Thursday, October 21, 2021

Sharpen Your Pencils ~ Blogging Has Entered A New Era!


By Cheryl Oreglia


I know ~ news flash! Right? 


We’ve seen it coming for years, ever since blogging made its debut in the 90s, it infiltrated the world as if a virus, then we flattened the curve with a herd mentality if you will, and today it seems to be controlled by a new vaccine, A.I., and we need to decide if we’re up for the new challenges solopreneurship blogs will be facing or be put out to pasture.


At the height of blogging it was easy to get ranked, one little focused keyword, and your blog shot to the top of Google’s search engines. Booyah. Remember when our posts enjoyed thousands of hits week after week? 


Those were the good old days.


The competition is stiff. To succeed in the future of blogging, we’ll need to produce top-quality content, demonstrate niche authority, establish a strong brand, and employ multimedia as well as a multi-channel approach says Akshay Hallur.


There’s a lot of false news out there claiming, “Blogging is dead,” but I believe these are simply scare tactics. Blogging is here to stay but those who plan on prospering in the next decade will need to sharpen their pencils and invest in some new skills. 


Here’s what the market is predicting for the future of blogging.


Google favors what favors Google. Duh.


According to Akshay Hallur, this means the SERPs will be dominated with content by big brands and corporate-owned sites like YouTube, Linkedin, Medium, etc. This creates a lot of tough competition for small bloggers. 


Hallur also says Google recently incorporated A.I. and machine learning to its search in the form of Rankbrain algorithm. It now has the ability to fully comprehend the content in seconds and rank quality content without human intervention. That is crazy. 


What does this mean for us?


Our content needs to dazzle not only our readers but Google Rankbrain according to SEJ. Shit. It’s one of the top 3 ranking factors of Google today. 


Our readers have a lot of options. Why would they choose us?


There’s a thing called information overload out there, people like to follow only a couple of blogs in their niche unless they are related to us and feel obligated to read. The current reality demands that we create captivating content, build our blog as an authority in our niche, have solid branding, or get ditched.


We need to continue to entice subscribers who read our content regularly. 


Content marketing is booming according to Akshay Hallur. Creating content that educates our readers to make decisions on future purchases, life choices, healthy living, travel, music, art, food, etc. is the future for bloggers.


In simple words, creating content in order to educate prospective customers and sell a product is booming says Akshay Hallur.


Next to Google, YouTube is the next most used search engine. We all know this and yet most bloggers completely ignore the opportunities YouTube has to offer. Apparently, people like to view content instead of reading it. It’s easier. This allows our multi-tasking culture to do things simultaneously like cooking and viewing interesting material.


Many blogs have moved to posting a link to a YouTube version of their post. It’s a skill to consider when we invite new writers to join our community.


Bloggers are able to extend their reach to new audiences by posting their content on other mediums like SlideShare, Medium, Pinterest, and Linkedin. 


People who are in need of quick information don’t always have the time to watch a video or listen to a podcast. The blog posts remain the single-best format for quick content consumption claims Akshay Hallur.


Good content writers are in demand in almost every industry. Big blogs are hiring content writers for their business, and it appears this employment model will continue to grow. 


I do not believe blogging will ever be dead but I believe solopreneurship will become a rarity in the future unless you have established your authority in your niche and your brand is well known.


It’s our new reality!


As technological advances continue to invade the blogging spear new opportunities will be unveiled. We just need to hang on to the kite’s tail so to speak and ride this trend into the future. 


What are your thoughts on the future of blogging?


When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime.




Monday, October 18, 2021

Writing Prompts for NaNoWriMo

 


It’s mid-October, which means two things: first, spooky season is well and truly upon us, with its crisp air and cardboard tombstones and sticky-sweet caramel apples and I could not be more delighted. And second, we are two weeks away from National Novel Writing Month, or, to those of us who are a little bit masochistic, NaNoWriMo.

Some of you probably have your novel all plotted out and ready to go. You are clearly serial killers.

