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Trying to put it all together, Auto-SEO and Auto-Social Networking – Day 19 of the April Platform Challenge – #MNINB

I’ve fallen off the radar a bit, but today’s April Platform Challenge is to put the things we’ve learned in the past couple of challenges together and create an effective blog post. For me, this meant I had some thinking to do. In the past, this has always been a vanity blog. Sort of a “look how clever I am” or, more to the point, “look how clever my children are!” To turn this into a social platform for, in my case, writing, I needed to make some changes and start taking things a bit more seriously.

I’m using the Aspire template as the skin for this blog. I had to update it and it’s been giving me fits, so bear with me while I get the kinks ironed out. The Share buttons now work, please feel free to give them a whirl. Hey, the email links now work, as does the RSS and Atom feeds. Now if I could only find content.

There is an SEO hack over at The Tech Site that may (or may not) help increase your visibility. Tell you what, if each of you will visit my “Cookies” and “Dry Spell” posts a thousand or so times apiece, I’ll report back and let you know how I’ve faired.

Right now it’s for Blogger sites only, but I’m sure a clever fellow (which immediately disqualifies me) can port it to other blogging templates. The Tech Site hack is almost complete; on the meta tags it should be:

On the social networking side, there is an interesting site called Post to an RSS feed (say to your PlusFeed on your Google+ account) and it will automatically propagate to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I post to my blog and it automatically (with Blogger) posts to Google+. then picks it up and posts the notice of a new blog entry to my linked accounts. It will take some playing around with get it just so, but it sounds like a pretty cool idea.

Check out and The Tech Site and see if what they offer will meet your needs; in-between clicking on “Cookies” and “Dry Spell.”

Flash Fiction – “Cookies”

Friday last, Chuck Wendig over at Terribleminds issued a Flash Fiction challenge; 1,000 words about death. The winner gets a pony. Well, not a pony. How about a copy of  Blackbirds, in e-format? It’s almost nothing like a pony. According to MS Word (don’t judge) what follows is my thousand words, about “Cookies.”

“Mister, I’m telling you, these are your cookies!”

The little girl’s voice was piercing and cut through Albert’s head like a band saw. He was decidedly unwell and had been that way since he staggered out of bed this morning. His body hurt from the medication and his eyes from the unrelentingly bright sunlight. This little monster had roused him from a mid-morning, recovery siesta on the sofa. Her pounding on the front door had felt like clubs to his head.

“No,” he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “They’re not my cookies. I didn’t order any!” He leaned against the front door frame and could feel the terry cloth beginning to rub a patch on his shoulder raw. He was on a self-imposed, strict diet. No sweets. No sense getting into trouble, especially this morning with his stomach threatening to revolt.

The girl stood unwaveringly on his front stoop, almost mocking his resolve. The green in her scout uniform was a bit drabber than he remembered from last year when he had been ambushed by an assortment of brightly uniformed young ladies as he left the grocery store. But the way fashions changed these days, it’d probably be a different color next year, he was sure. Her sash had several rows of merit badges. They seemed to blur together but two stood out. One badge looked like a toolbox; another, like a stylized horn.

Her tiny form blocked the path to his walkway. One little hand was poised on her cocked hip and the other thrust towards his face. That hand held a box of “Devil’s Food” cookies; some vile concoction made with overly thinned milk chocolate; watery, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. The smell was sharp with sugar. It made his mouth involuntarily water.

“Look mister, I’m not just giving these away. This box is yours.”

Albert rubbed his face and sighed. His sour belly gurgled at him, sharp gas pains almost causing him to double over. He really didn’t want any cookies. They weren’t good for him. He was having a hard enough time with his issues as it was. With his doctor constantly warning him about his predilection for sweets, he didn’t need to eat an entire box of cookies, even the micro size kind the Scouts were selling now-a-days. Once he started, he knew he wouldn’t have the self control to stop. Besides, the medication had caused him to all but lose his taste for confections of all sorts anyway.

“Where is your parent?” The girl frowned a little, tucked a wisp of long, blonde hair behind her ear, bit her lip and tempted him with the box, shaking it at him. He tried again.

“How about your Troop Leader? Where is she?”

“Oh, she’s around,” the little girl replied. “Now, mister; you need to take these cookies!” Her insistence caused her forehead to wrinkle, her sparkling blue eyes hooded with intensity.

It seemed the only way he was going to get rid of her was to eat her cookies. Fine. He had been patient. He’d told her he didn’t want them. But she insisted; she wanted him to have them. And he really had been good about the whole thing. Clearly, he owed himself a treat.

“All right, young lady,” he said, drawing himself up and tightening his robe. He tried to ignore the twinges in his middle, and turned towards his kitchen in the back of the house. He had a very sharp knife there, perfect for cutting cookies. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll see to it that you are paid.”

