Thursday, April 28, 2016

How to Dissuade People from Reading Your Blog


Every day, hundreds of new emails sit in my inbox, many of which provide links to blogs written by people who belong to various writing groups where I am a member. I cannot possibly read through all of them, though, and honestly, because I get so many of them, I fall behind to the point that at one time I had close to 60,000 unread emails in my inboxes (yes, I have more than one email). 

Over a period of several days, I managed to dwindle the number down to a comfortable few hundred and today as I write, because emails come so frequently, I’m at nearly 6,000 again. So when I get a chance to look through my emails, I search for the most interesting topics and I click the links.

The other day I found a blog that looked very interesting, but I was pestered with so many popups, I finally left the blog in exasperation. The last thing a reader wants after expecting to read what promises to be a fascinating blog is to get interrupted numerous times with popups. And what happened when I tried to leave the blog? Another popup!

I understand the need to monetize a blog, but if you’re more interested in making money than you are in enticing people to read your blog, why bother writing anything at all? Just slam your readers with a bunch of popups.

Another annoying advertising technique is to interrupt your readers with a video they can’t see. Your readers are already interested in your content, but a couple of sentences in, voices suddenly emanate from their computers and, instead of reading your blog, they are now searching your page to find out where the annoying interruption is located. Sometimes the video can’t be found or readers give up, because your page is packed with so many ads they can't locate the source. 

But the voice continues. A minute may not seem like a long time, but if you don’t believe how long a minute feels to the person who is trying to read your blog as they listen to the voice they can’t find, try this experiment: Click THIS CLOCK and sit for one full minute as you watch the second hand return to its original position.

Now imagine that every ten seconds, a popup explodes onto your screen. How attractive is that blog you want to read now? Does the blog persuade you in any way to continue reading or to revisit the blog?

I’ll never know what that blogger tried to convey. The topic lured me into her blog, but the popups were so annoying, they managed to distract me to the point of leaving her blog before I read anything beyond the first couple of sentences.

Bottom line: monetizing your blog is perfectly fine, but please don’t distract your readers with numerous popups or videos they can’t find unless you don’t want them ever again to visit your blog. One or two cute popups is fine, but too many and your readers may miss some amazing content.


Graphic provided by Classroom Clipart

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Latest PayPal Scam

Here is the email I just received from “PayPal,” or, as is indicated in the suspicious email, ?ay?al:



One thing I’ve mentioned before in other blogs I've posted referring to various scams I've encountered is that no reputable company will EVER ask you for important personal information in an email, nor will they ask you to click a link to respond to the email.

Notice at the bottom of this fictitious email that you are NOT to respond to the email, but instead to click the link. I didn’t. I could just imagine my computer being wiped clean or important information about me being stolen and used for the hacker’s(s’) financial gain. Had I clicked the button they asked me to click, I might have found hundreds of credit cards being taken out in my name.

Instead, I immediately forwarded the criminal(s) directly to PayPal’s spoof department and decided to write a blog that I hope will spread like wildfire so other more vulnerable individuals won’t be victimized. If you receive the same or similar email from “PayPal,” FORWARD it to: 

spoof@paypal.com

How did I know the email didn’t come directly from PayPal? For a number of reasons, one of which was obviously the glaring mistake in the email, and when I checked the email address, I found, not a PayPal address, but something completely different:



Bottom line: if you find a suspicious email, report it to the company it proclaims to represent. And then tell your friends about it and ask them to tell their friends about it, and so on, and so on. Let’s STOP these crooks before they rob you or your loved ones. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Writing the Scholarship Application!


Many years ago, when I was an English tutor at a local community college, a student asked me to help him fill out his scholarship application. He also asked one of the English teachers for her help. The scholarship he wanted offered an astounding $50,000! You might think he had been competing with thousands of other students for this opportunity, but he was only one of two students who applied.

Yes, the scholarship was for somebody who wanted to work in the field of geology, but the fact that only one other student applied mystified me. It shouldn’t have, I learned, because every year hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money fall by the wayside. Why? Because students don’t take advantage of them. Scholarships take time and effort and some students don’t want to expend the time and effort it takes to get one!

