Happy (Belated) Bloggiversary to Me

I seem to be losing track of dates lately. Not days of the week, of course — I am always aware of what day it is to make sure I don’t miss a dance class — but the days of the month seem to be escaping me.

I’d planned to do a grief update at four and a half years, and although yesterday’s post was coincidentally about grief, the fact that it was my four and a half year anniversary didn’t even register. Nor did it register that it was the 27th. The day that my life mate/soul mate died — the 27th of the month — has always brought with it a special awareness, and yesterday that awareness went missing. It’s possible, of course, that subliminally I did remember, hence the mention of grief, but it could also be that I was simply reaching for a blog topic and seeing a friend reading Grief: The Great Yearning spurred me to write what I did.

Another blog post I’d planned to do was my blog anniversary post. On September 24, 2007, I posted my very first bloggerie, and September 24, 2014 came and went without any sort of awareness of the 7th anniversary of this blog.

Still aballoonsnother post I’d planned to do was a concurrent celebration — the anniversary of three years of daily blogging. During the first four years of blogging, I posted only three or four times a week, but on September 24, 2011, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and I continued to post every day once that initial commitment was fulfilled. I was particularly interested in this anniversary because I’d planned to rethink the daily blogging — it’s not always easy to post every day, especially now that the traumas of my life are settling down a bit so that I have less to write about. (And, of course, I’m dancing more, so I have less time to write.) Yet, subliminally, I must have made the decision to continue, because here I am, still blogging each day.

When I started this blog, it was a way of getting a head start on promotion for when/if I got published. After I got published, it was supposed to be a way of promoting my books. But, as I’ve learned, blogging, like all social networking efforts, has minimal effect on book sales.

[Social networking only helps create a web presence. What makes a huge difference in sales is playing Amazon’s algorithmic games, trying to get on one of their seemingly endless bestseller lists and letting the algorithms catapult you to stardom. But, silly me, I am carrying on my own private war with Amazon (I think they exert too much control over the book business) and so, to use a very trite and quite disgusting metaphor, I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face. Facebook works to a certain extent if you join a zillion groups and frequently post links to your books in those groups, but that isn’t networking --- it’s spamming.]

Although promotion is no longer a factor (well, not much) in keeping up with this blog I do like writing and publishing my articles. I feel safe here, and that feeling of safety gives me the freedom to say what I want, no matter how personal. Four and a half years ago when my life mate/soul mate died, his death catapulted me into such a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. And even though grief is mostly leaving me alone now, I’ve continued the policy of writing about the various traumas and conflicts of my life.

It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges come my way, this blog will be here for me, even if I do forget my bloggiversary.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Taking “B” Things With Gratitude

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. ~~ G. K. Chesterton

For the rest of November, I’m going to take for gratitude some of those things I often take for granted — an entire alphabet’s worth! Since today is the second day of this surge of gratitude, I am giving thanks for “B” things.

I am especially grateful for:

balloonsBalloons. Balloons are such a basic decoration/toy that we take them for granted, but they remind us of festive days and simpler times when batting around a balloon could provide entertainment and laughter.

Beauty. So much of the beauty around us we take for granted, and yet there is beauty wherever we look, in the wrinkled faces of old women, the bright eyes of a new friend, the leafless trees of winter and the bare deserts in summer.

Being. We take our being for granted, wandering through our lives, dealing with everyday matters, paying scant attention to the miracle of being. And yet . . . we are. We have being. Wow. How incredible is that?

Blog. We tend to take blogging for granted, so much so that we don’t always value the wisdom we find in blogs in other blogs or the value of what we write in our own blogs, but blogging allows everyone who wishes to write the equivalent of a newspaper column. To be able to say what is on your mind is definitely something to be taken with gratitude, but if people read your words, that is astonishingly wonderful.

Blue. Blue reminds us of eternity. helps us find serenity, promotes creativity, encourages learning, but more than that, blue is a lovely color in and of itself, and is the favorite of most adults.

Body. We are so familiar with our bodies and see them so often, that whether we like the way we look or not, we take our bodies for granted. We take our brains for granted because we never see them, and take our blood for granted until we see it pouring (or even seeping) out of us after an injury. And we definitely take our bones for granted until we develop a problem, but without bones, our bodies wouldn’t be much more than a pile of mush. So today, I am going to be grateful that all these pieces fit together, allowing me to be.

