Saturday, January 24, 2015

3 Types of Unbeatable Settings

I know I’ve probably harped on this before and I’m sure there are novelists out there who have used these types of settings, but I’ll go a step further and explain to you why they work for me. Remember, I’m the reader here, so I should know, right?

Put an ordinary man in an extraordinary place. 

Think about this for a moment. An ordinary man works in a third world country providing humanitarian aide to the natives. It is his passion and all the children love him, the men respect him, and the women shy away because he exudes virility and a superior masculinity. You, as the novelist, do not have to work that hard to show anything more about this character.

If you had an ordinary man in a setting where everyone else were ordinary, you would have to transform this character into an extraordinary one in order to stand out, or else what’s the point of this character anyway, right? Sounds like too much work to me and it doesn’t feel authentic.

Take me somewhere for the first time.

I’ve read plenty of novels with settings on beaches, cattle ranches, grand estates, and beautiful islands. I’m sorry, did I put you to sleep there? Why must romance involve beautiful sunsets, roses, and champagne? If you put me on a beach, the dominant sound of waves will ruin it for me, even if we’re supposed to be on the shores of some Caribbean island, unless you have other things going on too!

I want to listen to classical Malhum while walking through the streets of Morocco and biting into a sliver of B’stilla. Put the traditional settings out of your mind. Take me somewhere I can experience for the first time, and if you want to get more into the details you can even share the savory and sweet tastes of your pastry by describing it to me! MmMmm.

Pick an event, any event!

A carnival, a national football game, a political campaign, a wedding. Why do these work? Because it’s easy to hear, smell, see, and touch almost everything imaginable and the writer doesn’t have to work as much. Every beach has water and sand, but a carnival has rides, games, funnel cake, and people walking around with stuffed animals larger than their kids.

If you never had a wedding, here’s your big opportunity. You can make it as extravagant as you like and not have to pay a dime. Everyone loves a wedding. I know it’s been done over and over again, but not by you, right?

Do you have favorite settings that draw you in EVERY. SINGLE. TIME?

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Making Progress with Strategic Communication

My first discussion post for Strategic Communication class asked how we viewed communications in the past and to reflect upon the materials provided by our instructor. Which perspective did we find most helpful to our understanding of strategic communication? You all know me. I can't resist using personal experience in any challenge. This is about progress, so why not?

When Hatch (2013) mentions Malinowski’s photograph of the anthropologist observed by the natives (p. 39) it struck me as funny and reminded me of another photograph I had found years ago. In my photo, one guy is digging a hole. Joe, according to his name tag, is surrounded by several folks with similar name tags, only each of the observers has a title rather than a name, with “manager” on the end of their titles or “lead” at the front: Operations Manager, Lead Technician, Total Quality Manager, Facilities Manager, Heavy Equipment Manager, Lead Gopher, etc. all surrounding, watching, and pointing at Joe, the hole digger. Ironic? How many managers does it take to dig a hole? Zero. Just hire Joe.

This guy has no name.

I think I’ve been kicked around over the years with having a boss clearly focused on the modern organization theory and driven by the contingency theory in organizing teams, to having a new boss who might be a fan of the postmodern perspective. I’ll explain:

My old boss owned a software company and when he put me to work on a project team, I always found myself faced with clients having insatiable appetites for sabotaging my work. Though failures on my part, each project was a successful outcome for my boss, because he had predicted my failure. He would swim in terms such as risks and constraints, assumptions, deliverables, and return on investments, all things measurable.

In my blind desire to be successful, I didn't realize my boss had not placed these same criteria for success on other analysts, so I quit playing his game and played like the others, refusing to provide him with time-wasting flowcharts, timelines, and graphs. Soon enough, I was taking on projects, reaching out to clients, and making successes (completing goals and objectives I had set for myself).

The old boss has since retired, taking with him his mask of the grand narrative. I can relate with the postmodern perspective much more because of my painful experiences dictated by the tyrant.

