Moved in: Hello Virginia

home-sweet-home-1456862578eiX.jpgAt long last I have moved into the new house and am sinking back into a normal schedule. *maniacal laughter* This is my fifth or sixth military move, and let me tell you, this one was a kick in the poop shoot.

Regardless, the house is now painted, baby-proofed, and mostly unpacked. I felt bad for the garbage collectors because I had a mountain of broken down cardboard boxes and packing paper stacked into the stratosphere in front of the driveway.

Other technical difficulties included: transitioning my business to a new state, building a companion author page to this one (located here), going 2,000 pounds over the weight limit for household goods (whoops), and attempting/succeeding to move a 200 pound desk and other miscellaneous furniture up a flight of stairs…two story houses are the worst.

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My new home office—where the magic (insanity) happens.

I wrote a post a while back about how environment impacts writing. Some people are flexible and can write at a rock concert, and some people need a perfect little nook. I seem to fall into the latter category. But I have my nook now and am looking forward to judo chopping all the work that has been piling up.

A big “thank you” to J.R. Handley for stopping by the house and bringing over a housewarming gift from his family. Talk about a warm welcome to Virginia. Not only did we eat lasagna until our stomachs almost exploded, we also plotted out a short story for an upcoming anthology. We will be co-authoring the short story, so that should either be really mind blowing, or make people weep uncontrollably. Maybe both?

Wastelander Cover.jpgI mentioned my companion site, that is where I am going to start keeping updates on Wastelander, other book projects, collaborations/co-writing projects, and my author updates. I’m not dense enough to think everyone who comes here for writing tips gives a hoot about my hack fiction — but if you do, be sure to swing over for updates on that front.

All right, moving forward. Time to start doing what this page was meant for: writing tips. Please stay tuned and thanks for bearing with me during this overly long move. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

 

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Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

thor-with-leaf

Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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The Time Paradox (Revamping the Schedule)

hourglassI posted my daily schedule a while back.  Due to the ghosts in the time machine, I must adjust and move forward with purpose.  Before I spell out the new schedule, I want to take a minute to discuss why the schedule must change.

When I started this blog page:

  1. I was writing a single book.  Now I have finished writing this book and started a rewrite.  Additionally, I am writing a novella, three graphic novels, and the discovery draft of another separate book.
  2. My baby boy was napping three or more hours a day. Additionally, he wasn’t mobile.  Now Thor naps for about half the amount of time and is moving at the speed of babylight (which is slower than a walk and faster than a crawl).
  3. I was working as a freelancer on websites like Upwork and Freelancer with limited success.  My clients were few and far between and many of the jobs were very short.  Now I own my own editing business. It has generated some awesome clients and a decent workload.
  4. My wife was working “normal” Navy hours.  Now she is working 12-hour shifts.

No Breaks

For these reasons, I must adjust the schedule.  It should be noted that I owe the success of my business to this page and the time I devoted to it.  I also owe this page for introducing me to so many brilliant people. This QE website has been a lightning rod of creativity and self-growth for me.

Personal ramblings aside, let’s look at the new schedule.

Monday:  Book blurb day or a new post.  I’ve read more than thirty books on writing since I started this page.  Every now and then I toss together a collage and write a blurb about a book. (My “reads” category contains examples.)  It’s not really a review, but an insight about the content of the book.  Again, this is my way of offering you all the resources I can and populating the page with useful content.

Tuesday/Sunday: Off days.  I wanted a couple days of the week to spend my allotted blogging time reading other blogs and commenting.  If I continue posting every day, I simply don’t have enough time to reply to comments and reach out beyond my own page.

Wednesday: Feature Wasteland Wednesday and/or author news.  Wastelander: The Drake Legacy publishes next year, but it’s the first in a very long Wastelander series.

As I will start the publishing process early next year, I want to make Wednesday a day to also share news about what’s going on with me professionally (failures, successes, conventions I’m attending, etc).

I‘m also working with some amazing authors as an editor.  I want to spotlight them here as well, when possible.

Thursday: A new and glorious post.

