Coming Soon . . . We’re Hopin’

That’s hopin’ and not hoppin’, as in frogs and toads.  But, in truth, we’ve been doing a lot of that throughout the “Forever Poi” case.  Er, I should say, oodles of suspects have kept us hoppin’.  And all over the map!

Rey here.  The Boss requested a break.  Given Linda’s surfing on the North Shore and JJ’s volunteering at the animal shelter, that leaves l’il ol’ me to post.  That’s okay.  Between you and me, I’m really starting to enjoy it.

Instead of providing snippets of potentially useful info, I decided to share one of our more hairy “Forever Poi” moments.  Just to give you some quick background, the case starts with a double homicide that occurs when two Chinatown art galleries are torched.  The two murders lead to a few more . . . with a whack of wacky persons and incidents along the way.

I don’t have JJ’s voice, but here’s my account of an excitement-filled evening when a possible witness bites the dust, uh, table . . . .

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Dim Donald’s was a long, narrow bar on a side street not far from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  We’d only gone there once, when we first settled in the office but, as Linda had said, it wasn’t our cup of tea.  The inside was dark and drab, the drink selection limited, and the evening crowd looked like a perfect fit for the biker-like place

It was just after midnight and the bar—or watering hole, as I called it on the walk over—held two dozen heavy-duty bikers, uh, drinkers.  Seated on cheap ladder-back chairs at a window table, we ordered a round of beers for ourselves and glass of red wine for Timmy-Tom.

“You hungry?” I asked, unable to stop staring at Timmy-Tom’s milk-pod fuzzy eyebrows.

Cousin Jilly, or JJ as you know her, kicked me under the table.

He waved to a scruffy-looking middle-aged couple wearing jeans and jean jackets over black Ts with flaming skulls.  “I could go for a basket of wings and fries.  They’re pretty good here.”

I got the attention of the only waitperson, an old dude named Ched, who looked like a grinning leprechaun.

“What can I do for you?” Timmy-Tom asked.  He sampled the wine and nodded, and leaned back with a loud sigh.

“Where you around when the fire broke out?” JJ asked and took a sip of watery beer.  The weird expression on her face suggested it tasted about as good as it looked.

“I was at the rear of the first gallery, eating dinner, when the trucks arrived.”

“Was that long after the fire broke out?”

“Not long, no.”  He scanned the bar and shrugged.  “I hung around for a while, thinking they’d get it under control, but they didn’t seem to be having much luck that night.”

Linda sniffed her beer and scrunched up her nose.

“Do you know Carlos or James-Henri, the gallery owners?” I asked on a whim.

“By sight.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t see much that night, if you were at the back,” Gail stated, studying him closely.

“I walked around some after dinner.”  He eyed her curiously, as if he might know her, chewed his bottom lip, and finally continued.  “I saw people go in and out of the galleries.  Some were really pie-eyed leaving.  Must have been a helluva party.”

JJ pulled out her cell phone and showed him a photo of Lolita/Mary-Louise.  “Ever seen her?”

He studied it for almost a minute.  “Yeah.  A couple of times.  The first time was maybe a week before the fire.  The lady all but bolted from the back of the gallery, looking fit to be tied.  The second was the night of the fire.  She looked different—all fancy, with her hair in an updo.”

“Tell us about that night.  What did you see?” she asked, leaning forward eagerly.

He smiled sheepishly.  “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but to get to the side street, I needed to walk past her and the person she was with.  I didn’t want to scare them or anything, so I waited in the shadows, figuring they wouldn’t stick around long.”

“Person she was with?” I asked, getting excited re a possible lead.

“She was chatting with someone—actually, they were talking under their breaths, like they didn’t want to be heard.  But there was this urgency about the way they talked and moved their hands and arms.”

“As if they were angry?” Linda asked.

“Angry or worried, or maybe both.”  He nodded to Ched when he placed cheap cutlery and paper napkins on the scarred table.  “How’s the family, my friend?”

“Awesome.  Always good to see you, Timmy-Tom.”  With a wink, Ched saluted and hurried off.

“Can you tell us who she was—”

I never got to finish the question.  Like a melon thrown from an overpass, Timmy-Tom’s smashed-mashed head dropped to the table with a clunk-thump.

JJ and I gazed from the awful mess to each other and back again, looking like we got hit with a stun gun.

Gail, on the other hand, dashed out the door after Tommy-Tom’s killer.

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Blog + Sales = $ucce$$ ?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  But it’d sure be awesome.

Sometimes, as fellow bloggers may agree, writing a post can prove a challenge.  Oh, there are tons of topics to consider, be they informative or entertaining, promotional or otherwise.  It’s simply a matter of determining which one is the right one given your predilection.