Albert had only taken a couple of steps when he noticed he wasn’t being followed. He turned back towards the door, in annoyance. Now that he had decided he wanted the cookies, he was going to have them, pains in his stomach or not.

“What is it, young miss?” Albert asked with asperity. He immediately softened, “I don’t even know your name? What is it?”

“It’s Gabby. Are you going take these cookies or what?”

“Well, Gabby, if you’ll please come to the kitchen, I’ll be happy to pay you!” He remembered something and smiled a little smile. “I have a kitten you can pet.”

“No, you don’t,” the girl said matter-of-factly. “It ran out. This isn’t going to be like last time. I told you, these are your cookies. You have all ready paid for them.”

“Look,” Albert barked. “I’ve had about enough of this. Before you showed up, I’d never laid eyes on your cookies, I certainly didn’t order any! And since I didn’t order any, I couldn’t have paid for them, could I? But, now that you have taunted with them, I have decided that I do want them. So, come here and give them to me!”

As he was speaking the last, Albert took two quick steps toward Gabby and grabbed at her arm … and missed. He fell, face-first, onto the floor, cracking his head on the hard wood. His insides were on fire! He could hardly draw breath.

From his prone position, he could see into his kitchen. What were his house shoes doing back there? And whose feet were they on?

“Get up,” Gabby said, hauling him to his feet with one arm. “Go take a look.”

Gingerly, Albert made his way to the kitchen. There, in one corner, lay a crumpled and bloody Gabby, her throat slit. In her hand was a gore covered screw driver. In the other corner lay … himself! Cookie cutting knife in one hand and half a dozen holes in his middle.

“How,” Albert began.

“Always grabbing first. All of them said you always grabbed first. So, I had my screw driver ready, but you hurt me anyway. They did let me come back to give you your cookies, though. Here,” she said, opening the container that was quivering in her hand. “They like Devil’s Food and they’re real excited to eat you!”


Search Engine Optimization – Day 18 of the April Platform Challenge

Today’s April Platform Challenge is chock-full of technical goodies for the serious blogger. Robert has full details here. I’d like to add a prerequisite; determine if you’re a serious blogger.

For those keeping track, this is a vanity blog; hence the picture of me on the right. I get to go on about how great I am. So, the question becomes do I want to take the time to optimize the site for search engines? If I’m looking at the whole thing as a learning experience (and I am), then the answer is, “Yes!”

It’s not as easy as it sounds, or I’m over-complicating it, but the optimization should allow more visibility in the wild, provided I keep up on the maintenance.

Polite Conversation – Day 17 of the April Platform Challenge

Today’s April Platform Challenge is to take part on a Twitter conversation. So, I did and it was still about me! Check out the shenanigans here!

Tales From The Grim Reader, Vol. 1 – Dry Spell

I’m excited for Scott, and a little envious. He’s an author and podcaster (sound familiar?) who today released Dry Spell, a short story from his horror anthology, Tales From The Grim Reader, Volume 1, as part of his Omniverse podcast. I was fortunate enough to read for Scott, which is why I’m bringing it up now; shameless self-promotion.

I’ve done readings previously and found out that I enjoy the work … a lot. It’s times like these when I begin to wonder why I left radio in the first place. Then I remember the paychecks and my recollection kicks right back in – I had to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, voice work is a lot of fun. Full blown audio productions even more so! They also take significantly more work. So, unless you are Peter Cullen, Kevin Conroy, James Earl Jones, or Michael Dorn, you aren’t going to make a great deal of money doing this; you do it because you love it. (Yes, I know I left out scads of great voice talent. Chalk it up to the limitations of my incredibly bald head.)

“Paul,” you may be asking (actually, since this is my blog, you are asking – just thought you should know). “Why should I listen to this story, Dry Spell?” I’m glad you asked! If you are a fan of EC Comics or if you enjoy creepy (as opposed to “gory”) horror, you will love the entire anthology.

I did Scott a bit of a disservice in the opening paragraph. Yes, I am shameless self promoting, however, I am just a enthusiastic about the other stories in the anthology as I am about Dry Spell

Scott ties all three stories together at “The Grim Reader” bookstore. The name should take it from there. I do want to stress, these stories required a certain level of maturity to enjoy. It isn’t pounds of entrails and gallons of blood; the stories are more Hitchcockian than that. The thrill come from the reader’s realizations at the end of the tale, rather than a half naked co-ed getting beheaded by a machete-wielding ghoul during the story.

Having read “Dry Spell” and listened to the finished copy, I am not satisfied with my work. Scott did a great job producing the podcast, I just think I could have done better. My gain is choppy and my edits are rough in places. After umpteen years in radio, I believe I could have done a better job. Fortunately for me, Scott is forgiving and his story really tells itself.

Give “Dry Spell” a listen at Scott’s Omniverse Podcast and pick up a copy of the anthology at Smashwords.  Be sure and leave Scott a comment or two. Writers crave feedback.

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