There is no right way to do things and by the time you’ve grown accustomed to your comfort zone, someone comes along using new terminology for the same things you’ve been working on for years, but now you’ve become seated in your ways and management isn't happy. They want change. The newly employed use fancy words explaining the same symbols of the past and management is in awe.

The emerging discourse, through hidden meetings where veteran employees are excluded and new employees become heroes, plays out until someone at the top realizes there is a communication problem which if left alone could likely embarrass the organization as a whole.

It came at a meeting and was announced that our CEO made this perfectly clear. The word “dashboard” is not to be used in any context when introducing our new portal to members. He insisted there is a public profile and a personal profile. Why not the new flashy “dashboard” terminology the new guy used the other day? Because we are not implementing a DASHBOARD, it’s a personal profile page!

How much does communication or lack thereof play a part in your successes and/or failures?

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Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Reasons Guest Blogging is a Good Idea

by Stephanie Faris

If I write one more article on “5 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015,” I’m going to lapse into a coma. I’ve written so many, I’ve lost count. But the benefit of all of that work is that I’ve put a great deal of time into studying the best ways to market your small business.

As writers, we’re all small business owners in a sense. We’re working hard to “build our brand” and engage customers (readers). Many of us have read that one of the best ways to do this is through blog tours. Blog tours allow us to appear on other people’s sites, participating in Q & As, posting blurbs and doing guest blogs like this one. But you don’t have to do a blog tour to get the benefits of appearing on someone else’s blog. Here are three ways guest blogging can help you build a reader base.

Reason #1: You Gain New Followers

Bloggers have long expressed frustration that they work hard to write a thoughtful blog post, only to have no one show up to comment. When you appear on someone else’s blog, you get exposure to all of that blog’s readers and you send your own readership over to meet the blog host. I read a large group of blogs each day and I found most of them on other blogs. One great post could connect with your host’s audience and earn you readers for years.

Reason #2: It Increases Search Engine Visibility

Google wants to make sure when you search for something, you get the best results possible. Over the years, the company has worked hard to reward good content and penalize bad, spammy sites. A page is considered a better authority on a subject if there are links pointing to it. When you guest blog, the host posts a link to your blog and you post a link to it—both of those behaviors make Google’s algorithms happy. The more our blogs are connected, the better our chances that when someone types in search terms relevant to what we’re writing, that person will see our blogs on the first page of those results.

Reason #3: It Builds Community

The community in the blogosphere is amazing. The more we cross-post and promote each other, the tighter that community becomes. Many of us participate in events like the A to Z Challenge or the Insecure Writers Support Group, which means often we all have the same blogging friends in common. Guest posts give us the opportunity to introduce our own friends to the bloggers we’ve met, growing the community even further.

Instead of waiting until you have a book to promote, consider contacting fellow bloggers with an offer to guest blog. You can return the favor by hosting those bloggers on your own blog. Not only will it help your Google visibility, but it will also introduce you to new bloggers who are probably eager to find great new blogs to read.


And thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by and sharing with us! I am in 100% agreement with all three reasons.

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 

On Amazon NOW!


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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

No More Resolutions - Make New Year Goals

Two years ago I listed 5 Stupid New Year Resolutions. I've since read back through these to get a deeper understanding of why they don't work.

Each of the resolutions I mention are huge commitments, sacrifices you make "up front" which do not produce immediate results. So, rather than making one stupid resolution, I'm setting 10 goals for 2015, and here they are!

Start Graduate School

Okay, so I cheated. This one was already in progress because I had to get accepted first, which happened in November. My first class starts January 12th in the new year. I am officially a graduate student at Purdue University working toward a Masters in Communications.  I am humbled to have been accepted!