The problem with scholarships is that so few people know about them. Colleges don’t announce them, so most people don’t even know they exist. But your chances of getting one are pretty high, considering that so few people apply for them.

How do you find scholarships? ASK! Talk to a guidance counselor or a college financial aid counselor, or if you’re still in high school, talk to a high school counselor. Find out which scholarships are available and which ones could apply to you snd your situation. Scholarships are targeted to a specific audience. Whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve been out of school for 20 years, you should be able to find a scholarship that applies to you.

Some counselors might point you in the direction of a computer and let you run your own search, but they probably know which ones would be applicable to you personally. A little polite prodding might help.

When you get the application, read VERY CAREFULLY what is required of you. If the scholarship committee asks your opinion on something completely unrelated to the classes you want to take, ANSWER the question anyway. BE SPECIFIC. By avoiding what is requested of you, you eradicate your chance of getting the scholarship. If you don’t address every single issue raised in the scholarship application, YOU WON’T GET THE SCHOLARSHIP!

Make sure you use correct grammar and punctuation. If the scholarship wants your name centered on the first line in a 14-point bold font, center your name on the first line in a 14-point bold font! Seek the help of an English teacher or tutor if necessary. Above all, present a professional-looking application. 

When that student who wanted the $50,000 scholarship came to me for editing, I paid attention, not only to his grammar and punctuation, but also to his responses. Did he address ever issue raised in the scholarship application? Was he specific? Yes! And guess what? He got the scholarship!

Can you use a little financial help with your education expenses? You might not get $50,000, or even $1,000, but just the process of applying for a scholarship increases your chances of getting one. And don’t forget to apply for grants too. Both are resources for money you won’t have to pay back!

Run a scholarship search today for the current year and the state in which you live. And don’t forget to ask for scholarship information from the school you want to attend. In the past, getting those applications completed by February 1st increased a students’s chances of getting a scholarship.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holiday Season with HOPress-Shorehouse Books

Looking for a book to read or share this holiday season? Here are 10 books to get you started! A special thanks to Donna Cavanagh of HOPress-Shorehouse Books for the love of her authors and for sharing the following books with me, so that I can offer them to you. 
Each year, HOPress-Shorehouse Books highlights the titles published in the last year. Our authors are talented, creative, funny, scary, educational, and inspiring. Please support our authors who gave their all to make their writing dreams come true.  Please stop by HOPress-Shorehouse Books and see our full catalog of authors too. Our goal is and always has been to help writers get their work to book lovers everywhere, and that is why our mantra is Independent Publishing with a Traditional Flair.

More Scripture Scribbles: Cartoons from the Choir Loft is Phillip Dillman’s second book. The first book of cartoons clearly tickled the funny bone in people of all faiths. His drawings might at times be irreverent, but they always demonstrate that Dillman is above all a man of faith. Dillman sings in his church choir and sketches cartoons about the day’s sermon. His scripture scribbles, which are conceptualized and drawn in a span of about 15 minutes, add a humorous twist and perhaps a bit more appreciation to the traditional Bible stories.

Life offers us plenty of opportunities. We construct our life plan—our Plan A, but life is never so simple. It tests us with setbacks, dead ends, hellos, and good-byes. To put it simply: Sometimes, we get stuck. However, The Promise in Plan B confronts fears about these changes and obstacles and encourages readers to develop a new life path. This book is grounded in the reality that life tends to be a series of interruptions, and we each possess a wealth of resources to initiate, investigate, and recreate the way we travel through our shifting courses. Unlike predictable job skills, these resources emphasize resilience, courage, imagination, humor, curiosity, and more.

Author Mary Farr includes personal stories and profiles of people from all walks of life who have faced challenges, despair, and unforeseen obstacles, but in the midst of the turmoil recognized their Plan B. This book explores themes of grace and gratitude seasoned with a generous dose of wit. Each chapter includes a Consider This section which contains questions and observations designed to encourage readers to open their hearts to new ideas. Farr also added journaling pages at the end of the book for those who would rather explore their reflections solo.

