Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician

Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician An excellent example of ticking all the boxes for building an author platform. Any author, self-published or traditionally published, can learn from Caitlin Doughty’s example.

Death. An inevitable fact of life, but one that is usually spoken about in hushed tones and with sadness and awkwardness, right? Well, that is until now.

Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician with a degree in medieval history, kind of blows that theory out of the water. Caitlin deals with the topic of death boldly, factually and with humour.

Her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory was published in 2014, but she started her YouTube channel Ask a Mortician in 2011, long before the release of the book, and she hasn’t done just a video or two. Caitlin has produced more than 50 videos, some receiving in excess of 250,000 views! In her eccentric, entertaining manner, Caitlin addresses questions that many of us have wondered about but never felt comfortable enough to ask, even if we knew someone who could answer them. No topic related to death seems to be too weird or too uncomfortable for Caitlin to discuss.

Perhaps it is because of this that she has more than 650 reviews of her book posted on Amazon (a 4-1/2 star overall rating) or perhaps this success is due to our curiosity about the niche topic she so readily and easily explains with her insider knowledge, but I’d like to think that Caitlin is a perfect example of an author with an extensive author platform, established long before the launch of her book. She’s ticked all the boxes for building an author platform by using an extensive number of social media networks, YouTube and a website to attract readers for her book.
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Do You Use Music to Help You Write?

Do You Use Music to Help You Write? explores whether or not music can help you with your writing.

I’ve been up since 4 AM. (I knew I had that last coffee too late in the day yesterday but can take no satisfaction in being right about that now!)

Fridays can be chaotically busy here at my desk, so much so that even with a full and restful night of sleep, getting through them with all my jobs completed some weeks can be challenging. But, somehow I’m managing to stay awake today though I suspect once I move away from my desk I may collapse into a sleeping heap on the floor!

My trick to consciousness under these circumstances is music—loud and upbeat. (If you’re interested, I’ve got Chicago cranked with all their hits from the 70’s and the 80’s. And, YES, I know I’m dating myself but there’s something rousing about the likes of Questions 67 & 68 and their other songs from that era that seems to be keeping me going.)

So, I know that music can keep me awake, and when I’m particularly stressed, I know that classical music can be somewhat calming. I also have a couple of CD’s here from the Through a Dog’s Ear series and have witnessed their calming effect on everyone here in my office including the dogs and the foster kittens down to the point of napping after a couple of bars. I don’t dare turn that on today!

Music For Writing

But, today, I’d like to explore whether music can help you with your writing.

Have you ever noticed that while we, as fiction writers, can sometimes struggle to accurately relay the thoughts and intense emotions in a scene involving our characters, with paragraphs and sometimes pages and pages of text, song writers seem to manage to nail the same sort of idea or theme in a three minute song? Of course, there’s no denying that the actual tunes, and the angst in the voices of the singers contribute to that raw emotion.
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Creating Detailed Character Profiles

Creating Detailed Character Profiles discusses the importance of knowing everything about your characters when you begin a writing project and shares links to character sketches for the characters from The Big Bang Theory TV show as great examples.

Characters are an important part of any novel, sometimes THE important part depending on whether your story is character or plot driven.

In recent months I’ve written a few posts about developing characters for your novel, namely:

In my opinion, it’s important to know everything about your characters when you begin a writing project. (If you disagree and like to develop your characters as you go, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested in your perspective.) And, today, I thought I’d share some great examples of character sketches that we found over the weekend.
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Tw-inspiration! Lots of Tweet Ideas for Writers

Tw-inspiration! Lots of Tweet Ideas for Writers provides writers with links to posts full of ideas and inspiration about what to tweet about on Twitter.

A while ago I wrote a roundup post called Hundreds of Blog Post Ideas for Writers. It’s been a fairly popular post here on Bound and Determined and I have to confess that on days when my brain is drained and I need to write a blog post, I sometimes open up the post and click on a few of those links for inspiration!

