Putting out the Welcome Mat

Welcome mat

I read a post today, over on Christina L. Rivers’ blog that really got my thinking. She likened finding one’s target audience to the elusive search for Big Foot. I laughed at the analogy but ended up going over her reflection list a few times, the furrows on my brow deepening with each reading. As Christina writes, is it simply happenstance? Or is it all about creating the right habitat, setting out the appropriate welcome mat?

As a self-published author trying to attract readers to my work, this blog is my prime real estate corner in the cyber-world. This is the place where I unfurl that welcome mat. A reader who has never heard of me can get curious about my books right here.

From the beginning of its inception, my blog has been eclectic. Writing about writing is writing about life. I have sought to create posts that give readers an insight into the living that occurs in the background of my books. Not to say my writing is autobiographical, but all fiction authors are (to a degree) spinning out their own experiences through various creative lenses. I am fortunate enough to have access to a huge archive of photographs taken my both myself and my husband, Bruce. I use these to illustrate (often in obscurely, artistic ways) the posts I write.

The right hand sidebar serves as a low-key means of alerting readers to the various social media sites where we can interact as well as highlights my books and, with a simple click, a means to purchase. The top photo bar hints at the setting for my work. My author photo brands me to this blog. Tabs lead to more details.

In approximately three and a half years of blogging, I’ve posted 418 times. That averages out to a bit more than two posts per week. In my opinion, when it comes to blogging, more isn’t always better. It is easy to overwhelm committed followers by over posting.

So, that is what I have been doing. What do you think of this welcome mat? Does it invite interaction? Am I creating a habitat that invites readers to jump on board? Suggestions, feedback, critique – feel free to weigh-in with whatever occurs to you.

The Inner Circle - Bruce Witzel photo

To Share or Not to Share?

Bruce Witzel photo

I’m guest posting over on the Alliance of Independent Authors Self-Publishing Advice Blog today. My topic is the sometimes tricky issue of sharing our manuscripts with the significant others in our lives.

Please pop over and check it out.  How to Share Your Manuscript with Your Partner.

Home Sweet Home and Kicking off 2015

Family baking - Bruce Witzel photo

Is there any feeling as wonderful as returning home after a great time away? Good memories of Christmas with grown children, their spouses and grandkids fuelled the joy of my first two nights back in my own bed.

As I usher in 2015, I’m feeling ahead of the holiday season curve. My suitcase is unpacked – that usually takes me at least a few days to attend to. I’m not down for the count with a cold, flu or cough. Most of my Christmas gifts have found a spot to take up residence. Life is good.

January the first puts me in a reflective state. Thoughts of the past year and plans for the upcoming one fill my mind. WordPress tells me, in my annual blog report, that my blog was viewed 19,000 times in 2014. Whew – that apparently represents seven sold out shows at the Sidney Opera House. Go figure! My most popular post of 2014 was a piece for my Location, Location, Location series on Dianne Gray’s book, Wolf Pear. The most commented post was Shaken Author Syndrome – haha – one of my favourites and with a title like that who couldn’t resist commenting. Three out of my top five posts were from 2013, thus proving my writing has longevity. I was viewed in 128 different countries and my day of choice to post is Sunday. Do check out your own WordPress Annual Blog Review. The fireworks at the beginning make it worth the effort.

Sparklers - Bruce Witzel photo

Looking back, 2014 was a productive year for my writing. The Light Never Lies (2nd book in the Crater Lake Series) came out in February and my book of short stories, Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope was self-published in May. I got two-thirds of the way through a first draft on the 3rd book in the Crater Lake Series, Chasing Down the Night and all the way through the first two drafts of another novel, Maelstrom – both of which are scheduled for publishing in 2015.

Wedge Pond in Kananaskis Country

I managed to squeeze in a few trips out of my lake-side sanctuary to visit with kids, grandkids and friends. Bruce and I treated ourselves to a ten day holiday travelling in the mountains of BC and Alberta. We had more summer visitors this year than we’ve had for a while and our 2014 garden was an over the top producer of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and green beans.

Summer garden - Guenette photo

My small list of accomplishments plays itself out against the backdrop of community both far and wide. On a sad note, more than a couple of tragic deaths rocked nearby communities and these touched me and wove their way into my year. The world revolves around me in ways that both frighten and confuse me at times.

Fall leaves - Bruce Witzel photo

But still, I move on with thoughts of the coming year. Resolutions often seemed doomed to fail but I don’t think we should chuck out the whole concept. Consider the root word – resolve. Something we all need. My main resolution for 2015 is not to be making the same resolutions in 2016.

I wish family, friends, fellow bloggers and all my followers a healthy and happy New Year. May we all sow and reap a good harvest whatever and wherever we choose to plant.

Brit & Emma - Xmas 2014 - Bruce Witzel photo

Two-year Blog Anniversary Comes and Goes

Reflective Chimes - Francis Guenette photoI had my two year blog anniversary a couple of days ago. Yippee and all that jazz. Two years of blogging – it’s been, for the most part, an enjoyable learning curve. Of all the things I find I need to do on social media, I must say the blog is my favourite.

