Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘blogs’

Where are y’all coming from?

When I look at my Word Press dashboard, I often see that old posts are suddenly getting a lot of visitors. Today it was Review: ‘Plain Truth’ by Jodi Picoult from last September. I have no complaints about this. I simply wonder how and why a bunch of y’all find a post six months after it was written. I don’t think the post saw that many visitors last fall.

So, do Word Press readers get together in “secret” Facebook groups and say, “Hey, let’s all read Malcolm’s old review this week. That’ll freak him out.” Or, is there a mother ship in high earth orbit that beams down subliminal messages about the blogs everyone’s supposed to visit?

Posts I’ve forgotten about suddenly appear in my blog’s stats with dozens of visits, and that sends me out to them to see what I might have said. You know, did I insult a celebrity, inadvertently announce a cure for ten horrid diseases, or post nude pictures I didn’t know were available? Of course, I keep waiting for the post that goes viral, the one that attracts the attention of major movie studios who get into a bidding war for my books. So far, that hasn’t happened.

When people find old posts, I sometimes search Google to see if anything earthshaking has happened that relates to their subject matter.  Usually not. And then, further adding to the mystery is the fact that a lot of those readers come from the far-flung corners (figuratively speaking) of the world. How do you find me? And why that particular post?

I’m not particularly astute when it comes to the issues of the day or the philosophical questions of our era. CNN doesn’t call me for quotes and the New York Times doesn’t review my books. Humbly, I must say that in both cases, it’s their loss. Of course, if I were invited anywhere special other than the nearest Cracker Barrell, I would decline the invitation because I have nothing to wear. I wear jeans an tee shirts; haven’t put on a suit and tie for years, and those I used to wear no longer fit.

Seriously, I grew up in a swamp–or near a swamp–and today’s social media (including Word Press and Facebook) are beyond me. As for Twitter, my blogs post there, but I seldom go there because I can’t figure out what’s happening. So, I wonder, how do y’all track down these old posts?

I’m usually too buried in writing and weekly chores to notice the stuff that many sites refer to as “trending.” So, if I’m ever trending, it’s news to me. Actually, I don’t want to be trending. That means the phone would ring and people would ask stuff like “Which of the Democrat’s 2020 candidates do you support?” and “Do you buy good wine or swill?” Frankly, I don’t need the hassle.

On the other hand, I appreciate everyone who stops by my blog. As we said in the old days, “What a hoot.”

Malcolm

My new novel, “Special Invesigative Reporter,” will be released soon. Meanwhile, enjoy “Widely Scattered Ghosts.”

 

 

Advertisements

Blogging, what’s it all about?

Writers are usually advised to have websites and blogs. There are lots of reasons even though blogs aren’t as popular as they were, say, back in the 1990s when the concept began. Blogs become, so say the experts, part of your platform or presence on the Internet.

Nonfiction

No, I don’t look anything like this clip art.

Not counting widely known writers, blogs seem almost mandatory for those writing nonfiction because they help establish subject-matter credibility. Such blogs have a built-in niche and tend to draw readers who are interested in beekeeping, home repair, investing, or whatever the author’s subject matter is. If the author is busy, s/he may have announcements of upcoming events related to that niche along with links to his/her articles along with resources links to sites and articles written by others. So the blog becomes another clearinghouse of information and (so the author hopes) will be a way of publicizing the books.

Fiction

Widely known fiction writers have a built-in audience of readers who are looking for them; they want to know the latest news about new books, presentations, panels, signings, etc. Unknown writers don’t have people looking for them. So, they are often told to blog about the subject-matter and locations of their books more than their books. If they write several posts a week about their books, that’s often considered SPAM. On the other hand, after maintaining this blog for a number of years filled with posts about Montana, Florida, mountains, swamps, hero’s journey, hoodoo, the environment and related subjects that relate to my novels, I can say that after a while, the writer runs out of book-related subject matter to talk about.