This weekend I was thinking how much I [really] want to write/blog full-time, but to do so, I’d need to generate an income from it.  That, then, became the focus of this weekend’s post.

blogsun3Making money via a blog is totally doable from all that I’ve been reading.  Can you earn enough to pay the bills, though?  Apparently so.  In fact, some bloggers claim they make anywhere from $1K to $10K a month, and the odd one claims [a lot!] more.  Of course, this means you’re not just a blogger anymore: you’re a bona-fide businessperson.  Nothing wrong with that!

First, though, you need to get a blog going and determine your niche.  Next, provide informative or entertaining posts, depending on that niche: after all, you want to attract visitors and keep them.  As such, and we’ve touched upon this a few times, having a mailing list is a must.  Supply your subscribers with info that they can use or learn from—info that would entice them to return and eventually buy in (literally).

The very basic premise or formula: begin by offering something free to attract [future] customers/clients.  Build trust while developing relationships by delivering [free] beneficial information or instruction is a good start and then, eventually, sell your product or service.

Maybe you don’t have a product or service?  You can always sell someone else’s.  A common practice—one I’ve certainly considered—is to allow businesses to promote their products and services on your blog for a cost.  Or you can partner with other businesses to promote their stuff and earn commission whenever one of your followers makes a purchase.  Sounds fairly simple (I like that).

To list all the ways of making money from a blog would comprise several posts.  But, you know, that might well be worth doing.  Okay, sold!  Look for these starting the first or second week in March.

In the meanwhile, if you’re curious about earning an income through blogging like I am, and are eager to learn more, go Google-ing.  “Ways to earn money through a blog” (or something similar) is a primo place to start.

Who Wants a Review or Two? I Do, I Do (Yes-sir-ree-Dooooo)!

No question.  This is the era of reviews.  We need them and we certainly want them.  (Because this blog revolves around writing/blogging, that’ll be the focus but, truly, the basics here could hold true for any business.)

I’ve had a couple of good ones for the first Triple Investigation Agency ebook, The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  My goal was to get several for it, as well as the subsequent mis-adventures of my P.I. trio.  Shame on me.  I’ve not actively/avidly pursued this (due to circumstances not quite in my control), but I will—that, my friends, is a wholehearted, determined, steadfast, unwavering promise.

I touched upon Google Reviews several days ago, but there are numerous online review websites—some are free, some not (know what you’re getting into before you commit).  Strive for independent reviews; they tend to be truthful.

Feel free to ask followers for reviews and check to see if it’s okay to post them online.  Also, take a look at blogs and sites that offer free ones.  Be aware, though, many reviewers (if not most) are inundated with requests.  It could prove tricky getting someone to agree to provide one, but persistence and perseverance do bring rewards.

Don’t pay for reviews, tempting as it may be (in earlier days, when none the wiser, I certainly considered it).  Many would view this as unethical . . . and really . . . how much faith could you put into something you shelled out money (or bartered) for?

Never generate fake reviews.  You don’t want to sully your reputation.  As an FYI: they’re also illegal and [often] pretty easy to recognize by readers; a great one amid oodles of so-so ones is going to stand out like the idiomatic sore thumb.  If most folks are anything like me—doing that due-diligence thang—they’ll scrutinize a number of reviews to get the broader picture.

Recognize (accept) that you might receive negative reviews.  People have different tastes and what one person may have found “amazing”, another may find “mediocre”.  Hopefully, those that aren’t as keen, will state so in a professional manner.

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Less positive reviews needn’t be a bad thing, though.  Use the assessment to your advantage.  What’s being said?  How can you use that information to boost or better your writing or blog, service or product?

And if a review does lean toward the negative, don’t be contentious and write a seething response; respect the reviewer’s right to state how he/she feels.  If an erroneous statement or interpretation has been made, provide an [impartial] explanation or clarification.  Above all, if the review isn’t what you were expecting, don’t let it upset you.  Learn from it and move on.

Don’t hesitate to respond to reviews.  Reviewers will appreciate that (we all like to be acknowledged).  And who knows how the “relationship” will play out over time (I’ve made a few wonderful blogging buddies over the last year)?

To get you started—and to circle back to the first post re reviews—check out this YouTube vid re Google Reviews.

Here’s to an abundance of encouraging ones.

The Baring of a Blogger’s Soul (Sorta). . . or . . . A Blogger’s Lament

<ROFL>

Feeling a need to share and not impart info so much.

It’s been almost a year since this blog was born.  The dreams, the plans—my goodness.  They’re still dreams and plans!  <LOL>  In all fairness, though, kudos to me for being able to post regularly, not just on A Writer’s Grab-Bag, but on the Triple Threat Investigation Agency Facebook page.  It’s a commitment that I’m, well, committed to.

I’m feeling rather stagnant, however.  While excuses are never a good thing, they’re often valid: in this case, a full-time job (that frequently runs into six/seven days) and caregiving for Mom.  That leaves limited time to read or do much else.