What “B”s are you taking for gratitude today?

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See also:
Taking “A” Things With Gratitude

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Happy Bloggiversary To Me!

I created this blog exactly six years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I didn’t even know what a blog was. I’d read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since.

Did acting as if I were goinballoons1g to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published by Second Wind Publishing. They have now published five of my books — four suspense novels and one non-fiction book about grief. More importantly — at least blog-wise — I am still blogging, still making connections, still making friends. Still having fun.

One thing I never expected when I set up Bertram’s Blog, is how much I would like writing and publishing my articles. I feel safe here, away from the constant promos, ideological ravings, and mindless ratings on other sites, and it gives me the freedom to say what I want, no matter how personal. Three and a half years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into such a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life.

It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges come my way, this blog will be here for me.

Although I’d planned to post every day, during the first four years I only managed to blog three or four times a week, but exactly two years ago today, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and I continued to post every day once that initial commitment was fulfilled. (Which makes this a double anniversary — 6 years for blogging, 2 years for daily blogging.)

It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimseys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past three and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What Next for Bertram’s Blog?

In three weeks, I will be celebrating the six-year anniversary of this blog. I will also be celebrating the two-year anniversary of daily blogging. (Two years ago, I responded to a challenge to blog for 100 days, and I just kept going.)

My first post on September 24, 2006 was tentative, a mere dipping of my pen in the metaphorical ink of the blogosphere. All that post said was:

Am I an aspiring writer? I have written 4 books, rewritten them, and will continue rewriting them until they are perfected.

No. I am not an aspiring writer. I am aspiring to be a published writer.

untitled2Not a bad statement of intent for a new blogger. In the beginning I wrote about my struggles to find an agent or a publisher, my attempts to learn all I could about how to become a bestselling author (still don’t know — drats!), my efforts at establishing my online presence. In the beginning, I used no photo of me, just an initial. I still hadn’t decided if I wanted to use a male pseudonym or any pseudonym at all. I’d also started writing a new novel that I now call my work-in-pause since it’s been sitting there, half-finished for almost six years. Later, after I found a publisher, I talked about my newly published books, and when ebooks, Kindles, and self-publishers burst on the scene, changing the face of publishing forever, I wrote various blog posts about the publishing industry, trying to make sense of it all and trying to find my place in the clamor

Three and a half years ago, my soul mate died. His death catapulted me into a world of such pain, that it bled over into this blog. My grief posts became not so much a way to escape, but a place to try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life.

This blog also helped me to re-establish my life as a writer because, after all, blogging is writing, too.

It’s nice to know that whatever life threw at me, whatever problems I encountered, whatever challenges came my way, this blog was here for me.

But now I don’t know where to go with my life, and I don’t know where to go with this blog. Except for occasional grief updates or excerpts from my book: Grief: The Great Yearning, I’ve said most of what I wanted to say about grief. And there’s nothing more to be said about the publishing industry. It has changed beyond my comprehension, so there’s no point in my writing about it. Besides, there is too much controversy still, with militant self-publishers jumping on anyone they think is casting aspersions on the phenomena. And there is too much controversy with sharing writing tips. Every time I tell what I have learned, other authors stomp on my words, proclaiming that it’s an author’s right to make up the rules. I just am not a contentious person, and I don’t like being pulled unwittingly into such imbroglios.

So, I have three weeks to decide if I want to continue daily blogging or if I want to go back to the way I started, just blogging when I had something to say. I need to decide what, if anything, I have to say — maybe I’ve said it all.

In the end, I’ll probably decide not to decide, and just keep on blogging. It’s become a way of life.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Thank You for Five Incredible Blog Years

Five years ago today I started this blog. I’d only been on the internet a few months (four months to be exact), had no idea what a blog was but knew enough about book promotion to know that I needed one to help establish my online presence. I spent a few days researching the various blogging platforms and ended up here on WordPress.

My first post was tentative, a mere dipping of my pen in the metaphorical ink of the blogosphere. All that post said was:

Am I an aspiring writer? I have written 4 books, rewritten them, and will continue rewriting them until they are perfected.

No. I am not an aspiring writer. I am aspiring to be a published writer.