The rest of us might need some help. Even if we know mostly kind of what we plan to write, it helps to have a little nudge.

I present for the approval of the midnight society, a list of prompts to help you get started or to help dig the wheel out of the mud when you get stuck.

Happy Spooky Season and Happy Writing.

 

1.      Your character realizes they have inadvertently become a stalker.

2.      Screw you.

3.      A translator lies about what she’s just been told.

4.      Write an anonymous letter to a stranger, going into intimate detail about the things you’ve learned about Life.

5.      Write about a lie you told and got away with.

6.      There’s a high school party happening. Write the scene from these three points of view: the drunk teen in the corner whose lost her friends, the cop called to the scene, and the nosy neighbor who called the police.

7.      Write about the oldest thing you own. Make up a backstory completely different from the truth.

8.      A woman you don’t know shows up at your house in the middle of the night to tell you something very important. What does she say?

9.      The chapter begins, “Never underestimate the lives of old men sitting on park benches.”

10.  “I was not sorry.”

11.  What is the sound of silence? Write about a time you heard it.

12.  You, a grown-ass adult, are afraid of the dark. Write about what lives in it.

13.  Your main character lives in Gary, Indiana, in 1918 and his house is on fire.

14.  How is tomato soup made?

15.  Write about irresistible temptation.

16.  You are a serial killer. What TV shows are in your Netflix to-watch list?

17.  Write a scene in which a pair of dirty socks is very important.

18.  She was a fat woman whose eating habits were dainty. There was a check for $14,000 in her purse, not made out to her, but, you know, she was good at figuring these things out. Start with her hair.

19.  Your character is 42 years old and has an imaginary friend.

20.  You are Death and starting to write your memoirs. How does it start?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

10 Horror Novels to Read this Halloween

    I've always been a big fan of the horror genre, and with Halloween coming up, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite horror novels I've read in the past few years. They are in no particular order. I can't really pick a true favorite book as a rule, as I just love reading in general. Check these out if you're looking for some new books to celebrate the spooky season!


Dark Hollow - Brian Keene


    Kicking off the list, is a popular novel by Brian Keene that I read just this year. I've been friends with Brian for a long time, and it was only in the last year or two that I actually got around to reading his books. I love his style and his no holds barred approach to story-telling. 'Dark Hollow' was the first book I read that featured his popular character, Levi Stoltzfus. It's about a Satyr statue that comes to life and begins seducing the wives of all the men in town. It's one of the most unique horror concepts I've read, and I highly recommend it.

 

Christine - Stephen King

    What list of favorite horror novels won't include the King himself? I've been a lifelong fan of Stephen King, but I never read 'Christine' before recently. A slow build leads into an absolutely terrifying possession-style thrill ride. Christine herself becomes her own character despite the fact that she is a car, and you never really know for sure if she is alive or being used as a vessel for an evil spirit. 'Christine' has become one of my favorite King novels.


Dracula - Bram Stoker


    I put off reading 'Dracula' for many years before finally delving into it this year. Although it starts a little slow, it quickly hooks you with the build up of terror the main characters experience during their encounters with the Count and his minions. It is told through a series of journal entries, which can be a little confusing at times, but experiencing the different viewpoints of the main characters was what made this classic hit my list this year.

 

The Loch - Steve Alten

    I love cryptids and extinct animals, so naturally when I picked up this book I was hooked just by the title alone. I've actually read it twice, I liked it so much. It takes real scientific facts and theories and applies it to the Nessie lore, and the end result is a thrilling, head-scratcher that leaves you wanting more. Although this is more of a science-fiction novel than a horror, the scary elements were enough to land it on this list for me. There is a sequel called 'Vostok' which is an equally fun and terrifying read.


The Amityville Horror - Jay Anson

    This is the original haunted house novel. What makes this book scary isn't so much the plot, as it is the fact that it was based on a true story. Though there is debate on how much of the story is fabricated vs. real life accounts of the family, it is still that slow building, mortal terror that makes this a great book. Just don't read it at night if you live in an old, creepy house. Or do, if you want an extra thrill.

