May 30, 2008

Content Article Conflict and Brainstorming Resolution

The last few days have made my brainstorming brain hurt. AC is having a writing contest: The Ultimate Call for Content. The theme is "What's Next?" Meaning what's going to be the "thing" of 2009.

Writers can write content on any topic of interest--a person, technology, how-to, etc. However it cannot be overdone, it must be SEO friendly, and it must be a tight 400-500 words.

I tend not to be too tight...I like wordy expressions, leading phrases, and overused puns.

The prize is $5000. That said, after the way the year started, I'm really going to try my best on this one. I believe I picked a good topic. I researched it to the bone yesterday. I put some words on the screen, edited a bit, and now I'm letting it sit.

The only problem is on the call announcement screen it says the content call will be released on June 3 and you have until midnight to submit your work. Usually when they put out a C4C they tell you what they want and you go from there.

This time they released the vague theme and topic choice ahead of time. I just hope they don't throw us for a loop on the 3rd and say, "Write about _____." I know there are a lot of producers working on something now. Wouldn't it be a shame if AC did something like that?

Tomorrow I'm going to read through my article content again. I'll be double checking my SEO, keyword density, crossing my t's and dotting my i's.

I wonder what everyone else is writing about? My curiosity always gets the best of me. I know there are a lot of really good SEO/keyword/LSI writers at AC. I'm especially curious about what their topics are. Of course I'm not giving away my topic choice here or anywhere. I know they wouldn't either.

How do you go about selecting a topic for an article like that? Your choice on the theme "What's Next?" There are so many ways to go. I decided to look at the Yahoo and Google most searched stuff first. That was no help. Most of what they've got listed there is the stuff the teens are searching for--hot actors.

I ended up digging a little deeper and found a few things that interested me. Then I did some brainstorming to narrow it down. Hold your chair because I'm going to tell you something interesting. For my brainstorming session, I actually used pen and paper!

I write notes a lot, but I have not done much brainstorming on paper since college. I think it really helped. At least I hope it did.

I hope everyone has a super weekend! If you're writing for the content call, Good Luck!
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May 28, 2008

Writing Prompts: Digging through People Watching and Picture Prompts ©

I've been reading about writing prompts. My head is full of stories but laying those stories out is hard for me. Especially now, not exercising the creative muscles and just writing for search engines.

When I was younger, I loved to people watch. My friend and I would sit on this rock wall in the mall and watch people go by. Some people were very interesting, appealing, and stories about what they were doing, talking about, or there for would just roll off my tongue. I could come up with some real humdingers back then. Sometimes I'd get my friend laughing so hard she'd fall off the wall. I should have written some of those stories down...

I miss those days.

Have you ever gone to a museum? My mother and I loved museum hopping. One I remember fondly. It was actually an old castle in Europe turned museum. We walked through admiring the displays, the portraits, the architecture. Of course you knew the history, but you didn't really know the people. I would look at those portraits and wonder, "What were they really like?"

Keeping that in mind, what kind of story could you develop from a picture? Picture prompts are used to spark a story in you. What kind of a story could you develop from these picture prompts?

My story starts something like this: When Sallie Mae married George Danker it was the perfect match. They bought a stretch of land far from the city and settled in to have 6 kids...In memory of their parents, the kids erected a roadside display. The windshield reads: "Not For Sale!"


These trucks sit prominently on the road to our neighborhood. The display fascinates me. I'm sure the property owners erected it to sway people from purchasing lots in a new development next door.

I'm a visual person. I love to see things and create something from it. I'm going work with picture prompts more to see where it takes my creative writing.
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May 26, 2008

We Will Never Forget©

For those we have loved and lost
Some have taken for little cost

You gave and suffered until the end
Without you our hearts will never mend

We will never forget what you have done
All of your efforts have made us one

Spirits united in sorrow and tears, today is yours
Though a memorial tribute never completely cures

But thankfully, we will meet again one day
Share laughter, memories, and surely play

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May 23, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle...My Nana told me that almost everyday. She was referring to the leftovers in the fridge, or was she? Nana was meticulous in every way. A glance in her cabinets would tell you her story. There's a place for everything and everything belongs in its place.

