Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What I Would Do With a Million Dollars

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Welcome to all of my new readers! There have been a lot of you lately. If you’d like to join in with the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge, the link above will give you the list of topics for the rest of this year.

My response to this week’s prompt is going to be much shorter than it was last week.

What would I do with a million dollars? I’d immediately invest it in mutual funds, bonds, or some other type of investment that was reasonably certain to pay off.

Becoming wealthy wouldn’t be a goal.  Rather, I’d want to cultivate as much free time as possible. With a steady and modest source of income, I could then spend my days doing projects that truly interested me without thinking about how to pay for them.

First, I’d return to university and take some courses. Don’t ask me what my major would be. I don’t know yet! It would be wonderful to explore various avenues and find out what most interests me, though.

While attending school, I’d try to work or volunteer in something related to my major a few hours a week. It would be really interesting to combine my love of literature with some sort of volunteer or paid work after that, although I’d be very open to other possibilities, too.

The nice  thing about studying when you have a guaranteed, lifelong source of income is that you don’t have to have it all figured out right away. You can take your time and build something truly incredible.

Once I was mostly* finished studying, I’d want to begin teaching other people the stuff I’d learned in individual or small group settings. Since I would already have a steady income to rely on, I could charge them based on their income and give away plenty of free lessons to people who truly couldn’t afford to pay anything. There’s something really interesting to me about figuring out the best way to show someone how to master a new task, and I love socializing one-on-one or in small groups. Those are both things I could do for many years without growing bored of them.

* I won’t completely stop studying new things for as long as I’m alive. I love learning new stuff!

How about all of you?

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2018

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

To be honest with all of you, at first I wasn’t sure if I should participate in this week’s prompt. I spend so much time reading new titles from authors I discovered years ago that I wasn’t positive I’d be able to come up with enough people to fill out all ten spots on this list.

Then I remember all of the short stories I read in the average year. My favourite genre has always been science fiction, and my favourite kind of sci-fi  to read is the short stuff. There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing how much world- and charcter-building an author can squeeze into a few dozen pages…or less!

Not only will you get to read my thoughts on today’s list as usual, you’ll also be able to check out the stories that first introduced me to these authors for free if any of them grab your attention. How cool is that?

1. Author: Sara Norja

What I Read from Them: Birch Daughter 

Why I Loved It: The main character’s mother was turned into a tree before the first scene began. If that’s not the makings of a must-read, I don’t know what is!

2. Author: A.C. Buchanan

What I Read from Them: Girls Who Do Not Drown 

Why I Loved It: So many stories are written about young women dying in ghastly ways. I adored the fact that this steadfastly refused to be one of them.

3. Author: Shiv Ramdas

What I Read from Them: Guardian

Why I Loved It: For something that took only a couple of minutes to read, this sure did pack an emotional punch at the end. That’s all I can say without giving you all spoilers.

4. Author: Adam R. Shannon

What I Read from Them: On the Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog

Why I Loved It: So many of us have outlived beloved pets. Imagine what it would be like to be reunited with them again in this lifetime…or maybe even forever. If the death of animals is a trigger for you, you might want to skip this even though it’s not really meant to be a tearjerker.

5. Author: Kathryn Kania

What I Read from Them: Tablecloth

Why I Loved It: In the very first scene, a mischievous (and possibly magical) cat shows up in the main character’s life and refuses to leave. That was such a cat-like thing to do that I couldn’t help but to keep reading.

6. Author: Chesya Burke

What I Read from Them: For Sale: Fantasy Coffins (Ababuo Need Not Apply)

Why I Loved It: The unique title was what grabbed my attention at first. I stuck around because of how kind the main character was despite – or maybe because of? –  the fact that people feared her.

7. Author: Beth Goder

What I Read from Them: How to Identify an Alien Shark

Why I Loved It: Now I know exactly how to identify an alien shark. Ha! Also, I love the idea of an alien invasion happening in our oceans because the invaders were an aquatic species.

