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February 23, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Traffic

An example of the share buttons common to many...
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Sorry this is so late. I'm on my church's communication team (because I know how to use social media) and the meeting went on forever last night. And then it was a super busy day at work. I mentioned a week or so ago that I joined a group of bloggers and authors who participate in a monthly event for self-pub/indie pub authors. We also support each other through out the month. The biggest way we do this is by sharing blog posts on our social media networks. We've been trying out several tools to help drive more traffic to our blogs. I thought I would do a quick overview of what is working for me.

Triberr - This is a free site that aggregates blog posts from the participating bloggers. You are part of a tribe (either you're invited to join one, ask to be invited to one, or create your own with friends). I know there are several author groups out there and I recommend you look into creating a tribe to support each others blogs. I belong to a tribe of around 50 people. You can choose which blogs are sent to your twitter feed and how often they are sent out. Most of the people in my tribe send out tweets every hour. There are also sharing buttons for facebook, StumbleUpon, and Google +. My monthly visitor count has now tripled since joining Triberr. You can belong to more than one tribe, but be careful if they are very active - you don't want your twitter followers thinking you are spamming them. While it has been a terrific site and easy to use, there is a CON - it is a free service and often "breaks" - either the feed doesn't update or the (more often) scheduled tweets do not go out.

StumbleUpon - Shortly after I joined the Triberr group they started a Stumble Wednesday. Now I had heard of StumbleUpon. I had briefly looked into it when a thread about it popped up at BookBlogs.ning.com, but the directions there seemed complicated. However, it is quite simple and is the number 1 referrer to my blog. While I know there are at least a few members of my tribe stumbling my post as well, I don't know if you necessarily need a group. I have a bookmarklet "Stumble This!" so I can stumble sites and blogs who don't have the social widget for it, but I highly recommend you add it with your other social media share buttons. Increased traffic to my blog on day 1.

Reddit - This tool can either be really good (it's the number 2 referrer for my blog) or really bad (they have a zero tolerance policy for spammers and it seems that it can be a bit arbitrary on who they ban). DO NOT POST MORE THAN ONE LINK A DAY. That seems to trigger an automatic ban. Another blogging friend was banned, couldn't figure out why from their TOS or get an explanation from Reddit. I recommend trying it out for your blog. Within a day or so of using it, I started seeing traffic come from Reddit.

Digg - This is the newest experiment. I haven't seen much in the way of traffic increase since starting to use it. We've just started this week, so I'm willing to continue to try it out. It's not difficult to do. I've added a "View on Dig" bookmarklet to my toolbar. I also have a Digg share button in the Sociable box on the sidebar of the blog.

There are my experiments with various traffic producing social media sites. What have you tried? What's working best for you?
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February 22, 2012

Katie Robison: Veni, Vidi, Vici


For me, the revision process invariably means slicing away superfluous text: words, sentences, even entire scenes. It can hurt to let things go, but tighter prose is worth the sacrifice.

While revising DOWNBURST, I learned that sometimes you also have to cut your characters.
My protagonist, Kit, has a habit of assigning people nicknames—a coping strategy for dealing with anxiety. Sometimes she chooses a name quickly, based on a person’s prominent characteristic (hair color, height, etc.), but often her epithets are more creative, like dubbing a leering doctor and his nightclub-going brother Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive.

This quirk functions advantageously in a couple of ways. For one thing, it reveals some of the layers in Kit’s personality and clues the reader in to moments when she’s feeling uneasy. For another, it allows me as the author to provide a clearer narrative: the story is written in first-person, and when Kit is viewing a scene full of strangers, description can get really wordy really fast.
Downburst
Early in the book, Kit is forced to go on a road trip (of sorts) with some other teenagers— originally, twelve people. Three of these were given the names Veni, Vidi, and Vici, from the famous phrase attributed to Julius Caesar, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Veni was your average teenage boy who looked like he had just crawled out of bed and barely managed to show up on time (thus, “I came”). Vidi was a short girl with glasses (“I saw”), and Vici was a large, muscular fellow who looked like he played on the football team (“I conquered.”)


Buy Downburst at Amazon

While I thought these names were clever, they quickly proved problematic, for a number of reasons:
  1. The rationale behind the naming was hard to convey and therefore hard to understand, 
  2. Vici looked like he had a girl’s name (the fact that Latin v’s should be pronounced as w’s didn’t help), and
  3. it was difficult for my readers to differentiate among “all those V-words” with the result that they stopped caring about the characters altogether. In fact, it was hard to keep track of any of the teenagers. There were simply too many of them.
So I pulled out my scalpel and said goodbye to half of the kids, including Veni and Vidi. I kept Vici’s character, but I changed his name to Titan. It was simpler and catchier, and no one was going to mistake him for a girl.