She had containers in all shapes and sizes for storage. Some I still have today. She kept spent jars, margarine tubs, and plastic utensils. Looking back, I think she was the Queen of Green.

I spent the weekend at my grandparents often. On one Saturday afternoon I helped Dot, my grandfather, with the yard work while she prepared our lunch. We came in hungry and tired, ready for one of her culinary delights.

Placed before us was a casserole. She took leftovers she had stored over several days and made what looked like a mashed potato pie. Dot sliced the aromatic dish and gave me my portion.

The casserole was chipped beef in gravy mixed with carrots, corn, and peas. On top she spread a layer of mashed potatoes. It was delightful. I cleaned my plate. In her house you had to belong to the "clean plate club."

I helped her work in the kitchen throughout my childhood. She taught me how to cook. I relish those memories. I always asked her why she did this, or that, and she always had a reason.
Now I understand. Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a way of life.

My grandparents lived during the depression in Chicago. Rations, green stamps, scrounging for everything you had. It's no wonder she chanted that phrase, stockpiled containers, and put pennies in a mayonnaise jar in her closet.

She worked with what she had to survive.

Reduce: Nana taught me leftovers had to be moved from one container to another as they were consumed. The containers got smaller and smaller as the food dwindled. Space and energy conservation is the way to go.

The more space you have in the fridge, the more room you have to store food. The more food you have in the fridge, the less energy it takes to keep it cold and fresh.

Reuse: She was famous for concocting recipes from leftovers. Give her an egg, some leftover spinach and chicken and she'd make you a quiche. Give her an old shoebox and she'd make a filing cabinet. Give her an old rag of a dress and she'd make a quilt.

I do that a lot around here. Our old TV/stereo center is a microwave cart. Our old armoire is a bookshelf. The old family china cabinet is the book hutch on my desk. Reuse and repurpose--what a great concept.

Recycle: Nana saved cans. She was also a beer drinker, but that's another story. Every night she crushed her cans and put them in a bin. When there was a couple of bags of cans we'd haul them to the golden goat--a machine you put your aluminum cans to recycle, it spat out money in exchange. Ingenious! She loved that machine.

Believe me I recycle cans. We haul a truckload of cans to the local recycling center about twice a year. I'm famous for walking the neighborhood with my little white bag and picking up cans. It embarrasses my teen, but a penny is a penny and it's good for the environment.

So, how do you reduce, reuse, and recycle? The concept can apply to more than just environmental issues.

Thanks to Kathy at Well Placed Words for sparking the memory in me. Her last post on turning the page and doing rewrites: Letting Go is Hard to Do: More on Maass Workshop got me going.

I'm off to reduce, reuse, and recycle some of my fiction...

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May 21, 2008

Adapt, Innovate, Create, and Invent: My Writing Pledge

I was watching the news last night. I try not to watch it, but there was a special report about saving on gas I wanted to see. The report was interesting and discussed using water to increase fuel mileage.

Basically, by adding this little piece of equipment to your vehicle that turns water into hydrogen gas, you can get up to 80 miles per gallon. Interesting. The technique is not perfected yet. Some adjustments must be made for the process to work and the car's computer must be tweaked.

I do not know all the specifics, and I'm not all that mechanically inclined, but it sounds really interesting. Here's the link for the report.

If you watch it, the mechanic talks about how Americans adapt, innovate, create, and invent. I've been working on my writing. I absorb everything so I can improve myself.

Writing articles for the Internet is rather tricky. All that keyword density, SEO, and promotion is daunting. So, I have to adapt my writing to marketing demand.

Then I read the article out loud...

How many times can you say "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers," without tying your tongue in knots? I swear some articles are soooooooo repetitive it drives me crazy. But the search engines want it that way. Frankly, I did not learn how to write that way.

Recently, I wrote an article on green burials. It should be coming up soon. As interesting as it was to do the research about it, learn about it, and think about it, I do not feel as if it came across how I wanted it to be.