The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe


I know this is technically a poem and not a novel, but 'The Raven' makes my list due to it's classic status and the psychological terror it creates when reading it. Perfect for reading aloud by a campfire. The ambiance is perfect for a short, but spooky story.


Red Riding Hood - Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

    I picked this up on a whim a while back, and I haven't regretted it. They made a movie based on this one a few years ago, but the book is naturally a lot better. More of a mystery wrapped in a horror package, 'Red Riding Hood' takes the classic children's tale and ages it up for a grown up audience. It's a regular 'who done it' story with elements of romance, fantasy, and of course, horror.

The Hollower - Mary SanGiovanni

    I've known Mary as long as I've known Brian. I read 'The Hollower' a few months ago, and as the first novel by Mary I've ever read, I'm eager to dive more into her work. Psychological horror which jumps right at you from the first chapter, you never know what madness the creature will instill in its victims next, or how it will manifest itself. This is a great one if you like your mind to be utterly f-cked.

Feral: A Novel of Werewolf Horror - Matt Serafini



    If you like explicit gore and sex, then 'Feral' would be a great read for you. You've got your basic werewolf novel at first, but then things start to turn freaky really fast. There is no lack of detail in this one, so if you're squeamish, you might want to shelve this one. I actually said 'ew' out loud a few times when reading it.

Menagerie - Rachel Vincent

 


This book is classified as a fantasy rather than a horror novel. Indeed it does deal with magical creatures like oracles, werewolves, and nymphs, but the horror aspect of it comes from the world in which they are placed. It takes place in a time where magical beings are locked up and forced to perform in circuses, work in brothels, and generally be slaves to the humans that own them. It's a very triggering novel that deals with rape, torture, and worse, so if you're sensitive to these things, skip this one. 'Menagerie' is the first in a three book series, and if you start it, you'll definitely want to read them all.



Monday, October 11, 2021

4 Conventions and a Music Festival

 Hey everyone! A thoroughly exhausted Mary here. I just survived what I've been calling the Month of Madness... though it was more like a month and a half. Starting with Awesome Con in mid August, it's been pretty much back-to-back-to-back events, including four weekends in a row. Basically, thanks to pandemic year scheduling, things that should have taken place months apart all got smashed into the same timeframe.

The last time I was on here, I was wondering what the dickens to expect from the return of events. Awesome Con was barely in the rearview mirror, and Gen Con was coming up... followed by Capclave, followed by New York Comic Con. Oh, and I also attended Firefly Music Festival. 

Well, now having been to four conventions and a music festival, I've got something of an idea. The atmosphere at all these events was definitely different from 2019... the good ole beforetimes. Some things were better... Both Gen Con and Firefly were noticeably chiller than in years past. Limited attendance meant fewer crowds, and everyone seemed more relaxed as a result. Of course, that wasn't great for Gen Con sales. I can't complain really -- they were at 60% of 2019's attendance, and we our book sales were 70% of what we had in 2019, so we beat the odds at least -- but it did mean a lot more lulls in Authors' Ave. 

As an attendee at Firefly, though, the slower pace was nice. There wasn't as much of a mad rush to get places, lines were shorter, and people actually respected personal space. From what I've seen in one of the Gen Con Facebook groups, attendees there felt similarly. A lot of people were saying "oh, they should keep it like this every year." And maybe these events were growing faster than they could manage previously. I have a feeling that the machine of capitalism won't allow for that though, and that the giant companies that organize these events will want max attendance as soon as they're able.

Before New York Comic Con, I would have, from a vendor perspective, been with them. But holy crap NYCC was a madhouse, and I witnessed for the first time what it felt like for an Artist Alley to be TOO busy. For some of the artists (like the two extremely talented visual artists on either side of our table), it was good for business though exhausting for them personally (these poor guys barely got breaks to eat or drink). For me and Elizabeth Corrigan, who were sharing a table, the crowd became a problem. People were unable to even see our table because there were too many people. Normally the way we start a pitch is by offering free bookmarks and cards, but when the aisle got too crowded, people went into dodging mode and just bobbed and weaved along rather than browsing. 