And, as far as I can see, there’s little correlation between those who read my posts about hoodoo, for example, and the sales of my books in which the main character is a conjure woman. Of course, most of the people who read this blog aren’t fans of hoodoo and related subjects, so I can’t establish a “hoodoo niche” and write about that all the time. But even if I did, I suspect that readers searching on hoodoo and conjure are looking for how-to more than fiction.

This brings me to the point that some writers make: blogging takes time away from writing the novels one is supposed to be writing. Yes, it does, and while I appreciate all of you who follow this blog greatly, I’m wondering if the blog is “earning its keep.”

Politics

J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and other well-known and wealthy writers can make political comments on Twitter all the time without harming their authors’ reputations. They may lose a few readers, but I’m sure they don’t care. I wrote a political post on this blog yesterday and deleted it today. Why? I guess I wish I hadn’t written it even though writers–among others–are being urged to speak out more and more about political matters. The thing is, politics has become so polarized these days, one can hardly say anything that doesn’t bring down the wrath of the multitudes. Suffice it to say, I’m a political moderate, yet the polarization in venues such as Facebook is so extreme that moderates get beat up by both conservatives and liberals. I don’t see a lot of real dialogue on Facebook. Just a lot of nastiness from people who wouldn’t dare say the things they say at a backyard barbecue or a bar or a party. I don’t think I want to bring that nastiness into this blog even though my political views are just as real as everyone else’s views.

So, What’s Left to Say?

My first thought is “not a lot.” I’ve been blogging for a long time on many platforms over the years. I’ve met a lot of cool people, found interesting discussions, been lured into exciting blogs of others, and had fun shooting off my mouth. But after 25 years of that, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing here on WordPress. As people reach my age (I’m not telling you what it is) they often find they’re out of sync with the world. That is to say, it becomes more and more obvious with each passing year that they are part of the older generation which is variously considered to be: (a) responsible for what’s wrong with the world, (b) out of touch with the major thrusts of culture and popular culture, (c) trapped in the past.

The days are long gone when old people were venerated for their wisdom.  (Hell, my generation grew up with the admonition not to trust anyone over 30.) Not that I have any wisdom. When I was a kid, I thought I would know lots of stuff by the time I was a grandfather. Boy, was I fooled!

This is almost goodbye, I think.

Malcolm

 

Is the blog on your website empty or out of date?

If the answer is “yes,” then why is “blog” a menu selection? I see out of date blogs a lot on writers’ sites, social service organization sites, and environmental group sites every week. Sure, they’re a lot of work even if they’re only updated once a month. Perhaps they were started when writers were less famous and had more time or when volunteer groups happened to have somebody on hand to write a blog who has since left the organization.

When I visit a social service or environmental group and see that the latest post is two or three years old, my first thought is, “Have you people done nothing since that post worth talking about?”

I realize that social service and environmental groups have to be more careful than other bloggers because they don’t have to luxury of posting rants or even reasonable debates because such things are construed as the voice of the organization rather than how the blogger happened to be feeling one day. So, most likely, blog posts have to be approved by upper management–or by the publicity department–and that can be time-consuming. However, I think an out-of-date blog creates about as much damage as any inadvertent post that headquarters may not like.

Much better to remove the “blog” menu selection than to leave it there and have people think you’re lazy and/or have nothing to say.

Writers get busy, especially those who are on the faculty of a college, on the board of one or more writers’ groups, or are charged with organizing writing workshops and conventions. The amusing thing is, many writers proclaim on their web sites that they write daily. That said, how long could it possibly take to add a hundred words to a blog? When a writer’s blog is empty, I feel cheated, especially if they haven’t come out with a new book in a while or been interviewed in a writer’s magazine. “What are you thinking about these days?” I want to ask. An out of date blog makes me think the answer to that question is “nothing.”

It may seem like a little thing, but that empty or abandoned blog on the writer’s or organization’s website is causing a lot more damage than most people realize.