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Yes, I’ve given thought to having someone else handle (a lot of) the technical-promotional components.  That costs $$$, of which there is none to spare.  Dreams being what they are, though, there’s always hope re winning that big lottery pot.

Having done some due diligence—which I always advocate, having been burned a few times—I came across several sites/folks that appeared very promising.  Further due diligence, which included checking reviews from both personal and professional perspectives, revealed that they weren’t so promising after all.  One quick example: a woman had signed up to experience a successful book launch and ended up with a bill for several thousand dollars; needless to say, hers was not a happy ending.

I’m kind of feeling a need to scream at the top of my lungs (to let it all out) and/or smack my head into a brick wall (to knock free the frustration).

I imagine all writers and bloggers have similar moments—this quirky form of writer’s block, which I’ll call blogger’s stagnation.  We know what to do, but for one reason or another, it’s simply not doable.

It’s a question of time and timing, and keeping the faith above all.  You know, when I’m feeling a little peculiar like this, there’s no better solace than listening to an awesome, inspiring song that sounds as fresh today as it did back when . . .

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You Want to do a Review . . . about WHO?

Your Inbox must be much like mine—full of luscious-sounding deals on how to attract a <bleep> load of traffic to your blog or site, promote yourself, and/or get high-quality press mentions (to name but a few, of course).

Bien sûr!  Yes indeedy-do, I want to accomplish all.  Dilemma: I don’t have the time [truly] to do, much less succeed, at even 25% of those things, at least not right now.  There’s one more reason: $$$.  Ain’t got none.  <LOL>  This, too, could [God willing] change some day.

Anyway, a Google email caught my eye: how to use the “about.me” page to do the work for you re generating leads and promoting myself.  Sounds awesome.  All you need do is upgrade to “Pro”.   Yes indeedy-do, as soon as a little extra $ finds its way into the ol’ bank account, sign me up!

After perusing that, a plethora of additional information found its way into an already jam-packed must-read (and eventually, definitely do) folder.  Again, something in the stack stood out: getting Google reviews.  How did I not know about that?!  Or maybe I did, and it simply didn’t register?  <LOL>

It’s fairly simple to request people to do Google reviews—just Google!—and follow these steps (I’ll paraphrase):

  • Search for your name / business name in Google.
  • Click on the “Write a Review” button and then click on “Write Google Review”.
  • A Google Review box pops up.
  • Copy the URL in the address bar.
  • Shorten the Google Review URL.
  • Send it to your clients/followers to get Google reviews.

How much simpler can it get?  Love it (because we know how technically challenged I can be)!

So, as I’m considering the contest to run end of March, I’m also letting ideas take shape re acquiring those Google reviews (like really, WHO doesn’t want some?).

Next post: looking at ways to generate those reviews, short of begging.

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What to Write About When You Don’t Know What to Write About

. . . other bloggers’ and writers’ blogs, that’s what!

It’s Linda taking over for The Boss today; she’s still under the weather.  Rey’s off on an audition for a commercial.  My BFF can’t quite leave the actress in her behind—or is that the ham?  <LOL>

The Boss has no doubt mentioned how much she wants to have an awesome, successful blog.  Maybe, one day, she will; timing and time truly are everything.  My belief is if the heart’s in the right place, and the determination’s there, anything’s doable.

That got me to thinking that maybe I’d touch upon successful writing blogs—based upon what I’ve seen in my research travels and what I’ve discussed with fellow bloggers.

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Here are three worth checking out (to start):

Joanna Penn’s someone The Boss and a number of her blogging colleagues follow.  The Creative Penn is laden with informative, instructive posts and podcasts.  Joanna’s a NY Times bestselling author, so she knows what she’s talking about.  And when she talks, you want to absorb every detail.  Charming and compelling, the woman is an absolute pleasure to listen to.  She provides loads of valuable guidelines and recommendations for aspiring writers, so check her out . . . then subscribe for regular email updates!

Daily Writing Tips is chockablock full of, yes, tips—from grammar to punctuation to creative writing.  Like, who knew there were coordinate and noncoordinate adjectives?  If you need help with writing basics, are unsure about word meanings and differentiations (as I apparently am), this is the site to visit.  You’ll even find quizzes, which are always fun; who doesn’t like a challenge or two?

I can’t not mention an old favorite, one many of us grew up with in its physical, tangible form: Writer’s Digest.  The site is full of beneficial resources—such as agent listings and story coaching, among [many] other edifying topics—webinars, contests and competitions . . . and, of course, tons of articles to assist a writer in cultivating his or her talent.

A short and sweet post today, but hopefully useful.  As The Boss has often stated, you never need go it alone: countless sites offer valuable and practical advice, provide trends and news, and help set you on that path to success.  You simply need to . . . yes, you’ve got it . . . do your due diligence.

Happy writing!