Opera might be one of the greatest of the performing arts, but it is also inherently funny. Who is more qualified to find the humor in opera than someone who has sung it for many years? Kathy Minicozzi strips away the boring, stuffy dignity and false glamour that people have imposed on opera for centuries and, like someone poking innocent fun at a good friend, spews plenty of knee-slapping, eye-watering hilarity.  In between the laughs, the author manages to drop real information, not only about opera itself but about the lives of the singers who perform it.

It often happens in the middle of an otherwise pleasant day -- you’re shopping, or walking across a college campus, and you encounter them. They’re holding signs that claim Israel is an “apartheid state” and charge Israel with committing “genocide” against Palestinians. They’re calling for boycotts against Israeli products and divestment from companies that do business with Israel.

You know supporting Israel is the right thing to do. And you’re not alone. For decades, polls have shown a large plurality, usually a majority, of Americans back Israel. But here’s the problem: you don’t know how to respond – or if you even should – to these Israel haters.

That’s where this book comes in. Imagine some of the key points from Alan Dershowitz’s authoritative volume, The Case For Israel-- as it might be delivered by Bill Maher. All the information you need in this street fight of words, but delivered in a light and accessible way, with satirical humor. So the next time you encounter a group of Israel-hating extremists, you’ll be armed with the facts – and the techniques to apply them with skill and confidence. 

A grocery store can’t expect repeat business if its checkers unleash Armageddon. This truism governs Debbie Devil, dedicated supermarket checker and horny, estranged wife of Satan. Debbie sets her sights on Joe Thorvald, a God-fearing, Lutheran. If she can get him to eat a mushroom, his soul and his hunky body will be hers.

Debbie tells her sidekick, Bertram, a British cook, to change Joe’s memory, body, circumstances, era, and life, until the Lutheran becomes a man who will eat mushrooms. But there will be only so many attempts on Joe’s soul before she unleashes Armageddon out of spite.

God sends the angels General Lee and Pedro Erickson, a Mexican-Swedish chef, to protect Joe. They fight back with Heaven’s culinary weapons, tacos and Swedish meatballs.

Along the way, Joe changes into a fun-loving dinosaur and a Greek warrior with an ass harder than bronze before being sent to Hell for nonpayment of his hospital bill. Can Lee and Pedro Erickson save the soul of a Lutheran hunk and prevent Armageddon? Ja caramba. 


There are eight million stories at your local public library – and not all of them are in the books! Join humorist Roz Warren (“the world’s funniest librarian”) for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at library life. What really goes on behind the circulation desk? And in the stacks? Roz, who writes for everyone from the New York Times to the Funny Times, tells all! What’s the single most stolen item in any public library? What’s the strangest bookmark ever left in a library book? What’s the lamest excuse ever given for not returning a DVD on time? And what does your favorite librarian REALLY think of you? In twenty entertaining essays, you’ll meet librarians fighting crime, partying with porn stars, coping with impossible patrons, locating hard-to-find books, and saving the world. The most closely guarded library secrets will be revealed. You‘ll never look at your local public library the same way again!

“Hilarious!“ Gina Barreca, author of They Used To Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted


Everything "Pittsburgh" has fries on it…salads, sandwiches whatever! This book is a culmination of silly, stupid and ign’ernt stories of jagoffery from the Pittsburgh blog, YaJagoff.com. For those who are not familiar with term Jagoff, it refers to stupid politicians, awful sports officials, dumb criminals, bad drivers, ignorant people, and so on. However, it is not a swear word, and in fact, it is sometimes used as a term of endearment. Through this series of rants about “Jagoffs” from all walks of life, Chamberlin writes with passion about Pittsburgh and his love of “The Steel City,” and he has even developed a cadre of worldwide "YaJagoff Catchers" who submit their own rantings from wherever they live, which he posts on his site. If you live in Pittsburgh, lived in Pittsburgh, or just love anything Pittsburgh, this is the book for you!