–Malcolm

 

 

Writer’s Platform: Writing About Your Novel’s Subject Matter

The experts–and I use that term cautiously–tell authors not to write posts, tweets, and Facebook updates that say, one way or another, “Buy my book.” Why not? For one thing, it’s SPAM insofar as others are concerned. For another thing, it’s boring.

I think the experts are right when they say prospective readers won’t flock to your blog or Facebook page if all you’re doing is running a series of advertisements. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that most readers of popular fiction are drawn to mainstream novels because they’re interested in a novel’s location, the careers/hobbies of the characters, or the various tie-ins the novel has to old myths and legends.

Most of us buy books for a compelling story. I read a fair number of black ops books. Right now, I’m reading Agent in Place by Mark Greaney. I picked it up at a CVS and thought it looked interesting. I wasn’t attracted to it because I’m a student of guns, spies, conspiracies, or anything else related to the plot of the thriller. I think a lot of readers are like me in this respect.

We see a few reviews, we hear friends talking about what they’re reading, and we read the back covers of the novels we see in the local Barnes & Noble. I doubt that many of us consider ourselves experts in the subject matter itself except, perhaps, in historical novels where we like certain time periods and dynasties.

So why do the experts tell us to write about the subject matter behind our novels? Obviously, they think that we’re writing for people who like certain subjects and might tend to read novels about those subjects. I can see that readers might choose novels about witchcraft or political intrigue or rogue lawyers. Yes, they may find an unknown author’s novel by using search terms focused on the subject matter and discover his/her novel in the process.

While this seems logical, my experience is that very few of the readers who come to this blog and read about the hero’s journey, hoodoo subject matter, or magic ever purchase my books related to those subjects. They read the blog, enjoy a few hundred words about a subject they like, and then move on. That’s to be expected because most fiction readers buy books by authors they’ve already heard of.

I’m not a typical reader. I buy black ops books and I buy magical realism books. I suspect many readers are like this: they have likes that nobody suspects. Yet, the marketing gurus have to tell little-known writers something. They tell me to write posts about hoodoo, magic, 1950s racism, and Florida. So that’s what I do, but not because I think those who read those posts will zoom out to Amazon to buy my novels. I write posts about those subjects because I’m interested in them.

It’s gratifying to see–from this blog’s statistics–that a fair number of readers have been lured to Malcolm’s Round Table to read those posts. I read similar posts on other people’s blogs and get a lot out of them. In fact, finding readers for our posts is almost as good as finding readers for our novels. We’re exchanging facts and ideas, and that’s a good thing.

As a writer doing research, I love finding blogs and websites created by people who believe in their subjects and freely give away information and ideas. I compare such information to Wikipedia, peer-reviewed books about the subjects, and professional websites hosted by museums, societies, and foundations. One has to double-check everything. But those who offer information for free on their blogs have my respect and admiration. Many hope that I will click on the Amazon links to their books, but as a poor, starving author, I can’t buy from everyone!

I wish I could. I’m often tempted. Yet, months or years later, I see novels by those blog posters and recognize their names. I read the blurb on the Amazon listing or, in bricks and mortar store, the back cover of the book. And I think, “I’ve seen this author’s name somewhere before.” So I buy the book. That’s what most of us hope will happen even if it takes a while.

–Malcolm

 

Why do old posts suddenly catch a lot of people’s attention?

When I log on to my WordPress dashboard, I see how things are going. Quite often, posts I think will have traction aren’t noticed while silly throw-away posts attract hundreds of readers.

Sometimes, I do a Google search to see if the subject of an old post that suddenly has hundreds of hits has been in the news. This time, it’s my 2011 post Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began. Why are people suddenly reading this old post?

  • I check the news to see if the hotel burnt down, had a string of murders in the basement, or got sued for not having an elevator in the annex.
  • As far as I can see from scanning Amazon, no new books have come out about the hotel that might cause people to put it into their search engines for more information.
  • President Trump isn’t staying there, nor has he unleashed a Tweet Storm about the place.
  • My publisher hasn’t made a surprise announcement to the press that I’m going to be there to talk about my two novels set in the historic structure.