Not a bad statement of intent for a new blogger. In the beginning I wrote about my struggles to find an agent or a publisher, my attempts to learn all I could about how to become a bestselling author (still don’t know — drats!), my efforts at establishing my online presence. In the beginning, I used no photo of me, just an initial. I still hadn’t decided if I wanted to use a male pseudonym or any pseudonym at all. I’d also started writing a new novel that I now call my work-in-pause since it’s been sitting there, half-finished for almost five years.

Much has happened to me since I started this blog. I entered a couple of writing contests and made it to the semi-finals in both, (one was the very first ABNA contest). My mother died. I found a publisher. My father had quadruple bypass surgery. My life mate/soul mate got sicker and sicker. And throughout those two and a half years of turmoil, this blog sustained me. It gave me a place to escape from my daily life, a place I could count on.

And then, two and a half years ago, my soul mate died. His death catapulted me into a world of such pain, that it bled over into this blog. My posts became not so much a way to escape, but a place to try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life.

This blog also helped me to re-establish my life as a writer because, after all, blogging is writing, too. A year ago, I made a commitment to blog every day for 100 days, and somehow I never stopped. And today marks an entire year, 366 days of blogging every single day. (Leap year, in case you’re wondering why 366 instead of 365.) I recently recommitted to another 100-day challenge. It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges come my way, this blog will be here for me.

I started with meager aspirations, hoping for the seemingly unrealistic goal of 12,000 views a year, and as of right now, this blog has had 215,817 all time views. On my busiest day, I had 3,542 people stopping by. I’ve been Freshly-pressed three times, written 1,003 posts (including this one), received 7,159 comments and almost 3000 likes and shares. My best ranking on Alexa.com was 607,198 out of 350 million websites. Quite an achievement for someone who, five years ago, did not even know what a blog was.

I never told you how much your reading my posts has meant to me, so I want to do so now. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past two and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

Are You Playing The Kindle Game?

People keep saying that Kindle, even more than other reading devices, has revitalized the book industry, making books affordable and reading more accessible. They say the market is expanding, that people who never read are now interested in books. But is this true? Are they interested in reading, or are they interested in playing the Kindle game, downloading books as fast as possible to fill their new toy?

One reason people always gave for not reading is that they don’t have time. Do people suddenly have huge extra blocks of time to read, to get into a book, to explore new ways of thinking and experience new ways of being? I think not. It seems that reading is now part of the multi-tasking generation, where you read while doing something else. Is this reading? People say that reading is not a solitary activity any more, that new enhanced reading apps make it social. If so, is this really reading?

The other half of the Kindle game is the author game, where selling as many books as possible, is all that matters. Whether people actually read the book is immaterial. Of course, the major publishers started this game a long time ago, this game of sales records, and now it’s been taken to the people where anyone can play. But that doesn’t mean the books being sold then or now are worth reading.

When I mentioned in a comment to a fellow blogger that Amazon was a major publisher, she corrected me and said it was a sales platform, like using WordPress. It’s a perfect analogy, and it explains an unusual phenomenon — my rapidly increasing blog rating. It always used to hang around 3,500,000 on Alexa.com, but suddenly, for no reason I could see (my readership is growing, but not enough to explain a leap in rankings), my blog began increasing in rank, and now it’s at 929,990 (out of 346 million sites). Are blogs disappearing (or falling off the scale) because people are now uploading things for Kindle that they once posted on their blogs? If so, then books are being devalued to the level of a bloggerie.

Makes me wonder if I’ll ever take up writing again.

But for now, if you are playing the Kindle game, all my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Smashwords is great! The books are available in all ebook formats, including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free.

This is the third post where I’ve been mulling over the current state of the book business. The other two are: Is the Book Business Dying? and First the Bread Wars, Now the Book Wars.

Do Blogs Need to Have a Single Topic?

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Most articles about blogging mention that you need to pick a topic for your blog and all your posts need to center on that topic. Is this really necessary? I suppose if you are a literary agent who sets himself up as an interpreter of the publication industry (explaining what one needs to do get published, for example), you’d need to stick to your topic, otherwise you’d lose your readers. Or if you are a marketing coach who is trolling for clients, it would be a good idea to stick to the topic at hand. But what about the rest of us? Specifically, what about us authors? Is it necessary for us to stick to a single topic? And if so, what should that topic be?

I have two fairly well-received blogs that are topic-oriented — Book Marketing Floozy, which is an indexed blog of book marketing tips and hints written by various authors, and Pat Bertram Introduces . . ., which is a blog for interviews with authors and their characters.  (Ahem! You know this because, of course, you have already submitted an interview, right?! If you haven’t yet submitted your interview, you can find the instructions and questions here: Author Questionnaire. I’ll be waiting for it!!)