8. Author: Alexandra Rowland

What I Read from Them: Love in Every Stitch

Why I Loved It: Sewing isn’t as easy as it might first appear to be, and even the most ornate handmade articles are rarely respected enough to be thought of as art. It’s nice to see stitches get the attention they deserve even if they aren’t quite the same sort of stitch you’d use to patch up a hole in a jacket or sew on a button.

9. Author:  Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

What I Read from Them: Talking to Cancer 

Why I Loved It: I know I’ve wished I could talk to cancer before. It’s a truly awful disease that has prematurely ended far too many lives. The thought of actually convincing it to go away like the main character did in the first scene is too good to be true.

10. Author: Kristi DeMeester

What I Read from Them: With Lips Sewn Shut 

Why I Loved It: The metaphor in it was outstanding. Oh, there’s so much more I want to say about it, but everything I can think of will give you unforgivable spoilers for why lips are sewn shut in this universe.

Who else loves short stories? I’m hoping at least a few Top Ten Tuesday bloggers will say yes to this question!

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Welcome back to my series on blogging advice. There were a few reader questions in the first instalment, How to Begin Blogging, about the actual process of creating a blog, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly address that. I’ll share a link to that post at the end of this one for anyone who would like to read or reread it.

I was originally planning to write a full post about the process of creating a new blog, but the official instructions for setting up new WordPress sites were so clear and easy to follow that I decided to link to them instead. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel when it already exists!

If you’re interested in setting up a tumblr account, check out this tutorial.

If you’re interested in setting up a medium account, go read this post.

Now to move on to what I think is one of the most exciting portions of blogging: brainstorming ideas and creating new posts.

Brainstorming

Today I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen a few topics for your blog. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still not entirely sure what all of them will be as long as you’ve made up your mind about at least one of the things you’re planning to write about. Other ideas might come to you as you explore the topic(s) that first came to mind.

Before you write a single word, do as much brainstorming and research as possible. Approach your topic from every single angle you can possibly imagine regardless of how likely it is that you might actually blog about them.

For example, if I were going to start a new site about rabbits, my favourite animal, my list would include lots of typical posts about what to feed them, how to teach them tricks, or when to call a veterinarian if they became ill. Mixed in with those ideas would also be potentially quirkier ideas on this topic like:

  • Famous Stories, Myths, and Folklore About Rabbits
  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates?
  • How Rabbit Care Has Evolved Over the Last X Years
  • Human Foods Rabbits Should (or Should Never) Eat
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees?
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks
  • How to Respond to People Who Joke About Eating Your Pet Rabbit
  • Should You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation?
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc.
  • Types of Music Rabbits Do (or Don’t) Like
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits
  • How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit
  • What Will Rabbits Look Like After Another Million Years of Evolution?
  • What Do Rabbits Really Think of Humans?
  • Where to Find Your Rabbit When He’s Hiding Somewhere in the House and Won’t Come Out
  • Help! My Rabbit Just Ate a Chicken Nugget!*

Yes, some of these titles might sound a little like clickbait, and I certainly wouldn’t use everything that popped into my mind as I was writing. The point of brainstorming is to come up with as many possibilities as you can without worrying about whether any or all of them are actually useful at this point. Instead, follow every single rabbit trail – pun intended – as far as it will go and see what you come up with.

*This was a real conversation I read on Reddit a while ago. The bunny in question suffered no ill-effects from his snack, although no one could figure out why a fluffy little herbivore would want to eat a chicken nugget in the first place. Maybe he or she saw a commercial for their favourite fast food restaurant or something? Ha!

Managing Ideas

Keep Track of Everything

Once you’ve come up with a preliminary list of ideas for your site, it’s time to figure out what to do with them until you decide whether or when to use them.

I highly recommend holding onto every idea that has the slightest chance of being used. There’s a file on my computer filled with potential ideas that I’ve been referencing, taking inspiration from, and adding new possibilities to for years now. It’s an invaluable source of information for me on those days when I have a blogging deadline looming and no clue what to write for that post.

Some of the bloggers I’ve met prefer to write their ideas down in a notebook instead. However you decide to do it, make sure your list is somewhere safe and accessible.