In that same vein, today I thought I’d roundup a few blog posts about what you can tweet about.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of posts filled with lots of ideas, and inspiration, to get you tweeting away like a pro. Please note that many of these ideas are generic and not specific to writers, but can generally be geared toward a writer’s followers with a little ingenuity!

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13 Ways You Can Be a Successful Guest Post Author

13 Ways You Can Be a Successful Guest Post Author — Follow these tips to help you rise to the top of the pile when approaching successful blogs with your guest post ideas.

Writing guest posts for other blogs is a great way to expand your reach and increase the audience for your own blog. Ideally, you want to write guest posts for successful blogs with large audiences but you can almost guarantee that these blogs aldready receive many offers of guest posts from other people so here are some tips to help you rise to the top of the pile.

  1. Be specific when presenting your article idea

    If the host blog is successful, odds are good that the blog host is also very busy and doesn’t want to spend weeks going back and forth with you about what you should write about. Figure this out before you approach them. Provide details. Provide potential headlines.

  2. Don’t waste time by suggesting an article outside of the blog’s content niche

    Just don’t do it. Familiarize yourself with the topics of the articles on the blog and if you can’t offer something that falls in line with the established subject matter, go elsewhere. If you are determined to write the article, find a blog where the topic fits and approach that blog.

    For example, don’t offer an article about baking cookies to a blog that talks about car repairs. Even IF the blog host agreed to run your article, which is highly unlikely, the audience for the host blog isn’t likely to follow you back to your blog.

  3. Ask for the guest author guidelines

    Most successful blogs will have guest author guidelines. If they aren’t offered, ask for them, and read them. They’re in place for a reason and although they’re called “guidelines” which implies flexibility, consider them to be the rules for guest post authors.

    Guidelines will probably address matters such as:

    • Exclusivity
    • Article length
    • Restrictions on backlinks
  4. Don’t offer an article that reads like an advertisement for your book, product or service

    It’s reasonable to expect a backlink or two somewhere in the article or byline in exchange for your article, after all, why else would you be writing the article, right? But, flogging your wares on someone else’s site is not good form and your offer is likely to be rejected.

    An exception to this might be if the blog host had signed up for an affiliate program you were offering for your product or service and could potentially gain some sales because of your guest post.

  5. Follow the established tone and style of the host blog

    For example, if the host blog uses a lot of headings, bullet points and lists, use a lot of headings, bullet points and lists in your article if at all possible. Likewise if the tone of the blog is warm and personable, the existing audience may not welcome something structured and stilted.

  6. Format your blog post in HTML

    Make it as easy as possible for the blog host to use your article. Ideally you want them to be able to copy and paste your article into a post in their blog.

    Tip: If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, right mouse click on a commonly used heading style in an existing post on the host blog, then select “Inspect Element.”

    Inspect Element menu

    A new browser tab containing the HTML code for the site will be opened and the heading you right mouse clicked on will be highlighted. See below.

    Inspect element

    In this case, the heading style is h3. If you do this for images, you can learn the typical dimensions for images used on the blog also.

  7. Provide or suggest appropriate visuals to go with your post

    If your article requires screenshots, provide neatly cropped images of the right size and dpi (dots per inch) and in the file format most commonly used by the host blog.

    If you know of royalty free images that would work with your post, suggest them, but remember that the decision is ultimately that of the blog host.

    If you have an idea of what would work well subject-wise for the post image, suggest it, but again, remember that the decision is ultimately that of the blog host.

  8. Proofread, proofread, proofread

  9. Suggest which tags and categories used by the host blog are likely to work best with your article

  10. Provide a headshot and bio

    Take note of the size of the headshots used by other guest post authors for that blog. Where possible, offer the same sized image so that it doesn’t need to be resized. Although it doesn’t really take all that long to resize an image, every little thing you can do to make it easier for a blogger to publish your guest post, will increase the odds that they’ll want you to come back again.

    Try to make your bio interesting. It is what will draw people back to your own blog and remember to include those back links.