The first year of blogging on WordPress, I opted to pay extra for my own domain name. I didn’t regret that choice. This year, I’ve decided to go with the upgrade that means no advertising placed on my blog by anyone but me, more storage space, the option to do a bit of custom design and the use videos or audio files. You never know when I might decide to go multi-media.

To date, I’ve posted 271 times (this post will be 272). My blog has had over 31,000 views and almost 3000 comments. I currently have 2244 followers (if WordPress will ever get around to updating my Facebook and Twitter numbers and adding them in). Not bad for two years of effort. Small potatoes to some, I’m sure, but I’m thrilled.

Pink Daisies - Francis Guenette photo

Naturally, I wanted to celebrate my anniversary – if only because the WordPress people were so kind as to remind me of the date with a nifty little gold cup icon on my stats page. But I couldn’t. I was in the midst of serious laptop problems which puts me into high-anxiety mode. I call anything serious that I can’t rectify myself. I had to send my laptop into town to a computer whiz kid and have him back-up all my files and do a complete reformat. If I’d known that was needed, I could have probably handled it on my own but ever the optimist, I hoped it would be something a bit simpler. No such luck.

I had two days to mope around the house reflecting on my total lack of flexibility and complete dependence on an electronic gadget. We have other laptops in the house and I defaulted to my old Dell (practically pulling it out of Bruce’s hands – that’s how things work around here. When I get a new laptop, he inherits the old one). But of course the Dell doesn’t look or act anything like my newer model HP and it bugged the hell out of me. As you can imagine, Bruce’s suggestion that at least I had another computer to use (and could be grateful for that) fell on deaf ears.

But seriously, I haven’t been out of sight or touch of my laptop for almost two years – I’ve spent more time looking at the screen than I have doing anything else (and believe me, that statement just gave me pause for serious thought). I described this to Bruce as analogous to him going out to his truck one morning and finding that every single tool he owned was gone. How would he work? How would he feel? Like it or not, this bit of electronic gadgetry represents all my tools rolled into one package. I can’t do my job (writing) without it.

All the angst is behind me now. My laptop came back – emptied, fresh and new, except the one backup folder on the desktop. I didn’t lose anything. It was time consuming to reinstall Office and a few of my other go-to programs. It took most of last night for Windows to get itself totally updated and I had to do my own manual update to reinstall Window Live Writer 2012. I can’t blog without that tool! iTunes reinstalled with all my playlists intact. Everything is back to the way it was before the problems.

Except this low-level anxiety – what if it happens again? I resolve to check out a more systematic way of backing up my work. But knowing myself, I probably will put that off (my human nature being what it is).

I will end by saying: Happy two year blogging anniversary to me – albeit a couple of days late. I send out so many thanks to all the wonderful people who follow my blog, read my posts, like and put up the great comments that keep me motivated. I am also grateful for the many bloggers I have discovered and follow – I’ve learned so much from so many of you.

Columbine - Francis Guenette photo

Shout out for fellow blogger & Book Reviewer: What has been read cannot be unread

Book Reviewer LoveIf you are an avid reader on the lookout for reading material, please pop over and check out Marti’s blog – What has been read cannot be unread. The woman is a prodigious reviewer whose views on the books she devours are wonderfully riveting.

Marti is an American expat living in the central highlands of Mexico. From an early age, she has been a self-proclaimed voracious reader who welcomed with open arms the access to e-books provided by her Kindle.

Quick Facts – Marti’s been posting on her book review blog for a year now. It looks to me like she’s averaging more than a review a week across a wide spectrum of reading delights – self and traditionally published, old and new.  Her WordPress stats say she currently has 284 followers and I think she should have a lot more.

I find Marti’s reviews entertaining and reliable. She invariably finds something good to say about what she reads. At the same time, she doesn’t shy away from an honest opinion. Consider this quote: “There are a number of VERY strange and unusual books in the world. One of them is __________. (Sorry, no spoilers or singling out – you’ll just have to read Marti’s back catalogue to see what that’s all about.) And here’s another good one: I found this book disappointing in that it is not a guide to anything, except possibly the simplistic thought process of the author.

Marti’s style invites meanderings. Here’s a tidbit from her review on Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie, a Londoner, is the daughter of a costermonger and his sweet wife, who died when Maisie was about 12 or so. OK, in case you don’t know what a costermonger is but don’t want to admit it, I’ll tell you. A costermonger is a street seller of fruit (such as apples) and vegetables, in London and other British towns. Still a few around, and we even have them here in Sunny Mexico. Monger means ‘seller’.”

Or this, her opening to a review of Charles A. Cornell’s, Dragonfly.

Dragonfly, Part I, is the first of a series of a Dieselpunk saga about World War II and Nazi Germany. It stars a feisty young woman pilot — and you all know how much I like a lady in a starring military role.