This was my first time at NYCC so I can't compare, but a few longtime NYCC-goers said it was a weird vibe. People were coming out of their hidey-holes for the first time in almost two years and had forgotten how to con. Enthusiasm was high, but so was confusion and general... weirdness. Sales-wise, though, we couldn't complain. I matched Gen Con in terms of sales, though considering NYCC made us work 10-hour days instead of the usual 8, I'd still say Gen Con was a better show.

As for Capclave? Again, it was my first time there (for the full weekend at least; I'd gone down for a single Saturday back in 2019) so I couldn't really compare. I was told by longtime goers that it was much lighter than previously. I didn't have a table there - I was just on panels - and I did notice that attendance was rather light. And again, there was something odd in the air.

But for all five events, people were good about following the pandemic year rules -- showing proof of vaccination when asked and keeping their masks on for the most part. And as far as I'm aware, none have turned into super-spreader events.

Here's hoping the weirdness dissipates in 2022!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Back Jacket Hack Job: House of Leaves

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
It’s my turn to do a back jacket hack job, in which I emerge from my shack to whack at a back jacket to give it flack until it cracks.
 
I finally finished reading House of Leaves recently. As a novel, it’s very … challenging. You can read my review on Goodreads to see what I thought. The description on the cover could go something like this:

 

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski


WARNING: do not open this book unless it appeared mysteriously on your doorstep in the rain. This isn’t a horror novel, it’s an experience. The book should be absolutely filthy, waterlogged, almost impossible to read. If you bought this in a book store, you are not getting the full meta experience. This is Mark speaking. Also: fuck you.1

 

What you are about to critically engage with is a story about a person discovering a transcription of an analysis of a movie about a house that’s a metaphor for a relationship. You lost already? For an explanatory prologue, please search your local pawn shop for the out-of-print references in Appendix D. I don’t want to see you read one page before you put in the work to understand the nuances of academic texts, have listened to the compact disc of my sister’s album, and are prepared to sit down and over-analyze every sentence of this 700-page manuscript.

 

As Natsume Sลseki remarked, after watching you read this back jacket from the impossible crawl space beneath your second-floor office: “Your addiction to thinking will come back to haunt you.”2

 

There is one final message to understand before you open this book and begin. As I write this, I’m on a rollercoaster that appeared in my bathroom (long story), so this important message is upside-down and backwards. Stand on your head and look in a mirror or something:

 

ษŸnษ”สž สŽon

 



 

1 Psst, hey, it’s me, the guy who left the book on your doorstep. Don’t worry about that Mark guy. Nice lawn. It reminds me of this time I was in Shrewbury, woozy on shrooms and crushing hard on a stripper who was also an assassin who called herself Jiminy Cricket, and we lay in the grass, which was the shade of my mother’s jade necklace, so let me tell you about [sentence continues for nine pages]

 

 Hey, it’s the editor. There is no Appendix D. Fuck you.

 

2 Natsume Sลseki, Light and Darkness (1917, Putnam Publishing Group), as quoted by therandomvibez.com

 

Is this a real book? I don’t know, but I guarantee you’ll put down House of Leaves to descend into a dark rabbit hole of Googling it, then find yourself in another room three hours later swiping through historical documents on your phone with no recollection of what led you there. It will take you five years to get through this book. Anyway, as I was saying about my mother and strippers, [twenty pages written in wingding font]




Hey it’s me, P.T. Phronk. I’m done. I’ll be back in a month, when I reveal the one tool that can double your writing output. It’s not what you think, so you’ll have to return to ATB in a month to find out what it is. How’s that for a cliffhanger? #marketing

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Avoiding Writing: Fun with Crochet!

www.KarissaLaurel.com
 First, a disclaimer:  I haven't been "avoiding writing". Not completely, anyway. I've been putting out a weekly episodic story on Amazon's new platform, Kindle Vella (more info on that project here: Serendipity at the End of the World); and being an Assistant Editor for Cast of Wonders also takes up a lot of my time while keeping me immersed in the world of speculative fiction.

