#1 . . . One . . . Won

#1 = single = first/firstly = one = sole = singular

The title, oddly, came in a dream.  What does/did it mean?  No idea!  But I felt a need to play with it.  Given this blog is related to writing/blogging and the gals (JJ, Rey and Linda) at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency, I’m simply going to type whatever pops into the ol’ noggin’.  Why not do one post without a pre-set plan in mind?

The first action I’m taking this (very early) morning is penning this post.  The second-first is taking a breather while enjoying a hot coffee (it’s really cold here right now) and a few cookies (orange-cranberry, in case you’re curious).

My single thought/objective re A Writer’s Grab-Bag: learn how to make and get the most out of it.  Utilize all the bells and whistles.  Make it happen.  That’s the #1 intention for the year.

My sole aim re the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series: get ”Forever Poi” completed and ready for Amazon, etc.  My one dream re the TTA P.I.s?  <LMAO>  Get a film/TV deal.

Maybe you’re new to this blog or blogs in general, or are thinking of starting your own.  That’s awesome!  You’ve got your #1 on the list nailed.

The #1 question on some folks’ minds perhaps: why create a blog?  We-ell, besides the fact it’s fun, blogging’s become a prevalent means of communication.  It’s an excellent way to share information.  Did you know money could be made at blogging?  T’is true.   It takes time, however, and commitment . . . and, as the saying goes, don’t quit your day job (at least not right away).

So, first and foremost, determine your niche/focus.  Who will you blog for?  Make it a sole priority to become familiar with “Blogging 101”.  Don’t be daunted by the plethora of information out there; embrace it.

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It’s been on your mind, on your tongue, and in your heart—so, commit to it.  And Day One: set up that blog (it’s neither difficult nor time-consuming).  It’s Establish goals.  Get a domain name and blog host, install a free blogging platform, add an opt-in form to collect subscribers/followers, start posting (take a look at last year’s posts).  And after you’ve got that marvelous eye-catching blog up and running, one thing you’ll want to do: keep it interesting, keep it fresh/current.

We all have it within us to do well.  You (and I) can be top bloggers—#1s!  It’s merely a matter of applying ourselves and managing each objective as if it were the first and foremost one.

We’ve won when even one (no matter how small the goal is) is done, because—kudos to us—we made a decision and saw it through to fruition.

Ones have run into some, but they’re still single units in the grand scheme of it all.  And now, the single thing I’m going to do is give thought to the weekend post while munching more of the aforementioned cookies.  Nummmmm.

Have one heckuva day, my friends!

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Newsy Know-How

One of the goals this year [besides managing to find more time for writing / blogging / posting] is to get a newsletter going.  Sure, I could write one now and again [I think], but it needs to be a regular feature.  Can I do “regular”?  Hmm.  Methinks not—not right now.  But never say never (as JJ, one of the Triple Threat Investigation Agency private eyes, often resolutely says).

Let’s consider what makes a good newsletter, besides the aforementioned regularity.  But speaking of, if you’re planning to start sending out newsletters, commit to it.  Determine when / how often and inform your followers accordingly.  Let them know what they can expect.  As an FYI, it’s said morning is the best time to send out items such as newsletters, as most people check their email at least once every morning (I can attest to this as I do so, at least three times).

Most importantly first perhaps: decide if you even need to have a newsletter.  If yes, determine what the newsletter will entail: is it for a blog or a business, or . . . ?  Being a writer/blogger and sometimes editor, I’d want mine to encompass what’s happening in the writing and blogging world.  That, however, might result in a plethora of news that could bound all over the place, like Angry Birds and Pigs on a battlefield.

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Focus on a few key items.  Cover a variety of topics, but not an overabundance.

What’s the goal?  Define what you intend to accomplish by sending one out—attract [more] followers, make sales, inform.  Ascertain your audience and write specifically for it.

You can certainly be both informational and promotional; keep the latter to a minimum (10-15%).

This may sound like a broken record (discs used on devices called turntables before downloading became the thing): write well.  Keep your newsletter readable and pertinent to your audience.  Your content should be engaging and free of typos and errors.  Research, as necessary, to ensure accuracy.

