and heart.
  • Talking of travel, I almost always travel in April, but that doesn't stop me from sailing through the challenge, thanks to the kicks encouragement of my supporters!
  • The learning. This is tremendous. Can you believe I actually converted from being a pantser to a scheming theming planner Yes I did! Go check out last year's letters to my son! I have to confess a theme feels good and keeps you focused.
  • I love getting in a couple of guest posts from my blogging friends and highlighting them as there are usually more visitors in April and that makes me feel good.
  • I enjoy doing the Reflections post - what activity is complete without a review and some learning points - and how to do it better next time, eh?
  • The A to Z encourages me to explore my own writing abilities and I am surprised to discover how much more I am capable of.
  • Consistent writing and online conversations are good for ranking- which means more paid opportunities for your blog.
So it is hardly surprising I am doing it this year - and will continue to do it for as long as I blog! To sum up, the April A to Z Challenge is, hands down, the best motivation for bloggers to write, connect and grow.

Let's just say, if you like blogging, if you need the motivation to get back in the groove, the A to Z Challenge is for you! So what are you waiting for? Grab a few of your blogging buddies and Go sign up NOW!
 -----------
 Vidya Sury is living her dream as a Writer | Editor | Blogger | Social media explorer, after a couple of decades in the corporate world in marketing and training (sales and soft skills).  She blogs at Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles, tweets as @vidyasury and flits around Facebook.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

If you like #blogging the #atozchallenge is for you! Right?

The A to Z Blogging Challenge already has nearly 700 signups, but we want more, more! This post is for those of you who haven't added your name to the list yet.

The A to Z Challenge is 26 posts on 26 days of April, on a theme of your choice, or without a theme.

The Challenge is not for you if:

1. You don't want to grow your blog audience
2. If you don't want more followers.
3. If you don't like networking.
4. If you don't like posting more than once a week or month.
5. If you don't like the alphabet (Like our very own Gary Pennick! Love you, Gary!)

With the above reasons, you're right, the A to Z Challenge is not for you. You might be fence-sitting for other reasons:

1. You're very busy in April (That's all right, really--you can schedule your posts now!)
2. You're scared by the idea of writing everyday. (It's ok, you don't have to. As above, you can pre-schedule some/ most/ all your posts)
3. You're worried you may not be able to handle all the comments that come in. (Ditto as above-- pre-write all your posts so you can comment away and respond to comments in April!)
4. You did not get many comments last time you tried. (We might have a solution for you Here)


So there you go: 8 shiny reasons for you (not) to join the challenge. For a gazillion reasons to join the challenge, check this post, and this one, and this one.

Oh, just go and sign up already!

And if you want to give us reasons (not) to join: let's have them in the comments!

--Damyanti Biswas

Monday, February 8, 2016

Navigating the Challenge with Clones and Ninjas! #atozchallenge

Just how does one visit over a hundred blogs a day? Either through the use of a time machine or a band of stealthy Ninja Clones!

Teleportation is also an option.

As much as I enjoyed writing about teleportation on my books, I decided that the Ninja Captain needed clones instead. And of course, a clone machine. Which does have its drawbacks. Everyone wants to borrow it. Plus there was the time I cloned way too many versions of Kate Beckinsale…

All kidding aside, I really don’t have any of those things. I’ve just made it a point to visit all of my blogger buddies, whether it’s during the Challenge or IWSG post Wednesday or just another day.

Yes, I do have a lot of blogger buddies! Where did they all come from?

I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with the alphabet.

In 2010, Arlee Bird challenged others to join him as he posted almost every day throughout April in alphabet order. At the last minute, I made the commitment and joined a hundred others in the very first A to Z Challenge.

My blog has never been the same!

I’ve been a co-host since 2011, managing the Linky List and helping in other areas. Of course, that’s not all I do.

I started this whole blogging nonsense as an up-and-coming author. Since that time, I’ve had four books published (CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars), one boxed set published, and been in numerous anthologies and magazines.

I also started this little group for writers. You may have heard of it – the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We started as a monthly blog hop, and then grew into a website, two Facebook groups, and a newsletter. We even put out a free book for writers and last year partnered with a publisher for an annual IWSG Anthology Contest. (First anthology due out this spring.)

Offline, I maintain a full time job in web design and technical editing. I’m also a guitarist in a Christian rock band, as God and music both play very important roles in my life. I’m happily married, live in the Carolinas, and like to drive my sports car really fast.

Because darn it, teleportation machines don’t really exist!

Find me here: Blog, Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Twitter, What Are The Kargrandes, Goodreads, and Google+

Friday, February 5, 2016

Roll Out The Welcome Mat

This is for the rookies out there, who have never participated in the A to Z Challenge until this year. Many of you, I suspect, created a blog on Wordpress or Blogger just so you could do the challenge. I know that's how I got my start doing this. This is also for those of you that are getting complaints that people can't leave you comments, or for those of you that aren't getting comments and can't figure out why.

Both Wordpress and Blogger have settings that allow you to screen comments. Some of them are set as defaults and others are options you can set if you think they're necessary. They ensure that the commenter is a real person and not just a bot from which you'll be receiving junk comments for the rest of your existence. Setting the options will cut down on spam, but some of the options also make it practically impossible for legitimate bloggers (e.g. the participants in the A to Z Challenge) to leave you comments.