Feature Friday.jpg

Feature Friday.  This is one my favorite additions to my page.  I will continue taking a day each week to highlight other bloggers who are generating insightful content.  If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, Hey! He’s talking about me.  Contact me and I will add you to my reblog list.  I am fortunate to have great readership here at QE, and if my success can propel others, it’s a small way for me to give back.

Don't Know what to Blog

I have also decided to allow for reader contributions on Fridays.  This was a suggestion made to me by P.A. Kramer.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved the concept.  This is a great way for bloggers to take advantage of my readership and get some eyes on both their content and their blog pages.  Again, my goal has always been to bring like-minded people together.

I will only post submissions that are centered around some aspect of writing. Ideally, the content should be around 700-1000 words in length.  If images are included, they must be non-copyrighted images (I can generate images if needed).  Contact me if you have a proposal.

Saturday: Re-post day.  Recycling previous posts will help people new to the site or to WordPress connect with my older content.  It also helps me.  It allows me to continuously edit, improve, and add links to my archived material.  I learn a lot from my discussions with all of you, my work as an editor, and my labors as a writer.  I want to be sure my past posts reflect newfound knowledge and continue to be relevant.

That’s the new schedule.  Let’s see if this one sticks or not.  Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Feature Friday #4 (Bloggers & Books)

feature-friday

Another week, another Feature Friday highlighting some great bloggers.  I missed out on last week due to Hurricane Matthew, but I’m excited to get back into the rhythm.  This week I wanted to highlight a few bloggers who are writing amazing content, coming up with creative solutions, and sharing their experiences.  All said, these three are offering up great posts every week.

spotlight-facing-rightThe first spotlight shines for Sharon Hart over at curioushart. Sharon is a regular contributor here on QE and also writes some spectacular posts.  Those posts include flash fiction, writing advice, and enjoyable insights into life in general.  Her personality and experience as a teacher really shine through in her posts and make them very enjoyable to read.

Sharon was kind enough to share an experience with me, and it was so insightful I wanted to be sure to share it with all of you.  I’ve talked about the struggle of writing a book blurb in the past, and Sharon’s method of tackling it is pretty ingenious.

Since April 2016, I have been participating in a weekly flash fiction writing exercise. Each week I download a picture prompt and I write a story of 150 words or less related to the picture. This practice has really sharpened my vocabulary, grammar, and content. It has turned out to be useful as well.

I had been struggling for weeks to write an engaging and informative back cover description of my book. I finally decided to treat it as a flash fiction story. It worked. Using the same process I use for the flash fiction, I was able to craft a decent description.

I highly recommend the exercise.

What I love about this bit of advice is it highlights the importance and usefulness of consistent writing practices.  Even this blog, for me, has impacted my writing in a positive way.  I feel the more often we sit down and flex our writing muscles the more multifaceted they become.

spotlight-facing-rightThe next blogger I wanted to spotlight is Sinister Dark Soul (or as I like to write, SDS).  Another regular contributor here on QE, SDS writes complex, compelling, and sometimes frightening poetry.  Can we expect anything less from someone who has a site tag that says, “Do you feel safe?”  After reading a few of his pieces…the answer is usually “no.”

SDS is one of my daily stops for dark and intriguing posts.  I will say, many of these posts are not for the faint of heart.  Regardless of your tolerance for macabre writing, there is an undeniable quality in his words and strong themes which carry over from one piece to the next.

The layered and overlapping world SDS has created is vast and growing.  If there was a central location in his world, it would be Black Winter.  It is populated by some of the most interesting characters I have found in poetry.  It’s not a place you want to vacation (unless you are a very dark soul yourself).  I don’t have a specific post to recommend because I enjoy them all.  With that being said, if the darker side of life (or death) appeals to you, SDS will surely make your most sinister dreams come true.

spotlight-facing-rightThe last blogger I wanted to highlight is M.L.S. Weech.  It’s no secret, Matt and I are old friends from our time in the Navy as renegade combat cameramen.  I also edit his books.  However, I’m not featuring him for those reasons (though, you should check out his upcoming book Caught).  I’m featuring him because he has been writing some truly outstanding posts since transitioning his blog to WordPress.