But...I wouldn't be a real writer if I didn't have two Works in Progress that are being sorely neglected right now. One is a YA project about Bluegrass/Traditional/Mountain Music and Sirens (the mythological singing creatures); and one is an Adult Urban Fantasy about an ex-special forces sharp-shooter and powerful telekinetic. In my head I think of it as a gender-flipped version of The Punisher but with magic.

Writers like to make jokes about doing anything to procrastinate and avoiding writing: cleaning house, exercising, baking, posting pet photos, etc., etc., etc. I'm particularly guilty of that, and lately my favorite way to avoid writing is by working on my newest hobby: Crochet!

I've mentioned before that my mom is queen of fiber arts. I even modeled a short story character ("The Art of Crafting Resistance") after her in BADASS MOMS, an anthology edited by our very own Mary Fan. For as long as I can remember, my Mom has had a ball of yarn trailing after her wherever she goes. After college, I decided to take inspiration from her and teach myself to crochet. This was in the early days of the Internet (OMG, I am so old) when YouTube wasn't quite the go-to for tutorials it is today. So, I found a "How to Crochet for Beginners" book at the craft store and tried teaching myself a few things. Mostly I learned how to do straight lines. That meant I made a lot of scarves and small blankets before getting bored and giving up.

Fast forward *cough*twentysome*cough* years and the COVID pandemic hits.  Like almost everyone else, I was trying to stay occupied at home in ways that didn't involve actually breaking down and finishing writing a book. So, I got sucked into joining one of those on-line crochet kit clubs that kept seducing me on Instagram. "I'm going to teach myself to crochet again, but for real this time!"

The final product...IF I'm lucky

Yeah...no. That didn't happen. Not for about six or seven months, anyway. I signed up. I gave them my payment info, and they dutifully shipped me a package of yarn and pattern instructions every month. Those packets piled up under my desk. I had found plenty of other ways to occupy my time, telling myself I'd give the crochet thing a try when I needed a warm cozy project for cold, dark, winter evenings.

Finally, a few weeks ago, the guilt of all those unopened packages got to me. I decided to stop lying to myself and actually open a package and see how overwhelming it all was going to be. Let me backtrack again for a moment, first. Another thing that happened was that my husband starting working out of town a lot. A LOT. And sitting home alone in the evenings was getting majorly depressing--I needed something to distract me. I also have a really hard time sitting in front of the TV (or listening to audio books) without keeping my hands busy. I used to play simple video games on my tablet, but that felt too indulgent and pointless. A little voice in my head was saying, "Couldn't you do something more meaningful with your time?" It gave me the idea to at least spend that time working on crafts or something. I used to do a lot of crafty things, but I'd given a lot of that up with starting a family and writing and working full time and blah blah blah. That little voice wasn't criticizing me for not being productive enough, but more for forgetting about some of the creative, non-writing things I used to love doing.

So...I broke open that first package of yarn, I pulled up the first tutorial video, and I started crocheting.


And crocheting...


And crocheting...




And now I'm totally hooked (pun intended). I've got eight kits in all, and I'm currently halfway through kit three. I hope I keep up this momentum and finish the afghan and don't end up stuffing it away unfinished in one of my craft bins. A Work in Progress never to be completed, sort of like my books. Ha ha ha...*sobs*.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Two Massive New Releases!

 amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!


Hey, everybody! 

September has been a truly intense month for me.  I released my first ever self-published novel, BROKEN-DOWN HEROES OF THE WESTERN NIGHT, a little over a week ago.  If you want to grab a copy, it's available on AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboGoogle Play, and Apple.

Now, if you haven't heard me agonizing about this book for the last, oh, two years or so, that means you probably don't follow me very closely or else you have learned to tune me out, in which case, good for you!

But just in case it was an honest oversight and you do want to know the score, just trust me when I say this one has been brutal to midwife.  It's a beautifully written book, if you don't mind me tooting my own horn, but I also wrote it as an attempt to expand my writing horizons.  Consequently, it's unlike anything I've ever written before.