I also have a third blog that isn’t as highly rated as those two, but it is rated (if an Alexa rating of 21,000,000 passes for a rating.) That third blog, Dragon My Feet, went through several metamorphoses from a blog to talk about all the things I did while procrastinating from writing (which I never used because when I was procrastinating from writing, I wasn’t even writing blog posts) to a blog highlighting excerpts from books as part of my ongoing effort to promote others while I learn to promote myself. You can find submission requirements for that blog here: Let me post your excerpt!

Which brings me to the blog at hand, the one you are reading, the point of the discussion. This blog started out as a place to talk about my efforts to get published, my efforts to get noticed once I was published, and what I learned along the way. I’d talk about reading and writing, and over the years I ended up with some pretty impressive views on some of my articles about writing.  “Describing a Winter Scene,” for example, has almost reached 10,000 views for that article alone, and it spawned a couple of other posts with good ratings: “Describing a Winter Scene — Again” and “Describing a Winter Scene — Again. And Yet Again.” And all of those winter scene articles descended from the grandmommy of them all: “Describing a Scene in an Interesting Way.” But continuing to write such articles would get boring after a while, both for me and my poor readers, most of whom know more about writing than I do!

Before boredom set in, Death intervened. Not my death, of course, but it was a significant event in my life nontheless, and so I started writing about grieving. Partly, I couldn’t think of anything else but my sorrow, and partly I got so furious at novelists who didn’t seem to understand the first thing about grief that I wanted to set the record straight. Well, I accomplished that to a certain extent, and now I have a book about my grief that will be published next year. So, in a way, all that talk about grief was still within the parameters of this blog — all part of writing.

But now I’m coming out of the worst of the fog. I’ve said most of what I wanted to say about grief and most of what I wanted to say about writing (I mean, how many articles about describing winter can one person write?) and now I’m at a crossroads. I’ve been talking about the various things I’ve been doing to put my life back together, such as “Halt and I’ll Shoot! (Adventures With Firearms)” and “Proving to Myself That I’m Real,” but eventually I’ll move beyond that, and then what? I’ll have to decide on a topic for this blog. Or do I? Is “life, writing, and the writing life” a specific enough topic? Is it better for an author to write about whatever catches his or her interest so readers (hypothetical though they may be) can better get to know you? Is it enough simply to blog?

What’s Next? Updating My Life.

It’s hard for me to believe, but exactly a week from now, the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference will be over, my speech will all but be forgotten, and I will be on an airplane, probably over Kansas somewhere, heading back here.

I’m not sure what to think about that. I’ve used this conference as a beacon, something to light my way through the darkness of my grief, and soon I will have to figure out what to do when the conference is over. I’ll work on my grief book, of course, and I’ll have to figure out what to do with all my facebook groups. For some reason, they are “new and improving” them to the point of unusability, at least for my non-nefarious purposes. We had some great discussions, and the discussions will no longer be available. Don’t know what the point of that is. All of that collected wisdom just  . . . gone. I also can’t procrastinate too long in upgrading the groups, or I will lose all the members. Sheesh. What a mess.

To a certain extent, it’s the impetus I’ve needed to rethink my promotional efforts both for me and for my publisher, Second Wind. To that end, I will be doing something I’ve never considered — emailing lists. At least they are something I would have control over. Don’t worry — I won’t be adding anyone who doesn’t want to be on the list. (Unless you responded to giveaways, and most of those had a note to the effect that your email address could be used to notify you of future giveaways and contests.)

But after that? Haven’t a clue. I was talking to someone today about the conference, and she asked if I’d ever taught before “other than on the internet”, and it occurred to me that in a roundabout way I have been teaching writing all along. So perhaps I’ll do writing workshops here on this blog. It wouldn’t be that much different from my various online discussion groups, but it would be more structured. Perhaps post a tutorial every Sunday night? And something similar to my presentation for the conference – creating incredible but credible characters – would be a good place to start. Besides, I need a new focus for this blog.  Grief only goes so far.

I’m not in the throes of grief anymore, at least not much — I keep myself too busy. I figure, if my life mate doesn’t want me to be thinking about him, he shouldn’t have died. Can you detect a hint of anger here? He used to tell me I needed to keep a pilot light of anger. He said it would fuel without consuming me. And what do you know — there it is. And it does help.

