Category Archives: Guest Posts

Go Wish Long and Short Reviews a Happy Anniversary!

Long and Short Reviews, my favourite book review site, is celebrating their 11th anniversary this week.

They’re publishing special guest posts every day between now and Friday. They will also be giving away dozens of prizes, including a $100 Amazon gift card.

I hope you’ll all check out their celebration this week and enter into the contest. Good luck!

Avoid These Common Rookie Blogging Mistakes

 

Common Mistakes Writers Make While Blogging

Companies increasingly realize the value in blogging. It’s a simple way to create engaging content on your website, improve your SEO, and drive more traffic to your digital door. On the other hand, quality blogging is both an art form and a science. Your content must not only be entertaining and simple to read, it must also strike the appropriate tone and reach the right audience. In order to achieve this, avoid these rookie blogging mistakes:

Mistake 1: Neglecting Your Research

When setting up a blog, think about your target audience. If you neglect to include demographic research into your blogs, your content may fall flat – or worse, turn people off from your site.

Failing to know your target demographic can also lead to your posts becoming too generic. Instead of creating tailored content to your readers, you run the risk of simply taking up space on a page. Rather than trying to “appeal to the masses,” conduct some thorough content research before creating a blog. Writing to a target persona will automatically make your content more personal, engaging, and conversational.

Mistake 2: Creating An Inappropriate Tone

As you conduct your market research and decide on your target personas, think about the tone in which you want to communicate ideas to these people. Appropriateness is a key issue that can make your blogs fall flat. The classic example is wearing a suit to the beach, or beach shorts to a job interview. If your company deals in serious subject matter (such as medical services or financial planning), trying to incorporate humor or lightness is a lot like wearing beach shorts to a job interview. Make sure the tone of your writing matches up with your target audience.

Consider creating a blogging guide with blog writing tips for all your copywriters that dictate tone and appropriate style. This will ensure consistency throughout your posts.

Mistake 3: Lack Of Emotion In Your Writing

On the other hand, it’s important to communicate some level of emotion in your writing, no matter your audience. Even formal, authoritative pieces of content can communicate personality. Health-related services, for example, can remain authoritative while communicating compassion and empathy. When you write from an emotional or personal perspective, your writing automatically becomes more conversational and easier to read.

Mistake 4: Broken Links In Your Content

Link-building is an essential process for driving your SEO. One of the simplest blogging tips – yet one that rookie bloggers are most likely to ignore – is making sure your linked content goes back to a reliable source. Broken links tarnish your authority and create a sense of annoyance in your reader, while neglecting your link-building altogether creates a missed opportunity for improving your search engine ranking.

Mistake 5: You Don’t Have A Responsive Website

Your readers are more likely to engage with your content on a mobile device than they are on a desktop. If you lack mobile optimization or a responsive web design, you’re damaging your blog’s reputation before you post your first article. Having a responsive website means your readers can engage with your content no matter how they view it – on a desktop, on a tablet, or even on their mobile device. The easier the content is to read, the more likely people will enjoy engaging with it.

Mistake 6: You Don’t Use Calls-To-Action

A call-to-action, or CTA, is a simple way to encourage more engagement with your website. A CTA can be hard: “contact us to take advantage of this amazing offer!” or soft: “if you’re interested in learning more about our services, reach out to us at any time.” No matter what kind of CTA you use, they provide extra opportunities for your audience to connect with your content.

Mistake 7: You Don’t Promote Your Content On Social Media

You put a lot of time and energy into creating engaging blog posts. Why not promote them on all your marketing channels? It’s simple to do and drives more traffic to your website, organically improving your SEO while teaching your readers more about your company. Link your articles to all your social media channels by using an enticing description.

Mistake 8: You Don’t Engage With The Rest Of The Blogging Community

Here’s a piece of sage blogging advice: don’t forget about other blogs in your niche. Most bloggers don’t realize that you can build more traffic to your own site by commenting on other blogs and networking with others in your field.

These simple blogging tips will help you organically build a readership base and ensure that you’re creating engaging content each week. Apply them when starting or revamping your blog – your readers will take care of the rest.

Author Bio:

Nicola Yap lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her two cats Marcie and Lambert. When she isn’t writing blog posts, she’s probably playing video games or doing something as equally unproductive. She works as an organic marketing strategist for Eminent SEO, a full-service digital marketing agency that creates custom websites and innovative marketing solutions for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for impactful results.

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10 Actionable Ways You Can Incorporate Mindfulness In Your Life

Mindfulness: it’s one of those trendy buzz words that have been gaining a lot of popularity in the health and fitness world, like kale or alkaline or “ancient grains.” But what is it REALLY?