  11. Enthusiastically promote your guest post if it is published

    Spread the word with a link to your guest post on all of your social media channels and on your own blog, too. Remember, you have a vested interested in seeing that post succeed.

  12. Promptly respond to comments if your guest post is published

    If your blog host wants you to respond to comments generated by your article, make yourself available and interact with the readers who leave comments.

  13. Gracefully accept rejection

    If you’ve made your pitch to a blog host with a specific on-topic idea, followed the guest author guidelines to the letter, formatted the blog post in HTML to perfectly fit in with the style of the host blog, and they still aren’t interested, even if they don’t offer an explanation, accept the decision and walk away quietly.

    Don’t keep asking “why?” Don’t barrage the blog host with more ideas and articles unless you’ve been invited to do so. Move on to another blog—for the time being and go back with another idea after a few months have passed.

So there you have it, my 13 points to being a dream guest post author. Do you agree with my list? Is there anything that you think should be added? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A Writer’s Resource: Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community

A Writer’s Resource: Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community talks about this forum, how it is primarily aimed at wanna-be detectives, and why you, if you write crime fiction, might want to belong to it, too.

I’m always on the lookout for resources for writers, particularly writers of crime and ghost stories, two of my interests and topics that I’m including in the plot of my novel.

I think I may have stumbled on an amazing resource for crime writers. Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community is a forum primarily aimed at wanna-be detectives, but a great many writers also belong to this forum.

This community consists of 236,987 threads, 11,494,742 posts, and 89,542 members. First time visitors are advised to read the FAQs and may have to register on the forum before posting.

The forum is then broken down as follows:
Forum Information
This includes the rules of the forum, a list of verified professionals and insider members of the forum, details of registration, membership and forum features, and notes about the technical aspects of the forum.

Spotlight Forum
This includes news about the websleuths documentary series, their Facebook page postings, public polls, calls to action and the True Crime radio show.

Current Events
This includes several non-crime focused topics including off-beat news and news to make you smile which is a welcome distraction after reading some of the other serious ongoing discussions on the site.

Discussions in this sub forum include resources and support to help locate missing persons, details of missing persons and located persons who haven’t been identified, cold cases and new cases.

Crimes in the news, crimes against children, cold cases, bullys and stalkers, serial killers and mass killings and terrorist crimes are discussed here.

Trials, past, present and future (awaiting trial) and sentencing news is discussed here.

Specific Case Forums
Cases where someone hasn’t been found guilty such as in the murders of Caylee Anthony and JonBenet Ramsey, and other cases that are ongoing or hold fascination with the public are discussed in this sub forum.

Resource Center
International crimes discussed in the forum are listed by country a link to national and international databases and resources linking to missing and unidentified persons.

How Writers Can Use This Resource

The big question is, of course, how can writers take advantage of this forum?

  1. Familiarize yourself with crime solving techniques used in the various crimes discussed in the forum.
  2. Take note of any forensic procedures mentioned.
  3. Pay attention to court proceedings that may be documented in this forum and the links accessible from it.
  4. Use the opportunity to potentially network with other members of this community. Connect with criminologists, search and rescue professionals, health care workers, lawyers, doctors, psychologists and journalists.
  5. Get involved and help solve a real crime. How great would that be to be able to promote your next crime novel by saying that you helped identify Jack the Ripper!

Do remember, however, that this forum is about real crimes affecting real people. Be respectful of that.

So what do you think? Does Websleuths sound like something you’re interested in and will it help you write your novel?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Writing Mystery and Suspense Fiction: Can You Ever Really Know a Person?

Writing Mystery and Suspense Fiction: Can You Ever Really Know a Person? suggests that we can’t ever really know a person and that accepting this as fact opens the door to some pretty wild and crazy characters and storylines.

As writers, particularly writers of crime, mystery and suspense fiction, it is often our job to create characters and situations that shock and surprise our readers because they didn’t see “it” (whatever “it” may be) coming. We create the twists and turns in our fiction, the unanticipated outcomes to entertain our readers.