Funny how life coalesces at times. Everything of my old life (both online and offline) seem to heading for another turning point. Of course, that could be an illusion (or a delusion), but it’s true that this is another time of many changes.

I’ll keep you posted. And for sure I’ll get photos of the conference.

Speaking of photos, you’ve all seen the rather blurry photo of me I use as an icon. The photo accompanying this post is the picture it’s cropped from — my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary party, just a couple of months before my mother died. Happy mother’s day, Mom. Hope you’re at peace.

Searching for a Blog Identity

The best blogs are those with a single focus, or so they say. At the beginning, I blogged about my efforts to get published. When my books were accepted for publishing and before they were released, I concentrated on having guest bloggers. After my books were published, I blogged about writing, promotion, and the progress of my current works (or rather the lack of progress). Then, about a year ago, my soul mate died, and this blog developed a dual personality — the almost dry articles about books and writing and the very wet and weepy articles about grief.

Now I need to decide where I want to go with this blog, to figure out what I want to say. Grief is still a part of my life and will be for some time to come, but I don’t want to be that woman — the one who hugs her sorrow and doesn’t seem to be able to move on. (To a great extent I have moved on. Only you and I know how much I still hurt.) Nor do I want to go back to focusing solely on writing and other literary matters. I’m not sure I have anything to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by people far more literate (and interesting) than I.

Even more than having a single focus, the best blogs are written by those who have a unique slant on a subject, who write what only they can write, who chronicle life’s journey in such a manner that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. But . . . it isn’t necessary to be a great blogger to get the benefits of keeping a web log.

In the past couple of years I’ve developed an interest in photography. I have a separate blog for photos — Wayword Wind — and I joined 365 Project, committing to taking a photo every day for a year. This project has helped to turn my focus outward. While walking, I tend to let my mind wander, and it generally wanders to what (or rather who) I have lost, so searching for that special image each day makes me more alert to my surroundings, to what is rather than what is not.

In the same way, blogging helps concentrate my thoughts, makes me more alert to my inner surroundings. Sometimes it seems as if I’m too full of myself, my posts a bit too pedantic, and yet it’s all part of my journey. Like this blog, I seem always to be in a state of flux, searching for some sort of identity . . .  or at least a focus.

If I ever find where I’m going, either with my life or with this blog, I’ll let you know.

Will Traditional Ways of Selling Books be Effective in the Ebook Era?

I participated in a discussion with several authors the other night concerning ways of promoting our books. For once, I didn’t say much, just sat back and listened to their suggestions for getting book reviews, getting the publishing company recognized by RWA and MWA, getting their books in stores. What struck me was that these were all traditional ways of promoting books. There was not a single mention of online promotion, of alternate means of promoting.

I’m the first to admit that online promotion doesn’t sell many books if you’re an unknown, but to be honest, I never said that it did. For me, online promotion has always been about establishing an internet presence. What I know about marketing books can fit on the head of a pin and still leave room for a host of dancing angels, but I figured that once my books reached a certain critical mass of reviews, sales, and readers (fans?), momentum (via the linked nature of the internet) would cause sales to mushroom. Hasn’t happened, but that’s the theory, anyway.

On the other hand, do the traditional ways work? Or, more importantly, will the traditional ways of promotion continue to work as ebooks supplant print books? I never thought that would happen —  too many of us prefer the comfort of a print book –  but recently two bits of information made me rethink my bias. First, the day after Christmas, Barnes and Noble sold a million ebooks. Second, a recent poll found that college students don’t read books. I’m not sure all those people filling up their ebook readers are actually going to read the books they download, but the fact is, ebooks are selling.

Does it matter that our books aren’t in stores if people are going to buy ebooks? Does it matter that we don’t have offline reviews if people will have to go online to buy the books? Does it matter that we don’t have book signings if there are no print books to sign? Perhaps I’m looking too far ahead. Perhaps print books won’t disappear until long after we’re moldering in our graves, but the ebook era is approaching faster than we imagined. We need to find news ways of promoting to meet the challenge. Oddly enough, blog tours are already so prevalent as to be almost useless. But what’s beyond book signings, reviews in magazines, bookstores? What’s beyond blogging, Twittering, Facebooking? That’s what we need to be considering.

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