So, I’ve got nothing. If any of you who went there see this post, I would like to know why you went there.

This is very a perplexing thing for a blogger. Why people read what they read. Lately, I saw that a lot of people arrived on my blog after a search for subject XYZ. So, I wrote a post about XYZ. Nobody read it even though my search terms index kept showing me that people were looking for more information about it.

Sometimes I think the Feds are doing this to make me go crazy to they can put me in a home, a One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest kind of home. Why would they do that, you wonder. My guess is that it’s because my alter ego Jock Stewart has contributed a lot of guest posts on this blog that made fun of the Feds. (Lately, the real news has become so crazy that Stewart couldn’t think of any way to satirize it.)

Okay, let’s pretend the Feds aren’t going it. Maybe some of you are doing it. You probably have a ringleader, some tough guy or badass chick from Chicago who calls the shots. Why would s/he do this? Kicks? Too much free time? A dislike of bloggers? Nurse Ratched withholds their meds unless they click on old blogs of mine to make me wonder why they’re clicking on old blogs of mine.

I’m sure there are other possibilities. The Russians hacked into my blog or maybe the Mafia did it. Or, possibly aliens from a place where no one has gone before.

Like those cop shows where a crime is committed in the middle of a crowded mall where nobody saw nothin’, I strongly suspect nobody knows why everyone’s headed out to that old Many Glacier Hotel post.

Okay, I can play that game, too, because my hacker software knows who you are and what you did. <g>

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy and magical realism novels which, after youve read this post, shouldn’t surprise you.

If you don’t know where you’re going. . .

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

This blog came into being after I tinkered with earlier blogs on Blogger, MySpace, Typepad, and Xanga. Since this blog doesn’t have a real niche, you might say that in all its incarnations I never knew where I was going. Except in wholly practical matters like getting on a plane and ending up where my ticket says I’m supposed to end up, I much prefer not to be going to any particular place. I dislike planning.

I took a look at the first post on this blog in 2008 to see if I began with a plan, forgot about it, and then decided there was no need for a plan:

As of 2008

Photo by João Barbosa on Unsplash

A friend asked in a recent post on her MySpace blog “How Do You Define Success?”

Essentially, her answer was finding the freedom to be herself and to follow her dreams. The challenge for her–for many of us–was that while following our dreams requires a measure of security and financial well-being, if we spend too much time or stress establishing that, we may not ever get to our dreams.

My answer to her question was similar to hers. Success to me is doing what I’m here to do: making an inner journey and writing about it. This blog represents my random thoughts, and a lot of yours, about the challenges we face and about the things we see along the trail.

I’m influenced, as many of you can tell, by the work of such writers as Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher and by the dedication of volunteers in such organizations as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I’m also influenced by Jane Roberts’ “Seth Books,” by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Caroline Myss.

As we walk the trail, we learn–as Carlos was taught–that our outer journey is a reflexion of our inner journey and, conversely, that if we are impeccable in what we do in the physical world, we will be more centered within.

For me, success is being on the path and experiencing what I find there and then putting those feelings into words on the page.

What about you?

As of Right Now

My novels and blog posts still reflect my inner journey–more or less. The journey has been satisfying, if not profitable. This doesn’t mean I couldn’t have done better, though I’m not sure better would have yielded the same lessons.

What about you? Have you changed your basic philosophy and/or how you view success since 2008?

I envy people who keep diaries, real diaries rather than those they write in such a way that people years down the road will read them with great admiration. I could never do that. I either couldn’t stay with it or I couldn’t stay with it without fictionalizing what was happening while it was happening. Maybe the embellishments were the real me. I don’t have a clue, and that’s probably just as well. But those can do keep honest diaries can go back and see what the hell they were thinking long, long ago.

I think this blog is just as chaotic now as it was when it began. I like it that way because it makes every day a blank slate where everything is possible. Plans seem to limit what is possible because they’re based on preconceived notions about what I ought to be doing tomorrow or next week.