I used to think you could only practice mindfulness if you were a hip and fully bendable yogi, fresh off your latest meditation retreat where you and the Kundalini crew ate exclusively vegan tofu and discussed tips on optimizing your DIY composting toilet-that’s-really-a-bucket.

But after taking a mindfulness quiz in which I scored extremely poorly (the quiz literally told me to “Think again”, which made me laugh sheepishly), I realize that one can easily practice a little bit of mindfulness in everyday situations.
I’m a firm believer of practice makes perfect, and that holds true for mindfulness as well! Here are 10 actionable ways one can begin practicing mindfulness:

1. Instead of scarfing down your food, chew with purpose! Mindful eating is a great place to start because, hey, WE ALL EAT. Consider the texture, taste, and smell of your food. If it’s one of your favorite dishes, relish the act of eating it! Why exactly is it your favorite dish? Do you have any fond memories associated with it?

2. Be truly cognizant of your surroundings while driving. For many people, we go on auto-pilot during our commute. Change this by practicing mindful driving: feel your palms on the steering wheel or your foot on the pedal. Listen to the cars around you.

3. Be aware of your breathing. Feel your lungs slowly expand in and out and listen to the rhythm of your heart beat.

4. Feel the textures of your clothing as you wear them. Are you wearing a particularly soft hoodie? A silky blouse? The rough denim on your legs? How do these articles of clothing make you feel?

5. Notice your mood, and acknowledge any shifts in emotions. Do you feel hungry? Nostalgic? Melancholic? Happy? Anxious? Impatient? Why do you feel that way?

6. Set a 5 minute alarm on your phone. Then, for the next five minutes, practice concentrating on an object in the room. It can be a pen, a potted plant, anything. Be fully aware of that object: how it feels, its functions, how it is built or created, etc. If your mind starts to waver or you become distracted, practice focusing your attention back on the object. Keep at it until the five minutes is up.

7. Practice walking meditation. You can do this while walking in the parking lot, grocery shopping or even just taking a walk down the street outside of your house. Feel your legs carry you from one place to another. Feel your foot stepping on the pavement or floor. Feel the muscles of your body acting in unison to transport you to a different location.

8. Go to a busy area, like a park or a restaurant, and listen to the sounds around you. It can be a bird chirping in the free, a dog barking in the distance, your neighbor’s wind chimes. Listen to the different pitches of each sound and focus entirely on hearing the environment around you.

9. Pay attention to seemingly mundane or normal tasks – even the little inconsequential things that you do on a regular basis. Feel the smooth glass on your smartphone, or listen to the rhythmic clickety-clack of your keyboard as you type an email.

10. Embrace stress and acknowledge how it affects you physically and mentally. When you feel stress, become aware of the physical changes that are taking place in your body that have resulted because of the stress. Perceive the stress in your body as energy that will allow you to accomplish the task at hand. Accept the stress, and mindfully channel it towards productivity.

This is by no means an exhaustive list: there are hundreds of other ways one can practice mindfulness. With enough hard work and effort, you’ll be on your way towards becoming a more mindful and self-aware individual!

About the Author: Nicole Clarke is a content writer in the addiction treatment and holistic health niche. When she isn’t blogging, she is probably spending time with her family or online shopping! She discovered the benefits of mindfulness at the beginning of her journey with sobriety from substance abuse. Please reach out to her on Twitter at @NicoleHClarke!

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Interview with Apex Magazine Editor Lesley Conner

This post is part of the subscription drive for my all-time favourite science fiction and fantasy magazine, Apex Magazine. Lesley Conner is one of the editors who works there, and she was kind enough to stop by here today and answer a few questions. I hope you’ll check out the other interviews in this drive as well!

What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Apex Magazine?

Ooo, great question! I would love to see more sci-fi stories in the slush. We get some, but I seem to read a lot more magical realism or fantasy stories than I do science fiction. And we’re not looking for straight up sci-fi, something-is-wrong-with-the-ship, oh-no-we’re-going-down! stories. I read a LOT of those. Give me something more than that, more than man/woman in space in peril. I’d love see more stories like “The Laura Ingalls Experience” by Andrew Neil Gray, “Soursop” by Chikodili Emelumadu, or “1957” by Stephen Cox.

What have been a few of your favourite stories that were published here so far?

Well, I’m a big fan of all three stories I mentioned in the first question. In addition to those, I absolutely love “She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow” by Sam Fleming, “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad, and “Next Station, Shibuya” by Iori Kusano. Each of those moved me as a reader and excited me as an editor.

Oh, and “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols! That story is so much fun to read!