And one of my favourite Marti quotes from her post, Seven Story Lines I am Sick of

Let me say up front that I think most of the 100 books you must read before you die really belong on a “100 Books to Get Around to Reading If You’re Stuck in a Post Apocalyptic  Snowstorm and Have No Internet to Download More Books and Already Got Suckered Into Downloading These”  list.

Follow Marti on her reading journey – you won’t be disappointed. You will definitely discover some gems for your own e-reading pleasure and I dare you not to laugh out loud at Marti’s way of turning a phrase.

Reader statue - Guenette

Blog Tour Grand Finale

Wisteria - Guenette - 1 (2)

What better way to celebrate than with wisterias in full bloom!

The Light Never Lies Blog Tour has come to an end. The tour ran over a three month period with nineteen stops on seventeen different blogs – seven interviews, five guest posts (written by yours truly) and five book reviews. I estimate the total reach of the tour was in the range of 10,000 viewers.

There were prizes attached to the tour – two softcover copies of The Light Never Lies. I am happy to announce the names of the winners.

Jill Weatherholt won for being the blog host who garnered the most engagement on her post. Including her responses, she had 82 comments! Whew, Jill – loyal followers or what? I send out many thanks to Jill and say congratulations on managing a very engaging blog. Please, people, check out and follow Jill’s blog.

Gwen Stephens won the random draw taken from all commenters over the course of the tour. Gwen was also one of my hosts and she was running in second place to Jill for post engagement with 67 comments. You won’t go wrong to be following Gwen either – she blogs over on The 4 A.M. Writer. Intriguing blog name, right?

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labels

Many, many thanks to every one of my seventeen blog hosts. I plan to keep the tour page up on my blog so links to all of your great blogs stay put.

The blog tour sold books and it increased the number of followers on my own blog. All the bloggers who did reviews posted those reviews up to various Amazon sites and often to Goodreads, as well. This was an added bonus for me.

By reposting the tour stops to my own blog, putting links up to Facebook and tweeting, I was happy to direct new traffic to my blog hosts and increase my own visibility.

Wisteria - Guenette - 1 (6)I put this blog tour together on my own. It was a lot of work but well worth the effort. It’s sort of like what my husband often tells the clients of his construction and renovation business – if you want to put in some sweat equity on this project and work with me, you’re going to get a better price. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you can’t have a good experience with a money-out-of-pocket blog tour. I’m just saying, here’s something else to think about.

I am planning a more of a how-to post where I’ll provide tips on getting the most out of a do-it-yourself tour.

In closing, do consider putting together your own tour. And if another blogger asks you to be a host, carefully think about the request. It doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. A few of my hosts were very detailed in what they thought their followers would be interested in and that’s great. I appreciated that they knew what would work and gave firm guidelines. Win, win for everyone.

Wisteria - Guenette - 1 (3)

Hat in Hand my Friends, Hat in Hand

Fran's Garden

I sincerely believe blogging is about more than promoting, selling or making money. This site is my author webpage as well as my personal blog. It is my way of connecting with readers, friends and fellow bloggers. It’s the place I tell about what’s happening in my life, be it writing, books, publishing, marketing, parenting, grand parenting, gardening, living in a rural setting, travelling.

My blog is where I pay it forward when it comes to supporting other self-published authors. I recently started a series where I invite self-published authors to do a guest post related to how location plays an integral role in their writing. I’ve regularly posted book reviews and interviews and promoted these far and wide through my social media network.

In terms of valued-added, I’ve blogged a number of times about my experience with self-publishing in the hope that some of the things I’ve learned through trial and error might help someone else. Always we are standing on a continuum with others ahead of us and others behind. As we reach for a hand up, I firmly believe we should be reaching back to help others climb.

Fran's Garden (2)

I also host a spin-off blog called Saying What Matters where I write posts dedicated to effective communication skills. This is my way of sharing with others the experience and training that I’ve had the privilege to obtain.

You might be thinking – where is the hat part? We get that you’ve paid your dues, now you get to the point.

Okay, here it comes.

If you’ve stopped by my blog and considered reading either of my books at some later date – maybe that date has arrived. If you’ve read Disappearing in Plain Sight or The Light Never Lies and thought about doing a review to put up on Amazon or Goodreads – maybe today is the day. No time like the present – right?

Fran's Garden (3)

This plant is sometimes called Love Lies Bleeding – oh, the author’s lament – right?

You will find Disappearing in Plain Sight for sale on the following sites:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

Kobo

The Nook Store at Barnes and Noble

iTunes 

The Light Never Lies is available on the following sites:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

Kobo 

Smashwords

The Nook Store

Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and all e-reading devices, I’ve got you covered. Many thanks in advance to all readers and followers who respond to my hat in hand request. No good deed goes unnoticed. My gift today is the beauty of a few flower shots from our garden done on macro setting. Enjoy.

Fran's Garden (4)