The Sorting and Grouping Process

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, start sorting your ideas out into various groups. For example, I’d pick out all of the holiday-themed prompts in my hypothetical brainstorming list above and start tentatively assigning them publication dates on or near those actual events.

  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates? (February 14)
  • Can You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation? (June 10)
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks (July 2)
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc. (August 1)
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits (October 20)
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees? (December 8)

If you only want to publish one new post a week, you’ve just knocked out six of the fifty-two posts you’ll need for the entire year. That’s more than 10% of your goal! In addition, someone who knew rabbits well well could easily come up with another half-dozen topics that are tailored to specific times of the year if they put their minds to it.

It might also be interesting to pick a broad theme like food and spend a few consecutive posts talking about what rabbits should eat daily, occasionally, or never. I might then round off that series with a short and funny anecdote about a rabbit who couldn’t resist the lure of a chicken nugget before talking about the warning signs that your pet bunny has eaten something dangerous and when he or she might need to be medically treated for it.

There’s something fascinating about seeing how many different ideas one brainstorming session can create.

Mixing It Up

With that being said, I’d also recommend mixing up your posting schedule in general. If your last few posts were about heavy topics, it might be time for something lighthearted. Something that clocked in at several thousand words might be best followed by a shorter post if your subject matter allowed for it.

Work Ahead When Possible

The beautiful thing about planning at least some of your posts out in advance like this is that it allows you to work ahead. If you know you’ll be on vacation or recovering from an elective medical procedure at a specific time and already have an inkling of what you might want to say then, why not get those posts written well ahead of time?

When possible, I also like to have a few posts sitting in my queue that could be published at any time of the year. This comes in handy for everything from power outages to illnesses that can make it hard to write new content on a deadline occasionally.

Series, Responses, and Other Renewable Writing Resources

This is where series, response posts, and other renewable writing resources come in quite handy.

To continue with today’s theme, if you’ve already written one post about games to play with domesticated rabbits, you might be able to come up with several more suggestions on keeping rabbits entertained, fit, and mentally stimulated that would work beautifully as a follow-up to the original.

Response posts are another favourite of mine. Occasionally, one of the bloggers I follow writes something that I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to with a post of my own. Not only is this a great way to generate new ideas, linking to the original will give that blogger some new traffic and may encourage them to alert their readers about your post, too.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. They can also include contests, year-end reviews of your most popular posts, blog hops, contests, interviews with people in your field, and so much more. I encourage you to try many different types of posts as you feel out what your audience is interested in and, of course, what it is you actually want to write about.

How do you all come up with fresh content for your sites?

The next instalment in this series will be discussing how to find and photos and other visual aides in your posts, so stay tuned!

Additional reading:

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Intuition, Mindfulness, and the Alarm Bell In My Brain

This is the story of something that happened to me last year. It won’t take long to tell, but it’s important.

I met someone at a social event who was friendly, funny, and charming at first glance. They seemed like exactly the sort of person anyone would want to spend time with.

They’re hiding something, my intuition said quietly a few minutes after we’d met.

This was the first time I’d laid eyes on them, and I knew nothing about them other than the basic details they’d shared about their life and interests. They thought carefully before they spoke, and every word that came out of their mouth sparkled.

They’re sugarcoating the truth, my intuition said in a slightly louder tone.

I had no proof to back up these feelings. I’d literally just met this person. They were full of smiles and kind words for everyone around them. There was nothing about their words or actions that should have alarmed me. It was a perfectly ordinary get-together in every way you could imagine.

They’re lying about something. This wasn’t a question. It was a declarative statement I had no proof for but still kept circling back around to.

I felt uneasy around them for reasons that are hard to put into words. There was something about them that was slightly off-kilter no matter which way I looked at it, and that made me nervous. When I was younger, I might have brushed off this warning and decided to find out more about this person for myself.  These days, I listen and take heed.

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is how it can focus your attention on what really matters in situations such as these. Something wasn’t lining up in the things they said about their life.  I didn’t and still don’t know exactly what they were being evasive about, but my mind was still enough to listen to those thoughts when they popped up and take action quickly when they refused to go away.