Little bit of a sneak peek: we have a story coming out in the May issue by Evan Dicken called “How Lovely is the Silence of Growing Things.” Read it! You do not want to miss that story! It is amazing!

 Have you ever had a dream about one of the stories that was submitted to you? If so, which one was it? If not, which story do you think would provide the most interesting fodder for a dream?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream about any of the stories submitted to us. If I have, I’m not remembering them now, but a lot of the stories have realities that would be make interesting—if not terrifying—dreamscapes. Immediately “Screaming Without a Mouth” by Travis Heermann and “Aishiteru Means I Love You” by Troy Tang come to mind. *shudders* Both of those stories stuck with me long after I finished reading them and I could see them causing a few nightmares.

By the way, Troy Tang wrote this absolutely horrifying story about abuse and self-loathing that questions whether or not doing horrific things to an artificial intelligence is it still wrong and loathsome—after all, they aren’t living—and he is one of the sweetest individuals I have ever worked with. Working with him was a lovely experience and I’m so glad we were able to bring his story to the world, even if it does continue to haunt me to this day. Just goes to show that stories a person writes do not reflect who they are.

How often do you and Jason disagree on whether or not to accept a story? How do you resolve those conflicts when they occur?

Honestly, Jason and I don’t disagree on stories very often. I think that’s one of the things that makes us a good editing team—we have the same vision for what types of stories we want to see in Apex Magazine, so we don’t spend a lot of time arguing over one story or another. We do discuss a lot of stories before deciding one way or the other on it, but that’s usually to talk through one or more aspects that may not be sitting quite right with us. Jason passes on stories that I like all the time, but most of the time if I’m absolutely in love with a story, he likes it too, and you end up reading it in a future issue of Apex Magazine. If he doesn’t, well then, Jason will pass on it. He’s the editor-in-chief, so when it comes right down to it, he makes the final call.

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

Things I Learned While Publishing

This is a guest post from Stephen Lomer. 

Let’s start off with an establishing statement: I never once considered going the traditional publishing route with Stargazer Lilies or Nothing at All. Never. Not once. Other authors may be seduced by the potential for big-money contracts and the marketing clout of the big publishing houses, but I wasn’t willing to surrender control of my baby to God knows who for God knows how long for God knows what kind of payoff.

So I did the whole thing myself. And when I say the whole thing, I mean it. I wrote the thing, participated in the editing process, designed the cover, prepped it for publication, released it, and designed the ads for it. That was all me, baby. And did I learn a thing or two? You bet your left elbow I did.

It’s hard

From A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” And I think that might be the point. From the specialized formatting you need to do to prepare your book for the Kindle to the exacting specifications that CreateSpace requires, if you’re going to be a DIY publisher, you’re going to jump through some hoops, baby. But I feel like that’s a rite of passage, in a way. A declaration that you’re serious about publishing your book. Because, let’s face it, if there was a one-click button on Microsoft Word that allowed you to upload something instantaneously, there’d be some real garbage on Amazon.

It’s scary

No matter how many writer friends you have or how many friends and family are cheering you on, when it comes time to publish your book, it’s all you. And there’s always one moment just before you click the last button to make it live where you think, “Is this book really any good? Because it’s about to be available to the entire freaking world.” It’s a wonder anyone ever clicks that last button.

It’s not what you expect

I don’t care what any author tells you, they all expect the same thing: the book will go live, a few people will read it, the word will spread, the five-star reviews will pile up, and they’ll be lighting their cigars with $100 bills. Well I am here to tell you that it just ain’t so. The world may stop and hold its breath for you as the author, but by and large, the real world will keep rumbling along, not giving the slightest damn that you’re now a published author. The real work starts after you’re published, not before.

I don’t mean for this all to sound like an awful, unpleasant experience, because it’s not. It’s thrilling, exhilarating, and altogether glorious. Just know that there’s a gauntlet, and you must run it. But every self-published writer has run it, and we’re all rooting for you.

One last little tidbit I’ll pass along while you’re wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into is this: If you’re designing your own cover, leave plenty of bleed on the edges. Trust me, you’ll be saving yourself no end of aggravation.

Happy publishing!


Stephen Lomer has been writing books, novellas, short stories, and scripts for nearly a decade, and one or two of them are actually pretty good. A grammar nerd, Star Trek fan, and other things that chicks dig, Stephen is the creator, owner, and a regular contributor to the website Television Woodshed. He’s a hardcore fan of the Houston Texans, despite living in the Hub of the Universe his whole life, and believes Mark Twain was correct about pretty much everything.

Stephen lives on Boston’s North Shore with his wife, Teresa. Stargazer Lilies or Nothing at All is his first published work.