Concha Alborg didn't think that anything could hurt her more than the death of her husband from cancer, but hours after his death she learned how wrong she was. Within days of being made a widow, this Spanish College Professor discovered that her marriage and her husband were not what she had envisioned. With a unique point of view, due to her bi-cultural background, and a self-deprecating humor, she takes us on a personal journey. Her strength and determination to build a new life led her down a path that allowed her to reject the veil of widowhood and instead embrace a life of happiness, love, and acceptance. 

What happens when a two–year-old and a 92-year-old join forces and conspire against their primary caregiver? The picture is at times not pretty, but it’s always heartwarming and witty. Elder care attorney Cathy Sikorski penned this memoir about her days as a stay-at-home mom whose life is turned upside down when her Nana moves in. In between the adventures and misadventures that ensue when the toddler and grandmother become allies, Sikorski learns about patience, the importance of humor, and the joy that results from a well-deserved nap.





There is no stronger tie than that which binds a father to his sons. Well, maybe the one that connects sons to their mother, but that’s different. The father-son relationship is one that hums to mystic chords of foolishness and bravado; a mother comes into the room and suddenly a strain in A minor is heard, and it’s time to take a bath and go to bed.

For men like me who grew up without brothers, sons are another chance at a boyhood we never knew; a chance to punch your sibling in the arm and not get double-crossed by a two-timing broad or the first time in your life as your sister yells “Mom—he hit me!” down the stairs after she told you to do it!

These stories are an account of my journey through my sons’ first childhood as I experience my second. I’ve changed my kids’ names to the all-purpose generic monickers “Scooter,” the older of the two, and “Skipper” his younger brother, to protect their innocence. The statute of limitations on what some would call arson is apparently quite long.

These tales of youthful hi-jinx under one dad’s semi-adult supervision will demonstrate for you the truth of the age-old adage:

You’re only young once, but you can remain immature—forever.

Want more? Visit HOPress-Shorehouse Books!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No Small Potatoes – Greeting Card Message in a Bottle!

Back in the 70s I wrote about a hundred different greeting cards, some of which were unlike anything anybody had seen on card racks during those years. Cards back then were sweet and sentimental or mildly humorous. You wouldn’t have been able to find a sarcastic card no matter how hard you looked.

My ideas included more than just sarcasm, though. I created genres that never before existed – Pregnancy AnnouncementsCongratulations, Daddy cards – Grandparent AnnouncementsHappy Birthday Twin cards – all of which I sent to 100 different greeting card companies. 

Every single one of those greeting card companies rejected my ideas. Every single one.

The reason?

Well, most of them didn’t respond at all, but for those who sent more than the generic, “sorry, we can’t use your material at this time” note, I received, more than once, this comment, “We have no market for these kinds of cards.”

Not one of those companies recognized that I was creating the market. Ironically, at the same time I sent those messages, two women from New York, where I was living at the time, created a line of sarcastic greeting cards that eventually garnered a lot of attention. A couple of years after I moved back to Illinois, they appeared in People Magazine, which showcased their sarcastic line, Bittersweet, a company they had created a couple of years before the article came out. Oh, well.

Because I knew nothing about advertising (no Internet back then either), I tucked away my messages. In the 90s I decided that my messages might fare better inside bottles. But again, with no advertising expertise and no Internet knowledge, I floundered and reluctantly put them aside again.

Inspiration and prompts, however, sometimes come from very strange sources. Because when Mr. Potato man appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, he lit a flame inside me that incited and invigorated me to rethink my Message in a Bottle idea. You haven’t heard of Mr. Potato man? He puts messages on potatoes and sends them out anonymously for people willing to pay $10 + postage and handling to get their message read – on a potato! I know. I seem jealous. But in my defense, last month Mr. Potato Man made $20,000 – from potatoes! 

My first thought (after I shot upright and thought, HOW)? Where are my bottles and messages? 

So I rummaged through the garage, grabbed my bottles and corks, listed all my messages and made them easily accessible so that I can put them in a bottle when 2,000 people request my services (positive thoughts, please) this month.  

Want to visit my new business and read some of the messages? Just click the logo below!