It’s easy sometimes to feel that the particular scenarios we’re developing for our stories are perhaps too far fetched and too obviously the stuff of fiction, so much so that no one could possibly believe it, as if our imaginations are in overdrive.

In that vein, have you ever really considered how well you can know someone? Is what we see truly what we get? Are your gut feelings about someone always spot on? Does a wife know her husband through and through and vice versa? Would a parent know if their child tortured small animals behind the barn? Would your gut tell you that the guy living across the road who smiles and waves at you every morning when he gets his newspaper from the mailbox is a pedophile with gigabytes of kiddie porn on his computer?

Real life and real people harbour a lot of surprises. Here’s some examples:

  • He was funny, a big television star, a father figure to many, educated, likeable, and when a couple of women spoke up to say that he’d drugged and raped them, some people were skeptical, others outright defended him saying things like “I know him and he’d NEVER do that!” More and more women came forward with similar stories. The number so far is at something like 40 women now. Court documents are unsealed and he admits that yes he gave drugs to women to have sex with them.

    Who is he? Bill Cosby of course, and we may never know the truth about what happened because the statute of limitations has likely run out on the incidences.

  • This guy was funny, too. Always appearing to us as happy and energetic almost to the point of bouncing off the walls, this man entertained people of all ages through his work in television and movies. Nearly a year ago we were all shocked and saddened to learn that he’d taken his life.

    Who was he? You know—Robin Williams.

  • An elected president of his church’s council, a Cub Scout leader, a trusted and respected family man who just happened to work for a home security company. No one would have guessed that for nearly 20 years he bound, tortured and killed people around the Wichita area for kicks.

    Who was he? Dennis Rader a.k.a. the BTK Killer.

  • He was a member of the Nazi Party, and an industrialist during WWII. By all appearances he shared the common goals and beliefs held by Germans at the time including the annihilation of the Jews, but secretly he saved at least 1,200 of them from the gas chambers.

    Who was he? Oscar Schindler.

  • She went about her business in Amsterdam during WWII, keeping her head down and living as normally as was possible during the Nazi occupation of the city. But, when no one was looking, she was smuggling whatever food and supplies she could find and bringing them to the Frank family and the others they shared an attic with.

    Who was she? Miep Gies.

  • They were the stars of a reality TV program based on their family of 19+ children. They expressed their Christian values at every opportunity but they had a secret, a BIG secret involving an apparently overly curious son and young girls.

    Who were they? The Duggars.

  • He was a respected Colonel in the Canadian Forces, he once piloted a plane carrying Queen Elizabeth and in his spare time, he broke into houses, pawed through the underwear drawers of various girls and women, stealing and sometimes just trying on their bras and panties. Eventually he took things a bit further by breaking into a few houses and raping women and then he killed two women: Jessica Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau.

    Who was he? Russell Williams, a convicted murderer currently incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in Port-Cartier, Quebec.

I could go on and on with this guessing game. The news media regularly treats us to stories of women who’ve secretly given birth and murdered their newborns, of men with multiple wives who don’t know about each other, of people secretly paying off debts or donating money to worthy causes or individuals, etc.

The point I’m trying to make is: Can we ever really completely know another person?

I suggest to you that we can’t and accepting this as fact opens the door to some pretty wild and crazy characters and storylines.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment.

Photo credit: Pixabay

5 Tips for Turning Word Docs into Blog Posts Fast

5 Tips for Turning Word Docs into Blog Posts Fast describes five tips to use when formatting Word docs for blog posts.

As a virtual assistant, I format a lot of blog posts for my clients.

I usually receive the articles as Word docs and I manually add the HTML code. I hate the Visual editor in WordPress. As I’ve noted before in this post the Visual editor can do some weird and wonderful things to your formatting so I avoid it.

I know there are a few tools about there that you can use like Markdown that do the work for you, but if you know a few of the basics, it can get you a long way.

Step by Step Formatting

So, here’s how I do it—right in Word!