My wife will tell you that–like most men–I don’t like to stop and ask directions. Frankly, I don’t know why that lack of practicality is a “male thing.” If we’re on the way to the hospital ER or maybe to pick up the Pulitzer Prize, I’d ask somebody where we were and where we needed to go.

Otherwise, I don’t want to know. I want the road to surprise me.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Stories, three novels in one e-book.

 

 

If you’re naughty. Santa leaves SPAM in your stocking

Not the SPAM in a can, but the crap that shows up uninvited in your e-mail inbox and in the comments section of your blog. Fortunately, WordPress weeds out a lot of the junk. Google’s Gmail separates a fair amount of the annoying stuff, but I still get a lot of e-mails asking for money, asking for me to sign urgent petitions in which a million signatures are (for reasons never specified) “needed by midnight,” and offers far more Viagra than anyone would consider using in a hundred lifetimes.

Most of the SPAM weeded out by WordPress starts with something lame: “Hi, I want you to know that I read your blog every day and intend to tell my friends about it.” And then there’s a link to an online store or service that I don’t want.

My assumption is that as Christmas approaches, Santa reads the news and discovers that coal is really bad or really good depending on your politics. So, after a discussion with Mrs. Claus, he decided not to touch the stuff. Plus, many of today’s young people don’t equate coal in the stocking as evidence that their wrongdoings have been noted on the naughty list.

But SPAM, how nasty is that? It’s just another advertisement at best. At worst, it’s a way of opening a doorway to endless malware, viruses, and perhaps death. Of course, most of the medications we take indicate that death is a potential side effect, so how bad can death be? From Santa’s viewpoint, your friendly pharmacist in the white coat pushes more death than the anonymous spammer who promises riches in the Bitcoin market.

Most spammers who try to sneak their comments into this blog are trying to sell software that will write this blog for me and/or monetize it in some way that will be better for me–and any reader who believes the pitch–than winning the lottery. The pitches often begin with: “I notice you don’t have much new material on this blog.” Gosh, they probably sweet talk everybody like that. And then they continue with: “Most bloggers aren’t writers, so we’ll supply a slew of curated crap that will fill up your week’s post with the kind of stuff people want to read. You won’t have to write another word.”

My only question is this: “will the people who read that curated crap be so happy and inspired they’ll buy my novels?”

The spammers say, “Malcolm, of course, they will. You’ll be the new James Patterson.”

Wow, really? Where do I sign?

“Right here where you promise to hand over your next child, your house, your Jaguar, and the access codes to all of your bank accounts.”

Does that sound good to you? No, I didn’t think so. The thing is, the SPAM industry keeps trying to sell it to me. Apparently, it’s illegal to harm those people or even to create a virus that goes back to their computers and fries the hell out of them (the computers). Maybe I should call a conjure lady and ask her to put a hex on them, some kind of plague maybe like frogs in the kitchen and wasps in the bedroom.

Christmas SPAM seems to be the worst SPAM. Supposedly, if I sign up, I’ll experience joy and love and a guarantee that my stocking will never be filled with coal or more SPAM. Gosh, if that doesn’t represent the true magic and spirit of Christmas, I don’t know what does.

I almost feel like wishing the spammers Merry Christmas. Hmm, maybe next year. Between now and then, I’ll try to stay off the “naughty list.”

This has been a wonderful Christmas, one that didn’t require SPAM or smoke and mirrors to make it happen. I hope your Christmas Day is unfolding the same way.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Indies Unlimited

“Seven years ago, the Evil Mastermind launched Indies Unlimited. Since then, we’ve had over 2.5 MILLION page views, been named as one of Six Great Blogs for Indie Authors in Publishers Weekly, and ranked as one of the top writing-related sites by Alexa.”

Source: Indies Unlimited – Celebrating Independent Authors

Indies Unlimited is the go-to blog for writers learning their craft and then learning how to market their work in competition with the one million self-published books released each year. Since the blog is run by volunteers, it’s obviously a labor of love, though I hate using that hackneyed old phrase to describe their work.