A newsletter title would be good, something that readers/followers will become familiar with and anticipate the arrival of.  Make sure it reflects what you’re “newslettering” about.  And while on the topic of titles, make certain you have intriguing (fetching) headings for your subject matter.

What’s that newsletter going to look like?  It should be appealing.  Avoid too much print (you don’t want readers suffering eye strain).  Have strategically placed photos and white space.  Choose an effective font (nothing too fancy).  Think: layout.

Don’t forget CTAs—call-to-action buttons—but use them only if you truly want/need your followers to do something (like forward your email to a friend or make a purchase).

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You may want to set a schedule for six months or a year.  List topics you want to cover and set dates . . . and, yes, commit to the timetable.

Determine how to execute the newsletter.  Will you send it in its entirety or provide a link?

After you’ve finished (and polished) that awesome newsletter, upload it to your email marketing system (MailChimp is good, but this is by no means an endorsement).  When you send out, by the by, make sure your subject line is as engaging as your newsletter: capture the attention of your followers/readers so that they are intrigued enough to want to immediately open the email.

You know I can’t not say this <LOL>: do your due diligence.  See what others are doing to get a feel for what works (and what doesn’t).

Tracking is part of the equation, too, but let’s touch upon gauging traffic in another post.

You may also wish to do some testing to see what works—i.e. try different newsletter looks and approaches.  Or just go for it.  Time will dictate whether you continue or navigate a new route.

Learn.  Develop.  Grow.  Above all, my friends, have fun.

Prettying the Package: Boost Your Bio

Having a dynamic front cover and engaging back cover is vital for success (which = s-a-l-e-s).  What about your author bio—the one you have on your blog/website and the one you’ll have in your book?  (They should be different.)

While a bio would encompass information on your resume, it shouldn’t read like one; it should be well-crafted and appropriate for the “venue”.  For example, the bio on your site would be more detailed than the one included in your book.  You’ll want a super brief one, too, for social media sites.  Make sure they’re informative yet interesting; let’s not have readers do the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz thing.  You’ve just finished some great writing; make certain that bio is equally great.

Ensure your bio reflect your writing.  Consider your audience and voice.  What sort of impression are you looking (hoping) to convey?  If you haven’t (yet) been published, it’s perfectly all right to state this.  Just keep it short and sweet.  Remember: we all have to start somewhere.

Many people write bios in first person.  Opt for third; it should sound objective rather than subjective.  And what would you start with?  How about your first/best writing accomplishment, your literary achievement(s)?  If you have a lot, pare them down: highlight the cream of the crop.

Tell us about what you’ve written—books, articles, short stories, poems, posts.  If you’ve received awards or five-star reviews, or completed an internship, let us know.  And if you have a degree that’s relevant to your writing/blogging career, add it.  Feel free to include any first-hand experiences that augment credibility.

Particulars you probably don’t want to add (unless they’re truly pertinent to your writing/career): where you were born and/or reside, parental or educational info, travel or personal experiences.  Be factual, to be sure, but be you.  Give your bio personality.

If you’re funny, show off your wit.  If you’re writing a series, detail book features or quirks.  There’s nothing wrong with adding call-to-action buttons for followers/readers to sign up for a mailing list or enter giveaways.  And by all means, include links if applicable.

As I’ve often said: do your due diligence.  Take a gander at the bios of other writers and bloggers.  Get a feel for what works (and, again, what doesn’t).

Ask friends and family, and followers for feedback.  If you belong to a writing community, request input.  I follow the SPF Community and the advice/support that marvelous group provides is constructive and encouraging.

Lastly, a photo will be required for your book, blog/website, and social media (among other things).  Go for a good, professional-looking one.

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I’m Ba-ack . . . with Back Covers

The last four-five weeks have been crazy-bad ones . . . but in a good way.  Sometimes you have to undergo a breath-sucking plummet—like shooting down Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Full Throttle loop-de-loop rollercoaster—to ascend again.  And this time, you’re totally revitalized, very optimistic, and ready to take on the world.