  1. I turn on all formatting marks in Word so that I can see where there are extra lines. This is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember anyway but it comes in handy for this. Go to “Word Options” then “Display” then “Show all formatting marks”. This could vary depending on your version of Word.
  2. Then I make sure there is a blank line between every paragraph in the Word doc that’s being formatted as a blog post.
  3. For the rest of the document I simply scroll up and down through the document to add tags. So, for example, for everything that’s in italics, I will add the opening tag for italics <em>. The first time I add it to an italicized word, I copy it and then for every italicized word after that, I paste the code immediately in front of the word all the way to the bottom of the article.
    In HTML you also need a closing tag for most codes, so once I hit the bottom of the document, I scroll back to the top of the document adding the closing tag as I go. And, like before, the first time I add the closing tag, i.e. < /em>, I copy it and then paste it for every time after that that I need to use it.

    Some of the common tags that I do this way:

    • <em> (for italics)
    • <strong> (for bold text)
    • <center> (for centered text)
    • <h3> (for heading—”h3″ is just an example, it could also be h1 thru to h6 depending on your style and blog setup)

    Remember to include / on all closing tags.

  4. For bullet point lists in a post, you need to decide if the bullets are to be numbers or just bullets.

    If they’re going to be numbers, the HTML tag for a numbered list is <ol> which stands for “ordered list”. The code for a bullet point list is <ul> which stands for “unordered list”. Not exactly rocket science is it?

    So, just above your bullet points you’re going to add the opening tag for the HTML code for the type of list you want to create, either <ol> or <ul> and in front of the first bullet point you’re going to add <li>. This is the same regardless of whether you’re dealing with an ordered or unordered list.

    Now, you should then add the closing tag to the end of that bullet point, but here’s where I cheat a bit. Technically HTML doesn’t recognize white space, so I don’t add my closing tag to the end of the bullet point, but instead I add it to the beginning of the next bullet point like this:

    <li>This is how the HTML code looks for the first bullet point.
    </li><li>And this is how the HTML code looks for the second and all bullet points after that except for the last one.

    I copy </li><li> and can rapidly add it to the front of each bullet point, much faster than I could do it if I was having to copy the code to the beginning and end of each bullet point. This may seem quite lazy and yes, it probably is, but when you do a lot of posts, like I do, it saves a lot of time.

    For the last bullet point, you need to add the closing tags for the bullet point at the end of it so it will look like this:

    </li><li>Last bullet point.</li>

    And, of course, you need to add your closing tag for the list itself which will be either </ol> or </ul> depending on whether you’re doing an ordered or unordered list.

  5. For hyperlinks, this can be a little bit fiddly but still, it’s not too bad and works up quite quickly.

    • Before each word or phrase that will be hyperlinked, type &#60a href="" target="_blank">. As before type it in the first time then scroll down and copy it and paste this in front of every word or phrase that is to be hyperlinked.
    • At the end of each word or phrase being hyperlinked add </a>, typing it the first time then copying it and pasting it after every word or phrase to be hyperlinked as you scroll back up the document.
      So, at this point your hyperlink in your Word doc will look like this:
      &#60a href="" target="_blank">hyperlinked word or phrase</a>
    • The Word docs I get usually already have the hyperlink embedded into the word or phrase so I then right mouse click on the hyperlink and select Copy hyperlink from the menu options.
    • I then place my cursor between the "" and select Paste Special and then Unformatted Text.
    • Make sure there are no spaces between the hyperlink you’ve just pasted and the double quotes. If there are, delete them, then save your document after each hyperlink, otherwise it might revert back to a hyperlink instead of the HTML code for the hyperlink.
    • Sometimes when you right mouse click, you won’t see the option to copy the hyperlink because you will first need to select Ignore if the word isn’t in the dictionary and Word doesn’t recognize it. Once that’s done, the Copy Hyperlink option should appear when you right mouse click on the hyperlink.
    • Once you’ve copied the hyperlink to the HTML code, go back to the embedded hyperlink, right mouse click again and select Remove Hyperlink.