My keyword phrase "green burial" spots the article as if it has chicken pox. It was intentional. I admit it.

Am I compromising my writing by doing this? I wonder. I guess it's something I have to do, if I want to write for the web.

I have to adapt my style to create Internet friendly work. I must do this in an innovative way. This will lead me to invent strategies to incorporate web friendliness into my style of writing.

So there you have it, my new pledge.
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May 19, 2008

Kids and Concerts do not Mix

The weekend turned out to be a bust. We could not take the boat out Saturday due to iffy weather. Sunday was beautiful, but there was no time for boating.

My husband is away on business this week. I have a million things I want to get done. I like to work on home projects while he's out of town. I know I can get things done without him showing up out of the blue and ruining the surprise.

Friday night my teen daughter's band held their end of the year concert. It was very nice and they played well. I videotaped it and if I can figure out how to transfer the footage to the computer I'll put it up here.

Like I said, I recorded it. I brought my camera and tripod and hunkered down to record the event. Sitting a row in front of me was a huge family. There were 3 boys, one about 10 and a pair of twins, about 5. There was an infant also. I'm assuming one of the students belonged to them, so all together this family has 5 kids--I could not imagine how they manage.

The twin boys were the most unruly children I have ever seen. One had gum in his mouth. He kept stringing it in his fingers, pulling on it, and shoving it back in his mouth. The other kept pulling his flip-flops off and smacking his brother with them. Then they'd look at me.

The worst was the bouncing of the auditorium seats. They would push the seat down, let it go, and watch it spring back up, Doooiiinnngg, Thumpity-thump-thump-thump.

I began to wonder if they were trying to get a rise out of me. Perhaps they thought I was recording them. Whatever the case, I finally took matters into my own hands. I put my finger to my mouth and said, "Shhhh!" Then I pointed to the camera.

This made their parents take note. They started minding their kids.

My husband and I play tag team for concerts. I avoid bringing little one, I know she will cause a ruckus, because she has in the past. Football games, parades, and other noisy events are okay because it's all about the noise.

I know It's hard for little kids to sit for so long. Considering the event is not just the concert, they throw in the band booster meeting too. By the time it's all over my own butt is numb, or a leg has fallen asleep, causing me to squirm.

Next year we may try a concert with the little one, again. Every year we try at least once.
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May 16, 2008

Friday Roundup, the Weekend is Here!

Do you remember your first kiss? How your heart beat so hard and fast you thought surely it would burst out of your chest? I do. I caught these two kissing the other day.

Then they realized they had been caught.
I think they're a little young for this, don't you?

I've been busy. Yesterday I took a ton of pictures. I need a better camera. I've been looking at an Olympus. It has all I want and more. Plus it takes sequential shots! How cool it would be to capture sequences without waiting for that digital to do whatever it does between shots.

Yesterday I also decided that we need a new computer. Ours is starting to really lag, hang up, and be just plain slow. Well, it's either the computer, or it's the DSL. I'm voting for the computer.

I did a lot of updating and site work yesterday. I added a new widget here for the reviews I've been doing at Shared Reviews. That site is turning into a pretty good side-line for a lot of people. I've even made a little money. I'm going to work on bumping that up a bit since it takes so little time.

They only require 750 characters for the reviews. That's short. Mine are running about 1400. It takes me a few minutes to write a review and post it. Then I vote on reviews--takes only a few minutes of my time. Then I get paid. It doesn't get any better than that.

I wrote an article and submitted it yesterday also. (I actually did two but one was just for fun). I don't know if they're going to buy the real one yet. I think the topic was pretty time conscious and should remain "evergreen."

Evergreen articles are it online. That's what everyone wants. Something that will stand the test of time. Something that will be hit over and over again. Okay, so that's what I will give them.

Yesterday was a busy day for me. Today will be also.

This weekend we will be taking the boat out for a test run. We completed all of the wiring, did the tilt trim unit, installed the new extinguisher, and battened down the hatches. The driveway run proved well, now it's time to put it in the water. If we forget the plug, all will be fine because we got the new bilge pump in also.