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Category Cherry-Picking (by Rey)

The Boss is down with a bad cough-cold (it ain’t pretty, let me tell ya) and asked one of us to write the Wednesday post.  JJ and Linda claimed I’d done such a good job in past, they volunteered me to do it.  Whatever.  I’ll just look at it this way: when ya got it, ya got it.

Given what she’s been recently posting about, I opted for “categories” to stay in the theme and scheme of things.  (See, I’m not just a pretty face.)

Like tags, you use categories to help organize your blog content so viewers/followers can locate similar posts.  Consider them a Table of Contents.  While it’s recommended that tags be 80 characters or less, categories should be 25 or less.

Firstly, you want categories to be obvious and clear, right?  People use them to find more of your stuff on the same subject.  Just like when you’re choosing your tags and keywords, be selective.  For example, if you have a private-investigation site, you wouldn’t want simple or vague categories such as: Cases, Issues, Consulting, or Investigations.  To better guide viewers (also known as potential clients), you’d go for something like: Successful Industrial Surveillance Cases, Custody Issues, Security Consulting, Insurance Fraud Investigations, and Corporate Investigations.  Differentiate.  Clarify.  Home Security Consulting versus Corporate Security Consulting.  Make it easy for someone to right away visit the right page or post.  . . . Right?  You got it.

Secondly, make sure category headings are understandable and are compromised of keywords.  When people search for something, they use keywords to do so.  And remember that the right keywords lead to increased blog/site traffic.

Thirdly, keep those category titles similar in set-up.  Are you going to use all or no caps, formal or informal wording?  Will you use strictly verbs or all nouns?  Every part of your blog should look professional and be consistent.

Fourthly, you don’t want a whack of them.  Like recipes in an elephant-sized cookbook, if there are too many categories, your viewer might develop eye strain . . . never mind become impatient.  Ten should be about the limit.

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Over time, you’ll probably find that some blog categories have become redundant or ineffective.  Make sure to revisit them now and again, because what you planned in the blog’s beginning may not be where you’re at a year later.  For example, you may find you only have a small handful of posts in one category.  Or you have one where all or most of your posts are lodged; this may be because the category title is way too vague.  Do some “spring cleaning”.  Change vague category headings and delete invalid ones.

Lastly, you know that you can link to your categories and tags from your pages and posts, don’t you?  This simplifies navigation for your viewers, for one thing, but it can also hold or pique their interest so that they want to see more.

This is my “Snippet of Advice” re categories.  I could dig up some technical stuff, but anything more intensive or involved would go over my P.I. – actress head.  But you can bet dollars to donuts I’m going to do some serious research, because I’m finding that learning is really kind of fun.

And the next time The Boss asks one of us to write a post, I’ll be the one who volunteers me.

Aloha.

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What’s in a [Key]Word?

A lot.

Keywords are, essentially, the words and phrases you type into a search engine such as Google (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) when you’re looking for something; truly, they can be anything.  They’re also the words and phrases people type into said search engine when they’re looking for something—such as your blog/site, product, or service.

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Use keywords to boost traffic to your blog/site via search engines . . . to make your site more visible to folks looking for keywords related to whatever you may be offering.  How do you do this?  Quite simply, by applying SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques in your blog layout and writing.  Think: target.

My favorite phrase?  You got it: do your due diligence.  In this case, research keywords and decide which will best drive traffic to your awesome blog.  Take into account the ultimate goal(s) when selecting them.

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Keyword searches help you verify—and understand—what your viewers/followers (potential customers) are seeking.  Among other things, consider how:

  • much traffic a particular phrase gets
  • competitive it is for ranking (i.e. how many others are attempting to be found by that word/phrase)
  • appropriate it is to you / your business.

A blog post with a relevant keyword phrase in the title tag will rank higher for searches because it serves as a strategic signal for search engines.  As such, it will prove more pertinent and, thus, increase click-through or click.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the action of clicking on a link to get from Point A to Point B (often defined as an instant response to an ad).

Optimize each post.  It’s been recommended that you use one keyword per post (too many and you become submerged in Ocean Blog-Posts).  Make it a dynamic one!

It’s not as difficult or overwhelming as it sounds.  Give thought to your blog/site.  What’s your niche?  Keep in mind the categories and posts: what words best describe them?  List them and then enter them into various search engines to find out how significant they are (i.e. how high the search volume is).  Look for phrasing options.  Honor—and apply—what you find.

There are countless free tools, like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, to assist you with finding pertinent keywords/phrases.  And page-grader tools will help you determine if your blog content is truly effective.  There are lots (!) of sites and programs that will facilitate your learning and development as a [successful] blogger.  It merely takes time and commitment, as anything worth becoming skilled at does.  You can do it and you never need go it alone.

Here’s my “keyword” for the day and week: perseverance.  What’s yours?