No, I do not think I’m clairvoyant or have any other abilities that defy scientific explanation.  If anything, I believe that my mind picked up on subtle but important discrepancies between their verbal and non-verbal cues that might have shown they weren’t being totally honest about the things they shared about their life.

But I do think that my mindfulness habits helped me to realize there was something off about this person sooner than I might have in a different timeline. The beautiful thing about learning how to quiet your mind is that it makes the rare feelings that refuse to be ignored much more noticeable than they might have otherwise been.

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books That Need a Prequel

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Welcome to the very first Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge! Today’s topic is books that need a prequel. I hope my readers will click the link above and see how everyone else responded to this prompt, too.

Lately, I’ve been discovering prequels to all sorts of books that I spent ages wishing would have such a thing, so this post won’t be as long as it would be if I’d written it a year or two ago. For example, I recently read Sarah McCoy’s “Marilla of Green Gables,”  a prequel to L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” Last year I read “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller and saw Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early childhood from her mother’s point of view. (If you liked those series and haven’t already read the prequels to them, I highly recommend checking them out. They were both excellent reads).

Those experiences give me hope that everything I discuss today has a chance of actually having a prequel written for it someday. My fingers are crossed that this will happen.

Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”

For anyone who doesn’t already know the premise of this book, it was about a young family who unknowingly moved next door to a cemetery that brought anyone who was buried in it back to life. The trouble was, the people and animals who were reanimated in it weren’t their usual selves after that experience. They came back violent…or worse.

There were so many unanswered questions about this graveyard and the folks who had used it. Admittedly, I’m probably way more cautious about unexplained phenomenon than many people, but when I read this I really wondered why the people who knew about how dangerous it was didn’t work harder to warn newcomers and, I don’t know, prevent anything from being buried there. Did the cemetery somehow negatively influence your critical thinking and survival skills, too? I want answers!

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

What I’d love to see J.K. Rowling do is go back to when ancient wizards and witches first realized that they had special powers. Wouldn’t it be cool to see how wizarding society was first formed back when the general human population was much smaller than it currently is today?

Maybe it would be set in Africa tens of thousands of years ago when all of our ancestors still lived there. Then again, maybe magical characters in that universe didn’t actually have the resources to live separately from muggles until we invented agriculture and cities and could support much larger populations. What do you all think?

Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” graphic novels

I haven’t been keeping up with the latest issues of these graphic novels, but from what I’ve read the creator has no interest in explaining how the walkers (what we would call zombies) in this universe came to be or how they took over the world so quickly while Rick Grimes, the main character, was in a coma for a few weeks after an accident.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years, so not having answers for it vexes me. It sure seems like more people would have realized early on that walker bites would turn you into a walker, too.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’d sure like to know what Mr and Mrs. March’s childhoods were like, how they met, and what it was like for them to have four daughters in five years. That many babies in such a short period of time is a lot of work! I have a relative who had a similar age spread for their children, but they raised their brood with all of the benefits of modern society like disposable diapers, antibiotics, and kid-friendly TV programs for when one of the parents needed a few minutes to relax.

Room by Emma Donoghue 

 I’d sure love to read a prequel to this book told from the perspective of someone who knew why the antagonist kidnapped and imprisoned the main character’s mother for so many years in the first place. This wasn’t something that was addressed in Room since the narrator was a young, innocent kid who didn’t realize how bizarre his life was, but it is something I’ve wondered about ever since I finished reading it.

How about you? Which books do you want prequels for?

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Non-Fiction Releases for the First Half of 2019

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl When I’m not reading the science fiction and fantasy genres, non-fiction is something I love diving headfirst into. Thus far, it looks like 2019 is going to be an amazing year for all sorts of non-fiction titles, from biographies to sociology and so much more! 1. Influenza: The Quest… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

What I Read in 2018

In January of 2013, I began blogging once a year about everything I’d read that previous year.  This tradition began when my dad asked me how many books I’ve read in my entire lifetime. I couldn’t begin to give him an answer to that question, but it did make me decide to start keeping track… Read More