There are a few other tricks and short cuts I use but those are the main ones. I hope this makes sense to you. At first you may find it slow going but I promise that if you give it a try, you’ll soon understand HTML better and will soon be flying through your Word docs formatting them in HTML for your blog posts.

Let me know how this works for you or if you have any other tips to share with us.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Booking Your Blog: A Couple of Things to Consider

Booking Your Blog: A Couple of Things to Consider discusses issues you need to be mindful of if you decide to utilize your blog posts as content for a book.

Joel Friedlander used the term “book my blog” when he published his book A Self-Publisher’s Companion. Similar to Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book concept in a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” (i.e. the book concept or the blog), sort of way, both ideas ultimately suggest turning blog posts into a book.

If you plan to use your blog posts for a book right from the get go as Nina suggests in her book and on her blog How to Blog a Book, you may be able to avoid the issues in the list below because you can write your posts to avoid these pitfalls. But, if you decide to utilize your posts as content for a book after they are written as Joel did, be mindful of the following:

  • References to dates and times: It’s easy when you’re blogging to say something like “yesterday I read about…” or “at lunch today I thought about…” or “did you see that article this week about…” In your blog post these sort of references have context but in your book they won’t work, at least not without some tweaking. Try “I read about…” or “I thought about…” or “did you see the article about…” These may not be the best examples but I think they make the point.
  • Hyperlinks: If you’re publishing an e-book, the hyperlinks from your blog posts are likely to transition without too much difficulty. You should, of course, verify that the links are still active and working correctly. If you plan to publish a print book, however, proceed with caution. I’m currently reading a print book copy of The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick. This book is a classic example of, in my opinion, what not to do with hyperlinks in a print book. There are numerous mentions in the book like this one: “Here’s a directory of LinkedIn groups.” The underlining implies that there was, once upon a time, a hyperlink, and presumably these hyperlinks still exist in the e-book version of The Art of Social Media. It is both frustrating and disappointing that some effort wasn’t made to type out the URL for these links. If the example above had been re-written to something like “A directory of LinkedIn groups can be found here: URL-goes-here” and the URL had been hyperlinked, it could have worked for both e-book and print book versions. Without the URLs it feels very much like being left out of the loop and several of the Amazon reviews for the book echo this sentiment. For your book, forewarned is forearmed, right? Keep all of your readers happy and avoid this.
    Note: Despite the absence of URLs in the print book, The Art of Social Media is a good read if you’re looking for ideas and inspiration to get started with social media, or expand your social media reach.
  • References to past or future posts: Often if a blog post subject is complex, it can be split over multiple blog posts. Watch for references to previous or upcoming posts on the subject like “Booking Your Blog – Part 2”.

These issues can be corrected if you opt to convert your blog posts into a book and should be caught during editing.

Can you think of any other considerations when converting your blog posts to a book? If so, tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Damesbaden, Scheveningen, Holland courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Source for Images: The Commons on Flickr

Source for Images: The Commons on Flickr gives an overview of hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives that can be found on The Commons via Flickr.

I’m always looking for interesting stock image sites, preferably free ones. And, I must admit that I’m rather fascinated by historic photos and drawings. When I can I use them as post images for my blog posts and social media postings.

Flickr has created The Commons which amasses a collection of public photography archives.

Flickr’s The Commons goal is “to share hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives.” To do so they are cataloguing public photo archives around the world, or at least the ones that are available online.

Participating institutions include museums, universities, churches, libraries and archives.

Each participating organization has a link to its Rights Statement. It is recommended that you review this statement prior to use to assure that you are permitted to use it as the specifics of the rights vary from archive to archive and may also vary depending on the intended use of the image (commercial or non-commercial). You can read an overview about the Rights Statements here.

Here are some very random examples of what images are available on The Commons:

If you’re writing fiction, particularly historical fiction, you might also find some of these images are helpful for your storyboards.

Have fun exploring and let me know in the comments if you find anything exciting!

Photo credit: Dionne Quintuplets from the collections of theDundas Museum.