Matt not only writes books, he also teaches other people how to write (both personally and professionally).  These traits and background make him a wealth of knowledge and this is reflected in his posts.  I would encourage you to check out his Writing Tips category.  It is populated with posts ranging from writing mechanics, to staying motivated.  His book reviews are also brilliantly written.  They tend to avoid bias, spoilers, and focus on the mechanics the author used in the book.  Each one is an essential case study into the writing style of the author.

thanksI wanted to take a moment to thank all three of these folks for (1) contributing regularly on my page, (2) being a source of inspiration, and (3) consistently encouraging enjoyable discussion about both fiction and non-fiction.  You all keep me inspired to continue learning everyday.

hourglassThat’s it for today!  If you would like to be featured next Friday, contact me.  It always helps if you let me know what specific post you would like to be featured.  My goal with Feature Friday is to connect like-minded individuals with one another.  The blogoverse is a giant place, and it’s nice to be able to provide some navigation. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Back to the Routine (800+ Followers!)

matthew8-1Hurricane Matthew—what a pain in the butt.  Not only did we (wife, baby, cat) evacuate to a different state, but to add to the stress, my sister-in-law was honeymooning on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida during this craziness (she made it home unscathed).

Fortunately, there was no major damage here at my house.  We arrived at 4 a.m. to find lots of downed trees, a few missing shingles, but nothing of considerable note.  The area directly around me wasn’t as lucky so I’m feeling very fortunate right now.  The Berkeley Observer compiled some photos of the damage here in my region.  The photo I placed of the toppled sign, taken by Cameron Scott, is where Heather and I get our sushi.  I checked and the sushi place survived (thank the sushi gods!).

crying boy_universe.jpgNow that I am back home in the comfort of my writing cave/study, I wanted to take a day to get my feet planted with all of you before diving back into the daily routine.  I’m very happy to be home, have a home still, and get back to the grind.

*Corey takes a cleansing breath*

First off, thanks for all of the kind words and emails.  I have a backlog of emails, comments, and posts to reply to.  I will be doing this over the next couple days.  Obviously, this weather event chucked a wrench into the gears of my daily posting goals.  I will note (for my own sanity), that it took an act of God to push me off the rails.

thanksSecondly, I logged in today to find I had passed the 800 follower mark.  Holy smokes!  Talk about a welcome home present from the blogoverse.  Needless to say, I’m humbled by the support I have found here and very thankful.  It’s nice to know so many others are interested in learning about the dark arts of writing and editing.    It’s thrilling to have found this amazing community, and I’m excited to have reached this point.

Thirdly, I know I mentioned last post I would be recycling older posts during this blackout period.  Truth be told, I simply didn’t have the means, ability, or time to get this done.  I do apologize for the brief lapse in posting.

donate.jpgLastly, for those of you who are suffering from the aftermath of the storm, my thoughts are with you.  I’ll be heading out to donate diapers and food to our local relief organizations.  If you are local, I absolutely encourage you to do the same.

Also, if you are in the Charleston SC area and need a helping hand, shoot me an email via my contact page, and I’ll see what I can do.

For the purpose of the blog, I’m putting the storm in the rear-view and moving forward.  As of tomorrow, I’ll be back on track with the daily posting schedule (unless the gods intervene again).  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Hurricane Matthew: Evacuated & Safe

matthew skulls.jpg

Freaky skull hidden within Hurricane Matthew…

I wrote a couple days ago that we might have to evacuate due to Hurricane Matthew.  Many of you offered some really kind words, and I really appreciate the positive thoughts and prayers.  The good news is I am writing this from Georgetown, Kentucky—so obviously we did end up evacuating.  Here’s a brief recap.

Our governor, Nikki Haley, announced that evacuations would begin on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (EST).  We decided to fuel up our vehicles as soon as this was announced, and it’s a good thing we did.  We took the car to the gas station about 20 minutes after hearing the potential evacuation order, and it still took almost an hour of line-time to get gasoline.

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Image from the Miami Herald.  Linked to article.

After dealing with the chaos of simply getting gas, we decided not to wait until Wednesday to leave.  We got home and started packing.  Unfortunately, we still had to wait for the base (where my wife works) to give us permission.  Permission came at around 7 p.m. that evening.  Thor’s bedtime is 8 p.m., and we figured we should leave then so he would sleep for most of the trip.