This should prove to be a great weekend. I hope everyone has a good one!
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May 14, 2008

Dream Journals, Night Terrors, and Me

I cannot sleep. Either I have these weird dreams, the little one wakes up, or the dog starts barking. The little one and dog are really no big deal. It's those dreams.

The other night I woke up startled. I sat up in the bed and felt as if I had been shocked. My husband grabbed my arm and asked me what was wrong, I was calling for help. I have no idea what was wrong. I cannot remember the dream.

I think I was abducted by aliens. Really, I do. Sometimes I have dreams that involve being whipped through the air, unbearable noises, blinding lights, and crazy distorted figures. I always wake with a jerk afterwards, like I had fallen into bed.

For a time I kept a dream journal. I was trying to pinpoint where these night terrors came from. It was useless. I could never remember enough of the bad dreams to write them down. Good or erotic dreams were no problem to remember; I have plenty of those written on paper.

Dream journals are supposed to give you insight. That's what I heard. I do not know how much insight I got from keeping one, but I did get a lot of practice writing. I kept a notebook and jotted down what I could remember about the dream(s). Later I transcribed those dreams and filled in the blanks.

Do you keep a dream journal? Have you ever kept one? If not for anything else it's useful for writing practice. I suppose I could work up a raunchy novel from some of my dreams--I do not want to go there though. Or do I?

I should pull out the old dream journal and work on it. Maybe I can get these dreams figured out this go round.
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May 9, 2008

What I Heard this Morning and My Thoughts

This morning I was out on the back deck enjoying the morning air, the birds singing, and watching the sun come up. Suddenly, I heard sirens screaming. All of the dogs in the neighborhood started howling and barking at once.

The dogs having barking fits doesn't surprise me. A lot creatures live here so there's always some sort of commotion. The sirens surprised me.

Living in a rural area you don't hear many sirens or city type noises. All you hear is country. Pure peace, that's what we wanted when we chose this community.

Since we moved here, about 5 years ago, we've enjoyed the laid back lifestyle. When I hear sirens, I get anxious. I know it can't be good. Either a house is burning or there's a field fire. Could be an accident or a help call for a neighbor.

The sirens were coming from the main farm road that accesses our neighborhood. It's a two lane road that bridges two main highways. The road is hilly so there's not a lot of visibility. With all of the building going on around here, and the increase in traffic, I'm sure I will hear more sirens in the future.

A few months ago there was an accident that took the life of a little one. A memorial sat on the side of the road for a time. It was the saddest thing I ever saw, a Hippo walker that gobbles up blocks. The display was adorned with flowers and stuffed toys.

One day the memorial disappeared. I wonder what happened to it? I can't imagine the child's parents removing it after taking the time to put it up. I wouldn't think it was picked up as garbage, as it was clearly a memorial.

Memorials spot the highways in many parts of Texas. There is one for a girl named Amy close by, which is updated every season with appropriately colored silk flowers. I've never seen those dedicated family members working on that memorial, but you know when they've been there.

On the highway to San Antonio there are several memorials. One changes at Christmas time when the family brings a little tree to display.

I've lost loved ones, so I understand grief and memorials. However, I've never lost a loved one to an accident. I can't imagine that kind of grief. I can't imagine the kind of grief families feel losing loved ones overseas. Murder, crime, abuse or the like, I couldn't bear either.

I hope the sirens I heard this morning were for a speed trap.

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May 7, 2008

Fishing Through My Muse ©

Today I want to write just to write. No exercise, no guidelines, just free-write.

My husband and I have been prepping our off-shore boat for the upcoming season and the "all-guy" fishing trip. I always help him wherever I can with these projects. Doing all of this work has brought us to talk about fishing.

As a couple, we do most of our fishing in our Jon boat. This is a story of how a day of fishing goes for me.