This book contains no speculative fiction elements.  No horror, no sci-fi, no fantasy.

For some of you, my nice older relatives in particular, this will come as quite a relief.  But for my reading public, I've been very concerned about how it will be received.  This book was actually good enough to be agented for a while, so I assumed that it would be something of a second start for me, and the New York publishers would encourage me to release it under a pseudonym and call it a debut novel, and then it would find a completely different audience than I'm used to in bookstores, and I could just dial my loyalists in to the secret.

So, for a while that matter was settled.  Ultimately, my agent and I cordially parted ways and my book was not only orphaned but had probably already been pitched to every publisher in New York and a few film studios in Hollywood.  So, my only real option was to self publish it, which meant either being very up front with my existing audience about it being a departure, or else releasing it under a pseudonym and developing an entire second online persona.

It's clear now which path I chose, but it was never a forgone conclusion.  I vacillated probably right up until I pushed "publish."  But, all I can say is, it's my hope that most of my audience will pick it up because they want to hear what I have to say, and perhaps this one will break down a few barriers for me with readers who don't usually gravitate toward my stuff.  So, grab it, check it out, and let me know if this was a winner for you or a whiff!


Hardcharging army lieutenant Bickham Deth's only desire is to lead soldiers in combat. In the bloody winter of 2006, he expects to finally earn his baptism by fire on the streets of Kabul or Baghdad.

Instead, he finds himself trapped in Oklahoma on funeral detail.

Deth is honored to pay tribute to the veterans of Vietnam and World War II, but his patience is pushed to the breaking point by incompetent morticians, squabbling family members, and a mishap with the color of his socks that threatens to derail his entire military career.

As the "needs of the army" turn a three-day task into a never-ending odyssey, Deth finds solace from his grim work in the gallows humor of his partner, Sergeant Bela Packs. In his fifteen years of service Packs has seen it all, and his war stories are a welcome distraction from the painful task of burying the dead.

As the honors team weaves its way through the American heartland, seeing both the sublime and ugly sides of small town life, Packs unravels the spellbinding tale of the worst Soldier who ever lived...

***

The second enormous thing going on right now is at least back in my normal horror wheelhouse.  Somehow I managed to blackmail, bribe, and finagle my way into rebooting the hallowed munch-out series CLICKERS, originally developed by Mark S. Williams, J.F. Gonzalez, and Brian Keene.

CLICKERS NEVER DIE is gonzo splatterpunk on a scale, if possible, even wider than THE HEMATOPHAGES or anything else I've ever done before.  It's up for pre-order now over at Thunderstorm Books, but only until Friday.  Oh, and this version will come with two miniatures, hand sculpted (read: not really) by my writing partner Wile E. Young!  So make sure to grab a limited edition copy so you can read it before anybody else has.



The seminal horror series created by J.F. Gonzalez, Mark Williams, and Brian Keene reemerges from the depths with the weirdest, most brutal installment yet!

Washed-up oceanographer Cameron Custer is hoping a mysterious living fossil discovered in the South Pacific could breathe new life into his career. Instead, Custer’s new specimen points him toward a heavily guarded secret — the truth behind the Guadalcanal Campaign. During World War II the U.S. Marine Corps had more than just the Imperial Japanese Army to contend with. They also had to wage a vicious battle against the amphibious Dark Ones and an onslaught of their deadliest servants.

Now, an ocean heaving with blood and guts, a battlefield teeming with rage and terror, a man’s demented love affair with a fish monster, and a boy’s heartwarming friendship with a prehistoric crab monster will all combine to prove that… CLICKERS NEVER DIE!

Splatterpunk Award nominated author Stephen Kozeniewski (THE HEMATOPHAGES, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS) and Splatterpunk Award winning author Wile E. Young (THE MAGPIE COFFIN, CATFISH IN THE CRADLE) join forces for one of modern horror’s most anticipated reboots!
 
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