Advance My Career

Notice I didn't title this "Get a Promotion" or "Get Another Job." This is because achieving a goal should be at the control of the person establishing the goal. I cannot control getting a promotion or being hired at another organization. What I can control are the things I do in order to elevate myself so I am perceived to be the cream of the crop. Helloooooo out there! Here I am!! Another option in career advancement could be starting a business.

Outline My Memoir

But Diane, you're only...oh, never mind. You ARE old enough. You know what? Fuck off.

Attend a Writing Retreat

For all of you who have done this already, I ENVY you! I can see myself in the mountains somewhere, sitting at a bay window in a log cabin and sipping a cherry vanilla espresso. Who am I kidding though? I'll just be some washed up romantic with writer's block. Oh well, I guess a day on the slopes, hot soup, and a blazing fire will get me in the mood to write. Who's with me?!

Attend the Tallahassee Writers Association Conference

I haven't missed one since becoming a member and I know why. This is the mother of all conferences, so if you have even the slightest interest in writing, YOU. MUST. ATTEND. THIS. EVENT. Period.

Attend the Florida Writers Association Conference

This is the best excuse for making a trip to Lake Mary in October. I wish I hadn't missed it this year, but I had to support Tim's run in the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. I will not be missing this event in 2015, the entire event, not just one of the days.

Get Back Into Yoga

This is not like joining the gym. Embarrassing enough, I already am a member and this is a free activity provided twice per week. Why did I stop going? Because, I couldn't keep Tim from giggling because he couldn't contort the way some of the 90 year old men in the class did. I think I can get Chelsey to partner up with me. She might take it more serious than Tim.

Take Gourmet Cooking Classes

The Food Network planted the larva, but now I have a full grown bug driving this desire to blanch, roast, bake, and grill. This will not be a very cost effective journey because I won't eat any of the things I want to cook. Any Guinea pigs out there willing to risk food poisoning? I'll be happy to compile goody baskets.

Finish My GeekSsentials Website

I started this site because I wanted to offer up services to the local Tallahassee area small businesses. I know how difficult it is for businesses to get out there, especially start ups, and word of mouth just isn't going to do it in this economy. With companies having to fork out more in health care costs and penalties, there's much less financial resources going into marketing and promotions. Hello out there! I work with your budget.

Institute Mom's Night Out

A new thing I plan to start with my kids is called Mom's Night Out. That means once per month, one of them has to take me out to dinner, lunch, or a movie. I get to pick up the tab. Hey, what better incentive is there for such a wonderful occasion?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Do you have goals for 2015? Tell us what they are in the comments below!

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Merry Christmas Blogathon

Thank you to Maria Zannini for hosting this fun event for bloggers! We are supposed to serve up photos of our Christmas spread. However, my partial family ate out for Christmas dinner since there were only three of us. Everyone else traveled north, so it wasn't worth the trouble to make a spread, at least not of food.

Not all is lost though. I still took photos of our fun filled day. From presents to stocking surprises and family portraits, here are the Christmas day photos from our home.

The stockings were hung from our
decorated mantel.

Even the dogs and ferrets had stockings!

First Christmas tree with butterflies...
and fake snow. When does THAT ever happen?
Don't judge!

We're doing this from scratch.
I swear.

My group. I know. The gingerbread man
looks creepy as hell.

Chelsey's less creepy group. Psst! The candy cane
stripes were made with food color gel, leaving
 the cookie inedible. She gets it honestly. :)

You distract them; I'll grab the cookies!

Family portrait. Not sure what the dogs
were looking at, maybe the ferrets?

Chelsey with her new Lenovo laptop/tablet.
Now I get to reclaim my Macbook. Woot!

In the voice of Austin Powers, "Do I
look sexy? Yeah, baby!"

They don't like sexy, you turd ball.
They like cuteness. See?

Of course, the ferrets had to check out the wrapped boxes. Look what fun Santa brought them!

Thanks for sharing your Christmas fun on this Blogathon. I'll be enjoying all of your photos on the 29th. Can't wait!!

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