Sunday, September 6, 2015

How to Use Commas for Three or More Words, Phrases, or Clauses

So often, I see a number of people omitting the last comma before a conjunction, because somebody somewhere changed the rules one day and said it was okay to omit it. The argument for omitting the final comma is that the word, “and,” is supposed to suffice for the omission, but as I note in examples posted below, that supposition doesn’t always work.

Most of the time, readers can easily understand sentences written without the added comma, but sometimes the sentences make no sense – or they are hilarious – so in a comedic sense, the omission of that last comma could, if intended, be humorous.

Some punctuation rules have to change to accommodate changing times. The comma usage rule, however, is not the same type of rule as the omission of the second space after a period. Arguments continue over whether or not to press the space bar once or twice after typing a period.

In the days before computers, when everyone used typewriters, the rule was to press the space bar twice. The reason was because it allowed for easy reading; the reader would temporarily pause before heading on to the next sentence. 

When computers were invented (YEARS ago) inventors factored in a reasonable space between sentences, allowing typists to press the space bar only once. 

So let’s end the argument right now about whether or not to press the space bar once or twice after a sentence. The answer is – if you still use a typewriter, press the space bar twice; if you use a computer, press the space bar only once (caveat – some fonts and font styles, including italics, cause letters to space unevenly, and in those cases, adding an extra space after a period might look better).


Now on to the question of whether or not to place one last comma in a series of three or more words, phrases, or clauses. I found a great example in the following sentence, showing why we need to use commas appropriately (found on EnglishPlus.com in the Grammar Section on Commas):

Incorrect: The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators and police. 

(Leaving out the last comma makes it look like the police were shouting, too.)

Correct: The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators, and police. 

(Makes it clearer.) 

I found another more humorous example on Stack Exchange (also located on wikipedia):

Sentence: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Correction: To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God.

If you wrote the first sentence, readers would deduce that God was one of your parents (yes, I’m fully aware of the argument that God is the father). By changing the word, “parents,” to the word, “mother,” your sentence makes even more sense.

However, separating three items with commas may not always provide enough clarification. From Stack Exchange, we find the following sentence: 

He currently lives with his wife, a ferret, and a cat who thinks she is a ferret. 

The implication is that “his wife” is a ferret. Also, as one commenter in the thread beneath the article noted, the word, “currently,” causes the reader to wonder if his wife is only temporary. So in addition to placing commas correctly, we need to also look at the structure of our sentences. Do our readers understand what we’re trying to convey?

Ambiguous writing jeopardizes our credibility as a writer. Some people argue that if the sentence or phrase can be clearly understood with or without the comma, we can choose to leave it out. But why force our readers to work so hard at understanding our work? If our goal in writing our blogs, articles, or books is to express ourselves eloquently, the best way to help our audience understand our words is by using them correctly. We need to follow the rules of grammar or learn how to restructure our sentences so they will make sense to our readers.  

In addition to writing coherently, I’m also a believer in continuity in writing.  If a writer posts a series of three words in one sentence and leaves out the comma, but then several paragraphs later leaves in the comma, readers may note the inconsistency. The saying, “when in doubt, leave it out,” doesn’t, in my mind, apply to commas.

For more on English and grammar rules, please visit GrammarBook.com



Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Your Blog Mobile-Friendly?

Most bloggers use either a computer or a laptop to compose their blogs, books, articles, and screenplays. Rare is the person who uses a mobile phone to write his or her blogs. So if all you ever use is a computer or laptop, do you have any idea how your blog looks on mobile devices?

And if somebody runs a Google search for something you’ve written on your blog, would anybody be able to find your blog?

If your blog is not phone-friendly, what people see when they visit your blog might not be what you want to present to them. If you’re racing to your phone to pull up your content right now and you’re not happy with the results, don’t worry. You can change the way your blog looks by following the instructions I’ve linked below.

Here most of my blogs and what they look like on mobile devices (fortunately, I’m happy with the results):














So are you ready to take the Mobile-Friendly Test? Just click the link and if your blog is not mobile-friendly, follow the instructions offered in the Mobile Guide, the Get Started section, or the Documentation section to fix the problem.

Translate

MAKE ME YOUR FAVE!

Add to Technorati Favorites