Here are some of the things that were involved in the mad rush to leave.

  • We had to ensure we had all essential documents with us. We placed a special emphasis on having our home-owner insurance (we have a portable safe for documents).
  • Anything outside of the house (i.e. grill, metal firepit, flower pots) had to be brought indoors so they wouldn’t be tossed through windows.
  • Anything essential that could be destroyed by water, we moved to a center room with no windows and put them at elevation.  This probably won’t matter if we get nine feet of storm surge, but hey, you can’t blame us for trying.
  • As my desktop computer is pretty essential to my work, it came with us.
  • We didn’t worry about stockpiling water, food, and propane as we were going to leave.
  • We did bring diapers, baby food, cat food, and a small amount of food and water in case we were delayed during the evacuation.
  • Given my wife has been freezing excess breast-milk in the hopes of being able to stop pumping a little early, we brought that with us.  A prolonged power outage will ruin the contents of our freezer and fridge.

niblet-and-meThe drive from South Carolina to Kentucky usually takes us about eight hours.  In the first five hours of travel time, we had barely moved.  I wasn’t upset about this.  I was happy people had the sense to evacuate.  All told, it took us twelve hours to get to Georgetown (my mother-in-law lives there).

During the trip, Niblet (our cat) would start meowing, then Thor would start making noise, and vice versa.  Basically, if one was awake, they were both awake.  They both slept like champs if we were moving, but much of our travel time was spent in stop-and-go traffic.

Some people evacuated to hotels, but with a baby and a cat, this would be pretty inconvenient. Also, if the coastline really gets thrashed, it would be costly to be in a hotel for a few weeks.

With 200+ people dead in Haiti and the Caribbean already, I really hope people are taking this hurricane seriously.  We can argue about the infrastructure of Haiti compared to the US, but if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a serious weather event, you’ll know infrastructure doesn’t matter to Mother Nature.

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If you are staying on the coast, my prayers are with you.  Matthew has surged in power as it moves toward Florida.  Gaining in strength back to a Category 4.  From the National Hurricane Center, a Category 4 is described as:

“Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

My academic training in homeland security has taught me to not take these things lightly.  Also, my job a Navy journalist, photographer, and combat cameraman has shown me first-hand the destruction and loss of life extreme weather events cause.  I promise you, nothing in your home is worth your life.  Please be safe and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Regardless, I should be back on track for posting and work now that I’m safely in Kentucky.  I am going to still take a day or two to do maintenance. I will recycle older posts in the meantime.  Until then – stay safe.

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QE vs Hurricane Matthew & Maintenance

Almost a month ago exactly, I wrote a post about my family preparing to evacuate due to Hurricane Hermine rolling through.  Fortunately for us, Hermine only succeeded at throwing around trashcans and stripping a few trees of their limbs.

Hurricane Coming.jpgWell guess what, another hurricane—Hurricane Matthew—is making its way toward us.  According to the Weather Channel, the whirling monster is supposed to impact the Charleston, S.C. area directly (where I live).

I guess this is what happens when you name your son Thor…

Conflict 101: Man vs Nature

On a more serious note, we are under a Level 3 advisory from the base where my wife works.  As she is active duty Navy, we can be ordered to evacuate and must comply.  I am currently gathering food and supplies.  There’s a chance I’ll be getting to play Yukon Trail: Hurricane Edition™ with my wife, baby, and cat.  (Hopefully, we don’t die of dysentery.)

I also was planning on having my monthly maintenance period this upcoming weekend.  When I wrote my 100th post, I talked about scheduling maintenance once a month to ensure categories and site analytics were being tidied up.  With all that being said, I’ll likely roll my maintenance into this unscheduled outage.

The QE page may go dark for a few days, but I’ll still have recycled posts scheduled and rolling through.  I may also toss in an update if I can, but until the storm passes I’m going to have my hands full.  So if any of you leave an amazing comment and it sits for a few days, know that I am likely convoying away from the storm.

To my blogging friends in the impact areas, stay safe.  To the rest of you, stay classy.  I’ll be back just as soon as the storm subsides.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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