It was a cool September morning. The sun had not yet broke the morning darkness when Carl and I pulled the boat out of the driveway. "I think we're gonna catch 'em today!" I looked at Carl and winked. He raised his nose in the air, "Yep, I smell fish!"

Pulling onto boat ramp road, we saw trucks already lining the parkway. "Ramp's gonna be wet." Carl said as he spun the boat into position to launch. I jumped out of the truck. "You want me to lock the hubs?" Carl nodded.

The sky was just starting to wake up when Carl caught the first Bass. I put the net under it and pulled it in the boat. "Wow! He's a keeper." Carl strung and tied the squirming fish to the boat. "Now it's your turn."

I cast my lure into the water and we trolled up river. Zzzzzzzzzzz! Carl's line went off again. "Feels like a big one!" Carl tightened the drag and cranked the reel. "Wow! He's a fighter!" Carl's rod bent and wriggled as the fish fought its way to the boat. I slipped the net under him. "This one's bigger than the first!"

We started trolling. There was enough light in the sky to see steam rising off the water. I started to sing, "Smoke on the wa-ter." Carl tapped my shoulder, "You're gonna scare the fish." I smirked at him and took a sip of my Irish coffee.

"Okay, it's your turn!" I placed my rod in the holder and pulled out my camera. "I think the only thing I'll be catching today is..." Zzzzzzzzzzzz! "...A buzz!" Carl tightened his drag and cranked the reel.

"Carl, I want to trade rods." I passed him my rod. We started trolling up river. I cast my lure off the stern and placed the rod in the holder.

The sun crept up in the sky. Shadowy images of trees lit on the surface of the water. Who cares about catching stinky old fish? I thought as I captured the moment on film.

Zzzzzzzzzzz! "Again?" Carl cranked his reel. "You realize that's my rod, so technically, it's my fish!" Carl laughed, "It may be your rod, but the fish is mine! It's another big one--Come on, you sucker!"

We continued up river the rest of the morning. When we hit the gravel bar it was almost lunch time. Other boaters were parked on the banks. They waved and flashed fingers to indicate their catch and the sizes of them.

We found a quiet spot up the bar and banked near a tree. I pulled boat up on the rocks and tied it so the current would not carry it off. Taking a long deep breath, I bent and stretched. "This is a pretty place."

Carl put his lure in the water. "Gonna fish?" I looked around and nodded, "In a minute, I gotta go first." Carl smiled, "Women!"

We sat on the bank for an hour and did not catch one fish. I thought we should start trolling back down river. But I did not say anything about it. I popped open a beer. After all, I had to catch something even if it was just a buzz.
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May 2, 2008

Pageflake: Another Promotional Backlink Idea

Here we go again! I have another page link tool for you to check out. Remember backlinks are what gets your blog ranked higher in the search engine. The higher your rank the more hits you will get. The more hits you get...Well, you get the picture.

The tool, well it's not really a tool per se, is actually a like a homepage. It's called Pageflakes. You set this page up with a series of modules, called flakes. The Pageflake you create can then be published as a pagecast for the world to see. You tag your Pageflake just as you would anything else and publish it.

Pageflake is free. You go to the site, set up favorite modules, edit those modules to suit your taste, and when you've got what you want you can register to keep it. Once you create an account (which requires email verification, a user name, and a password) your page is saved.

After you have saved your page you can add flakes (modules), feeds, and personalize it with a theme. Then you publish it: make a profile, decide the level of privacy (for link building you really want to go full board with it), and then you get your URL.

If you want, you can make your Pageflake your home page. This is optional. Just don't forget to bookmark or favorite your Pageflake so you know where it's at.

I put my AC, blog, and myspace feeds on mine. You can look at it HERE. I'm going to keep adding stuff to it over the next few weeks. You can bet I'll link it on my sidebar--just like everything else.

To put your Blogger blog on it, you can do an anything flake or choose another Blogger module in the entertainment section and edit it to read your atom feed. The same goes for myspace.

The process is simple really once you get to playing around with it. Total time for my set-up took about 30 minutes.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Christopher Reed for letting me know about Pageflakes.
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