Cover of "The Elements of Style, Fourth E...

Strunk and White tell us, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.” To that, I would add that a book should contain no unnecessary characters—especially if they have confusing names!

Revising can certainly be painful, but clearing away excessive details will always make your text stronger. And when you see the end result, you’ll want to brandish your knife and shout, “I came, I saw, I conquered!”


Learn more about Katie Robison
http://www.katierobison.com/ 

Read my full review.


Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by contributing writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect Girl Who Reads. 



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February 21, 2012

Didn't connect: Amongst My Enemies

Amongst My Enemies by William F. Brown
ebook, 353 pages
Published December 2011
Read February 2012

I was introduced to William Brown's writing last fall when I read The Undertaker. I enjoyed it. Though the characters were stereotypical, the suspense was great. So when asked to read Amongst My Enemies I was excited. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with the book.

At first I thought it was going to be a like The Hunt for Red October, but then it morphed into a light romance that I thought might be more along the lines of 22 Britannia Road before hitting its stride as a Cold War Era spy novel. I have read a lot of books in this genre so my expectations might be a bit higher than the casual reader of this time period. Again, the characters were pretty stereotypical so not much was put into their descriptions. Unlike with The Undertaker, I was not able to connect with the characters at all. I didn't care if they lived or died. Even the plot was somewhat stereotypical of a cold war era spy novel. There were a few twists, but most were figured out way before the characters did.

If you don't read a lot of of spy novels, then Amongst My Enemies would be a fun read and good introduction to the genre. While my heart rate was erratic while reading The Undertaker, my pulse never got above its resting rate while reading Amongst My Enemies.  

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February 20, 2012

R&R - Received & Reading


In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren.








It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey.






Received

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose (ARC) - Thank you Lucinda!
Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac discovers a secret the House of L’Etoile has been hiding since 1799: a scent that unlocks the mysteries of reincarnation. The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past. From Goodreads.com
Fire Mage (Blacklight Chronicles #1) by John Forrester
For centuries, mages perfected magic at the Order of the Dawn. Mastery over fire, wind, and storm. They live in the last free city in a world plagued by dark sorcerers.

Talis Storm and friend Mara discover a terrible secret. The Jiserian Empire has targeted their city for attack. An army of undead soldiers. Flying necromancers. None have ever survived.

When a surprise aerial invasion hits the Order’s temple, Talis casts fire magic for the first time. But his spell is wild and does more harm than good. Sorcerers try to capture Talis and Mara. They flee into the temple crypts. Awoken from an ancient rest, a fallen champion slays the sorcerers and gives Talis a legendary map. The map leads them on a quest to discover the lost temple of the sun.

To save his city, Talis must discover the power of magic locked away inside the ancient temple. And become a true fire mage. From Goodreads.com

Sex, Life, & Hannah by Dorota Skrzypek
When Hannah’s boyfriend of five-and-a-half years breaks up with her on New Year’s Eve, Hannah is shocked, and stunned…before picking up a glass and throwing it at him. Forced to search for love in the battlegrounds of L.A. she finds herself agonizing over The Ex, trying to comfort herself in the neighbor’s bed, and falling in love…again? Surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, Hannah treads the infamous waters of heartbreak and heartache.

The inaugural volume of the Sex, Life, and Hannah book series is a colorful palette of stories about the aftermath of a major break-up. Everything from the pros and cons of rebound sex, to navigating manic mood swings over The Ex, and whether a leather harness and latex can help distract you enough to finally move on. A fun and fictional expose about a pivotal moment in life. From Amazon.com 

Reading

Earth Angel by E. van Lowe
Just because Megan Barnett recently defeated Satan, has a fantastic new best friend, and has won the love of deliciously handsome, Guy Matson, doesn’t mean her troubles are over. Far from it. For Megan doesn’t realize it, but in her possession is a powerful weapon, a weapon sought after by both angels and demons and everything in between. They will do ANYTHING to get it.

In E. Van Lowe’s humorous, romantic and thrilling sequel to Boyfriend From Hell, Megan winds up in a gripping life or death battle to save herself, the boy she loves, and all of mankind from unthinkable evil. From Goodreads.com

 Going Solo by Eric Klinesberg








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