Angst now [blessedly] cast aside, I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll.  “Forever Poi” is almost done.  One final edit and all that’s required is formatting, a front and back cover . . . and to find my MIA formatter-designer.  <LOL>

Front covers, as we know, must be appealing, period (I’ve posted about them in past).  Back covers are equally important, but I don’t believe we often give them as much thought or weight.  We should, because as soon as a potential buyer has eyed the engaging front cover, he/she will check out the back.  It had better be equally engaging.

The words on the back cover—about 150, give or take—serve as your selling tool.  They must entice.

In present tense, summarize your novel in one or two paragraphs; ensure to include a couple of key plot hooks.  Such as . . . ?  Your protagonist’s predicament or quest would be ideal.  Add an appealing question perhaps; it often works well in snagging that potential buyer’s interest.

As an example, the Triple Threat Investigation Agency gals’ latest case involves arson and homicides.  I’m apt to add something like this to my back cover: Who in the close-knit local art world is desperate enough to set a gallery ablaze in a drastic attempt to conceal two brutal murders?  Yeah, needs a little refining, but you get the idea.

If you’re doing this for the first time, take a look at several in your genre.  Get a feel for what works (and what doesn’t).  Most fiction back covers follow a formula.  They’ll begin with a situation, present a problem or conundrum, provide a kink or two, and then end with a sentence that prompts the reader’s curiosity, be it via aforementioned question or cliffhanging scenario.

Make sure that first sentence is a killer (mystery writer talking).  If it’s not, it won’t encourage your potential purchaser to carry on, much less buy.  Play around.  Use words appropriate to your genre.  Invest serious time in getting that back cover—blurb, selling tool—to prove effective, because you want to attain your ultimate goal: sales.  If you’re able to get an endorsement or two from writers recognized in your sphere, go for it: nothing adds credibility like testimonials.

You’ve got what it takes: have at it, my friends!

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⇒ A big thanks Rey for holding the fort these last couple of weeks. 

Starting Off a New Year Just Right

JJ and Linda haven’t returned from their holiday trips and festivities, so I’m taking over the 1st official post of the year.  The topic was super simple to figure out—how to start off a new year just right.  How, you ask?  Not with those New Year’s resolutions that never last long, but with a goal (or two) and commitment.

As an FYI, I hear that of the folks who make resolutions, not even half manage to keep them until mid-February.  That’s depressing.  But having made them—a lot!—over the years, I can confirm that.  It’s tough keeping promises, but not impossible.  For example, as someone who wanted to be an actress from the age of seven on, I can attest to the fact that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen—through commitment and perseverance.

Decide on what you’d like to accomplish this year.  Make it a significant and/or life-changing goal.  Avoid having too many goals (or “resolutions”), because too many equals non-success.  Remember this my friends: to attain something means you have to give up or change something, which isn’t easy.  This is where commitment comes in.

Take your goal and break it into manageable bits.  Draw up a plan.  It doesn’t have to be extensive.  Keep it simple.  For instance, when I decided I was going to become an actress, I didn’t hop on the first bus to Hollywood.  I jotted down actions needed to make it happen.  I started reading up on the performing arts and film folks, and learned (devoured) all I could.  I took acting lessons, tried out for community stage productions, and volunteered in the theater world.  Some things worked out brilliantly; some not so much.  That’s okay.  It’s all part of the process.

Consider all the things you can do to make your goal reality.  Know that there’ll be setbacks, that you may receive criticism, warranted or otherwise (some folks can be just plain nasty).  Play duck: let the negative stuff flow off your back like water droplets.

Share your goal with others.  I told my mother (mistake, but live and learn), friends and cousins I trusted, and a couple of teachers.  I felt that by stating my intention—my quest, if you like—I had to, and would, stick to it.

Motivation: be your own driving force.  You can do it if it’s in your heart to do.  I know, because I’ve been there.  Sure, there’ll be off days.  The odd one may even knock the winds out of your sails.  And no, it won’t be simple, but think of it this way: if it were super easy, that awesome (!) sense of accomplishment—joy, triumph—wouldn’t happen.  Let me tell you, there’s no better feeling than experiencing a sense of success that comes from knowing you—yes, you—did it.