Even if you don’t have time to check the blog every week, a scan through their archive of posts will usually materialize what you’re looking for whenever you have a question or the need for a little inspiration.

I hope Indies Unlimited is going strong seven years from now.

Malcolm

 

I’m not psychic enough to know what people want to read

If I were a super psychic, every one of my posts on this blog would have thousands of views and, better yet, people clicking through to look at my Amazon author’s page, my website, and the books mentioned at the ends of the posts.

Alas, as a blogger, I don’t have a clue.

No, this is not me. It’s clip art from Vital Images, Ltd.

I started this blog in 2008 after having been on Blogger and other sites for a while. In ten years, nothing stands out as a niche. I asked people on my Facebook friends list a week ago if anything had been on the news about the herb called Holy Ghost Root because a post I wrote about that was suddenly getting lots of hits. Nobody was sure why.

Naturally, some of the posts I spend the most time researching and writing often get the fewest hits and no comments. I believe in whatever Murphy’s law applies.

About ten of my posts have received over a thousand views. My home page has almost 24,000 views. Surprising to me, here are the top two posts since 2008:

  • The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale – 14,540 views. Frankly, I thought few people would read this and remain surprised that it continues to come in first every week in activitiy.
  • Heave Out and Trice Up – -5,010 views – I’m less surprised about this because the title is a bit of Navy slang that makes no sense to people who haven’t been in the Navy. A lot of people probably search on the terms I listed in the post.

Other posts get readers while an event is in the news. For example, my post about several books written by survivors of Florida’s Dozier School (The White House Boys) kept getting hits while the state investigation was ongoing.

Overall, I’m happy with readers’ response to my posts and appreciate every one of you who stops to read one of them. I don’t have a niche, because I don’t like being confined to a narrow area of subjects. And, I make no attempt to compete with the top writing and publishing sites even though you will see writing ideas here. (Yes, I know, those posts are probably a “who needs it” for non-writers.

When it comes down to it, I’m just shooting the breeze.

Malcolm

 

 

Blog Traffic is Often a Puzzlement

I appreciate those of you who regularly stop by, read, leave comments, and subscribe. Without Google Analytics, I often wonder where some of the other blog traffic comes from.

Suddenly, a two-year-old review of “Labyrinth” by Kate Mosse gets 35 viewers. Last week, an old article called “Branding at Sea” about the USS Ranger was ranked as a top post. Sometimes I can figure out these puzzles. A news story prompts a sudden search. An author comes out with a new book, leading people here to reviews of earlier books. But most of the time, I can’t track down the why of sudden bursts of traffic to old posts.

I often post news and articles about Glacier National Park, the hero’s journey, and the heroine’s journey, so I’m not too surprised to see search terms listed on my dashboard from readers looking for more information. My new novel “The Seeker” will be coming out soon. That means more fantasy and magical realism posts. Later this year, I plan to visit Glacier National Park, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see more posts about Swiftcurrent Valley and Many Glacier Hotel.

Coming soon, is a very interesting guest post from author Dianne K. Salerni (“We Hear the Dead”). If I told you the subject, you’d probably think I was making it up. I’m already wondering what kind of search terms will lead people to that post.

I’ll have another book review to post in several weeks. I liked this author’s collection of short stories. It’s fun seeing him focus his talents on a novel. When I post reviews, I often see more traffic for the older reviews.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, check out my Magic Moments blog for more posts about fantasy, the natural world and sometimes a bit of Zen. Several times a week, I post links to book and author news, writing tips, and book reviews in “Book Bits” which appears on Sun Singer’s Travels.

The traffic on the older posts on those blogs is also a puzzlement, but I figure the Universe, Google and the Internet in general pretty much know who needs to stop by for a visit. When I start following links, I often end up at sites and blogs I’ve never heard of and find that it’s almost as though I was destined to go to them and read a specific article or post that somehow applies to whatever I’m doing.

Even if Google Analytics were available for WordPress blogs, I’m not sure it could figure out the logic of traffic that the fates send to one place or another.

Malcolm