Kind of defeats the purpose of having a blog and participating in the challenge, doesn't it ?

There's also an impression out there that, while blogs on Wordpress are friendly to Wordpress commenters, they're mean to commenters that don't have a Wordpress account. You hear the same thing about Blogger: nice to people with Google accounts, nasty to everyone else.

Bottom line: You want to make commenting on your blog as easy as possible for anyone who drops by. Let's see how to do that.

WORDPRESS

You can find the settings for comments at https://[your blog URL]/wp-admin/options-discussion.php



Allow people to post comments on new articles - Should be checked. This allows people to comment.

Comment author must fill out name and email - Should be checked. Having a name and email address generally indicates the commenter is a real person. Of course, spammers can fill that in, too, but it prevents posting by bots.

Users must be registered and log in to comment - Should be unchecked. This means that you have to have a Wordpress account to comment.

Automatically close comments on articles older than _____ days - This prevents people from posting comments on old articles, a favorite trick of spammers. I turned this on and set the number of days to 60 for a while, then realized there were new readers who might want to comment on older articles, so I turned it off. If you start getting a lot of spam on older articles, you might want to set it.

Comment must be manually approved - Leave this unchecked unless you start getting a lot of spam, or if you've attracted a troll.

Comment author must have a previously approved comment - I have this unchecked. I don't think it's necessary.

Hold a comment in the queue if it contains ____ or more links - I have this set to 5. Some people like to put links to their blog here rather than in the box for URL's on the comment form, and if this is set too low, their comment disappears with no word as to why.

There are also areas to put in words or URL's in comments that will either get the comment put in the moderation queue or in the spam queue. Use these with caution, or you might be blocking comments you didn't intend to block.

BLOGGER

Sign on to Blogger and select your blog. Then click on Settings > Posts and comments.



Who can comment? - Typically you'll want to choose Registered User. This allows people who don't have a Google account to comment using their Open ID, Wordpress, LiveJournal, TypePad, or AIM account. Anyone allows anonymous commenting, probably not a good idea.

Comment Moderation - Setting this to Never means anyone can comment. If spam becomes a problem, you can set it to Always. Sometimes allows you to specify a number of days after publication when commenting is open, after which comments must be approved.

Show word verification - This forces a commenter to enter a CAPTCHA code before the comment is accepted. Most people think that's an enormous pain in the backside and might just leave without commenting and never come back. Turn it off.

Whether this is your first challenge or you're an old pro, welcome! We hope you have a good time, make lots of new friends, and find lots of new blogs to follow.

John Holton
The Sound of One Hand Typing on Wordpress
Simulcasting at The Sound of One Hand Typing FM on Blogger

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blogging for #atozchallenge : does your #writing move your readers?

Now that the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Signup list is in the hundreds, and likely to hit a 1000 soon, it is time to take stock of your blogging.

Do you run a popular blog? If yes, please go off and schedule a few A to Z Challenge posts. This post is for those of us who are struggling to build an audience.

Kidding.

It is a topic that all bloggers need to revisit from time to time, namely: RESONANCE.

Go read your blog posts from two months ago. Go on, I'll wait.

If you were a visitor, do you think you'd stop and read through, without skimming? If the answer is a firm YES, pat yourself on the back. All you have to do is visit more bloggers and get on social media to start interacting with other bloggers. Your blog will flourish.

If your answer is veering towards UNSURE or NO, examine your current posts. What do they offer a visitor: emotion, positivity, support, information, analysis, interesting tidbits, laughter? If the answer is a No, then you might need to re-examine why you blog, and your expectations of its popularity.

An audience will be loyal not just if you post regularly or comment on others' posts. You'll need to resonate with them, offer them intellectual stimulus or emotional support. Or good old entertainment.

Many of you are now deciding on themes for the A to Z Challenge. Before you finalise one, take the Resonance Test. Go back to a 2-month old post. You would now have become objective towards it. Check what you're offering your audience.

If you Resonate with your audience, they'll have more of a reason to keep coming back.

And if you haven't yet signed up for the A to Z Challenge, consider signing up now.

Do your posts Resonate? Tell us in the comments!

--Damyanti Biswas
-----

Follow us on our Facebook Page!
Email address is contactatozteam at gmail dot com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z.

We’ll hold Twitter chats on Thursdays at the tag #azchat starting Feb 18, 2016, 9.00 PM EST. Please follow the Twitter and Facebook handles, and the hashtags in order to keep up with the conversation.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Howdy Neighbour!

I know what I'm about to say has been said a time or two before, but it bears repeating. One of the things that makes the A-Z Blogging Challenge most enjoyable is the interaction with other persons doing April.

We're creatures of habit and tend to visit those we're friendly with first. Mixing that up a little means engaging other people, visiting their blogs before stopping in with our friends. While not everybody is going to reciprocate your stopover, there will be at least a few persons who will return the favour.

Nothing disturbs me more on the Challenge trail than finding blogs without comments and a few persons may give up, not only because they run out of steam, but because blogging is no fun without the comments from visitors. It's okay to leave enough feedback to let the blogger know you've been and that you've read their post.


Let's try and do as much as we can before the actual Challenge so that we'll have more time to make the rounds and meet new friends.

So are you game?

I know I am.


J.L. Campbell blogs at The Character Depot