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I’ll leave you with some quotes that have kept—and still keep—me from straying off the path (too often):

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.” – Sammy Davis, Junior (actor, comedian, dancer and singer)

“Life is a challenge, meet it!  Life is a dream, realize it!  Life is a game, play it!  Life is love, enjoy it!” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Indian guru and philanthropist)

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti (racing-car driver)

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” – Julie Andrews (actor, singer, and author)

Here’s to 2018 being your year.

Aloha.

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Happy New Year’s Cheers

Hey there.  Today, all three of us are posting from different parts of the U.S.—me (Rey) first, Linda second, and JJ third.

** from Hawaii:  Hauʻoli makahiki hou!  It’s been an awesome year for the Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  There were a lot of small cases.  Some were challenging and some were fun, and all were put to bed in a pretty timely manner.  The big one—“Forever Poi”—should be completed soon.  In terms of me, I did some fun ads . . . and as an FYI, the money’s going toward a house.  I’m so stoked.  Have an awesome year, everyone.  Here’s to 2018 being a fantastic year!

** from the Mainland:  Cheers!  I’m meeting up with my sister and brother for a few days here in L.A.  Then we’re driving through three or four states for the fun of it.  We’re doing our best to stick to a recently made promise: to communicate regularly and meet at least once a year.  So far, so good.  May your New Year be the best one yet!

** from North Carolina:  Happy 2018!  I’m visiting with Mom and my nephew, Quincy.  He’s growing so fast.  Have been getting together with some old friends and coworkers.  Loving it.  May even meet up with an old beau, Adwin (we parted ways after The Connecticut Corpse Caper, but have kept in [sporadic] touch).  Wishing you all good health, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year!

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♥Aloha from the gals at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency♥

Voice 101 or Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Strong

Hey, it’s Rey again.  The Boss overindulged in the sugar/carbs department these last few days.  She’s groanin’ and moanin’, the poor thing.

Linda and JJ are both off enjoying holiday fun and family, so that leaves me.  But seeing as I’m doing two performances daily as an elf at a kids’ theater thru Sunday, I’ll have to make this a quick post.

Given I’m a part-time actress and not a writer—though I’m getting pretty good at it, considering all the posting I’ve been doing lately—a lot of writing and blogging rules are alien to me.  . . . Hmm, I think Linda would have called that a run-on sentence.  Whatever.

Here’s the “topic” for today: voice.  For example, an actor’s voice can make or break him or her.  You have a Minnie Mouse voice and you may be limited in the roles department.  The good thing is, like any skill or talent, you can work at it.  For an actor, a voice coach can be a godsend.

A writer/blogger needs a voice, too.  When you start out, you develop a blog concept and design that’s uniquely you.  That’s very cool.  Now you need to make sure that uniqueness is reflected in what you’re blogging about—and “be projected” in how you write.  That’s also known as—you got it—“voice”.

If you’re super smart and posting about things a lot of us wouldn’t understand, you’d probably write like one of those academic sorts.  Someone who’d be more inclined to post about shopping, fashion, and entertainment could use a more happy-go-lucky tone—one like mine.

Whatever you’re writing, that voice should totally reflect you—it has to sound like you . . . and be you.  Grammar and spelling are easily fixable (there are enough sites/programs), so don’t let them intimidate you like they do me.  Go with the flow and fix the little things later.

Write (speak) from your heart.  Let that unique voice flow.  Chances are, the longer you post, the more your voice will develop because you’ll become increasingly more comfortable and less self-conscious—like me.  You’ll become/feel more natural with how you express ideas and opinions.

If it helps, do what I do when I’m playing a role: I deliver to one person, the guy or gal who’s on the receiving end of a comment or reaction.  I don’t think about the audience, director or producer, or anyone else.  I focus on my delivery, my intent . . . and express it with purpose.  I take pride, kinda like an opera singer belting out an aria.

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The kids are waiting.  I better run because I still need to pick up my elf costume (I kinda spilled hot cocoa on it).

I hope my last post of this year on A Writer’s Grab-Bag proves of some value . . . and I sure hope I’ll have a chance to write a few more in 2018 (I’m really getting to like this).

Aloha.

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Happy Ho-ho-holidays from TTIA

The three of us are heading our separate ways, but wanted to post a little poem—a [major] reworking of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic “Twas the Night before Christmas”.

Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the Triple Threat Investigation Agency

The excited P.I. gals considered pressies and holiday places.

Keenly and happily they put to bed all current cases.

JJ was flying to North Carolina to be with family,

While Linda intended to learn more about the Nativity.

Rey was ecstatic about being a comical elf,

A far cry from playing her usual self.

Though not together this holiday season,

The Triple Threat trio was happy, with reason.

They’d soon be together, and cheerfully breezin’.

Again enjoying Hawaii’s splendid warm weather

While accepting thrilling new clients and projects

And perhaps even paid with [welcome] big checks.

But before they parted, they merrily chanted for everyone to hear,

Happy Holidays to all . . . and to all an awesome New Year!

(Hey, we never claimed to be poets.  <LOL>)

*** Thanks ever so much for your support and “followship”! ***

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Stoked & Grateful

As the year draws to a close, it’s hard not to consider all that’s transpired.  2017 was a[nother] year to grow and develop, learn and absorb.

A Writer’s Grab-Bag isn’t halfway where I want it to be (time constraints due to a 9-5 job and Mom), but that’s okay.  The important thing is it is up.  When I can eventually do this full-time, it’ll become everything I want it to be.  In the meanwhile?  I’ll simply go with the flow and figure things out—maybe what I’d initially envisioned the blog to be isn’t at all what it’s supposed to be.   <LOL>

I’m taking a little side trip from the usual and posting what I’m grateful for—that I:

  • have this post up and running
  • post twice a week, without fail
  • write daily on the Triple Threat Investigation Agency Facebook page
  • publish weekly on my other blog (a mish-mash of thoughts on a mish-mash of news, ideas, personal doings)
  • am forever learning about life, writing/blogging, Mom, me
  • have managed to keep the faith despite some trials and tribulations (God is good)
  • have “met” some awesome fellow writers and bloggers
  • am almost finished “Forever Poi”, the 4th mystery in The Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, and
  • am totally stoked about [and ready to take on] the upcoming year.

For those of you following this blog, thank you.  Whether there’s one of you, ten or a hundred, I hope that I provide you with some useful information and/or a smile or chuckle.

May 2018 be a truly amazing year—to dreams coming true, good health, and plans/goals secured . . . to always being stoked and grateful. 

Take care, my friends.  Hugs to you all.

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Happenin’ Holidays

The Boss is MIA.  Too much happening re that full-time job and Mom caregiving.  So it’s Rey to the rescue again . . . one day early.

Seeing as the holidays are nearly here again—like where’d the year go!?—I thought I’d post about what the three of us Triple Threat Investigation Agency P.I.s have planned.

JJ’s off for a week to North Carolina to visit her mother and nephew.  Apparently, her ex-boyfriend Adwin will drop by her mom’s B&B.  They were an odd match back when and he was kind of weird.  I hope they don’t get back together.  I’d rather see her with Cash/Richie J, that self-absorbed undercover-agent-playing-drug-dealer.  Or maybe not.  They’re an even odder match (but, damn, is he hunky).

Linda’s getting together with Loretta and Lido, her sister and brother.  They’ve never been close—at all—but have done some bonding since our move to Hawaii.  The two of them are kind of flaky, but that’s okay.  Family should stick together.  Life’s too short for resentment, hostility, or indifference.

As for yours truly, I’m playing an elf for 10 days at a local kids’ theater.  It’s something new for me, so I’m both excited and nervous . . . which is kind of funny, coz normally I’m pretty calm about acting gigs.  My mom called about flying over for five days, but she’s struggling to organize family get-togethers.  If she leaves it much longer, she probably won’t swing a flight.

Between you and me—and I know what I just wrote about family—we’re not very close.  Never have been.  Linda thinks I should suck it up and let bygones be bygones.  We’ll see.

As a gung-ho shopper, I got shopping (and shipping) done early.  Woo-hoo.  Feels great.  Under the trees we haven’t yet put up <sigh> JJ’ll find a Giani Bernini bag (a gal can never have enough) and Linda an awesome Free People sweater (bought three for myself).

If I’m not posting again in the next wee while, have an amazing holiday season everyone!

Here’s to 2018 being the best year yet!

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