Blogging · My Thoughts · Words Matter · Writing

What Does Five Years of Blogging Look Like?

Five years ago, I took the advice of writing pundits that I should blog as an author, so I did it sporadically and half-heartedly for four years. I didn’t do regular posts. I wasn’t committed. I didn’t know what to do.

Then in 2017, my husband and I took a fabulous trip to Ireland and England, and it hit me–blog about every day of the trip. We were gone for 23 days, so I had topics for twenty-three posts, and I was off and running. I realized the power in having planned blogs. My statistics changed, and last year, I hit it full tilt. Now I have a database of topics for 2019 already.

I wanted to take this opportunity to look at my statistics and thoughtfully consider what’s working and what needs to be tweaked! Let’s look at my statistics for the last five years:

For the first two years I had 207 views but my visitors increase. In 2016 views more than doubled and visitors increased also. In 2017 again, views increased but visitors more than doubled.

But 2018, my numbers went off the map! My views increased more than six times and the visitors jumped by seven times. Wow! Why?

Over the years I increased my posts, and last year I posted on a regular weekly basis–some weeks I posted twice a week. I more than doubled the number of posts published. What do I take from that? Readers like regular blog posts, and they like more.

Here’s what my posts published statistics look like:

  • 2014 – 7
  • 2015 – 16
  • 2016 – 6
  • 2017 – 22
  • 2018 – 55

Let’s look at specifics from 2018. My most popular post published was “Day 3 – 4 Kissing A Stone and on to Killarney.” I wondered about its popularity for months, then my husband said it was the blog post that came up every time he went to my blog, so is that the reason? Or are people enamored with “Kissing the Blarney Stone?”

“Live Lively, Square Dance” was the second most popular. I shared it on several Facebook square dance pages, and the response was great. Sharing about my personal life seems to spark more interest.

What was your favorite blog post of mine in 2018?

I love the growth statistics this last year, but I do have two disappointing statistics: likes and comments.

Likes:

  • 2014 – 0
  • 2015 – 1
  • 2016 – 8
  • 2017 – 45
  • 2018 – 136

Comments:

  • 2014 – 0
    2015 – 2
    2016 – 77
    2017 – 8
    2018 – 48

I want more interaction with my visitors. I end each blog with questions to stimulate conversation, so help me out. What do I need to do? What would make you like and/or comment more on my blog?

Visitors to my blog come from all over the world which fascinates me, so what countries visited my blog last year and how many did I have for each country?

  • United States – 3962
  • Australia – 108
  • Canada – 103
  • United Kingdom – 69
  • Germany – 36
  • Ireland – 34
  • India – 26
  • Japan – 25
  • Hong Kong (China) – 19
  • Sweden – 8

Other countries listed are Netherlands, Philippines, Qatar, Mexico, Russia, Denmark, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, France, Armenia, Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Spain, Lithuania, New Zealand, Finland, Egypt, Romania, Thailand, Italy, China, Cameroon, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Poland, and Colombia. Readers from 29 countries have visited my blog in 2018–Wow!

So, why did you come to my blog from such far-away places? Let me know.

One more change I did these last two years was use a variety of quality photographs and graphics.

Over 84% of all marketing strategies use images, popular GIFs, graphics, animations, and signs among others to pass information. Visual communication has more impact in passing information to people. 

https://www.eztalks.com/unified-communications/why-visual-communicaion-is-important.html

I plan to include these topics this year:

  • Our Travels
  • Square Dancing
  • Marshall Flippo and promoting my new book
  • Personal life stories
  • Being 65 and fully alive
  • Holiday highlights
  • Ranch life in southeastern Colorado

All-in-all, my blog has become a major focus of my writing career, so stick around and see where we go this next year!

I have 4 books and 3 cookbooks to check out on my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% Discount on Digital copies of all my books at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Travel · Writing

I’m Disappointed!

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Normally I’m a very positive optimistic person and try not to admit disappointment–look for the sunny, bright side, am a Pollyanna, etc. ad nauseam. Yesterday, at the airport, I wrote a celebratory post highlighting the conference I attended over the weekend, void of my complete experience. Yes, I loved some of the conference’s offerings, but this morning, I decided to be honest.

I left disappointment and discouraged as a writer. I want to tell you why–maybe you’ve had a conference experience like mine.

I have self-published four books and three cookbooks in the last five years. No best sellers but I’ve enjoyed my “retirement job.” I’m also a genre-jumper. I’ve written two memoirs, a historical fiction and a nonfiction about the West. My next project is a biography, and the one after that is woman’s fiction. I write poetry; I write prose. Many writers pledge their allegiance to one genre, one topic–I don’t, but I am a writer–clear fact! This conference challenged that fact to my core.

Every year in October a group of writers who celebrate the west, women and girls through their writing converge on a city west of the Mississippi, connect and reconnect for three days. Last year was my first experience in Tucson, Arizona and was easy for Lin and I to drive to from Albuquerque. I felt this group was “My Tribe.” This year’s event was in Walla Walla,  which is in the southeastern corner of Washington state–not easy to get to from New Mexico. The conference paperwork suggested flying in to Seattle, so I did, but then it was a four and a half hour drive to Walla Walla. That added to the stress for sure.

I looked forward to this conference more so than my first year, because I submitted a proposal to do a workshop, my Memoir Workshop, and it was accepted! I had presented it several times at Albuquerque libraries and felt it was a strong presentation. I imagined selling all of my books–I lugged a second suitcase full of fifteen books and my handouts there and back! My expectations played a big part in my disappointment!

Thursday night, each of the winners and finalists of the Willa awards read a five minute snippet of their work–what an enjoyable evening. The Willa awards are given in memory of Willa Cather and has seven categories: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction. Original Soft Cover Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Scholarly Nonfiction, Poetry and Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction. Each of the winners and finalists’ work stood out as strong literary achievements.

I had submitted my latest memoir, A Time to Grow Up, in the Creative Nonfiction category, and it was not selected. I especially listened to those entries to compare them to mine–I understood the selection to a point but still wondered?

I sat next to the president of the organization at that reading. She was friendly and welcoming.

Friday afternoon I attended an agent panel and an editor panel to help the attendees become better acquainted with these powerful people in the publishing world. The sessions helped us decide which ones to pitch our work to during the scheduled pitch sessions. I had scheduled a pitch session with one of the editors, but many attendees wait until the conference to hear from the agent or editor personally at these panels before selecting.

After the panels, I hurried upstairs to the pitch rooms and surprisingly saw lots of openings with all the agents and editors on the schedule, so I signed up with everyone except one agent I met last year. To my credit, I did six pitches in about 1 and 1/2 hours to no avail.

I have self-published all my books, so there was little interest in my published work, and no one was interested in a biography about a 91 year old world famous square dance caller. One agent did give me a great slant to take on this book and then suggested a PBS project to consider.

The most startling rejection was a fiction story I wrote two years ago about two women friends, incest and their healing–an agent and an editor both told me that the publishing work isn’t accepting any work on incest! REALLY! The agent refused matter-of-factly; the editor vehemently refused. Her face flushed and she repeated several times she never accepts work on that topic. I walked away stunned and angry!

Yes, I now understand I was at a conference for writing about the west and women and girls, but the reaction shut me out. Afterwards I realized why there were so few writers signing up to pitch their work. Four of the seven did not do fiction and many of attendees are fiction writers.

This conferenced scheduled three banquets: Friday evening’s banquet celebrated the Laura winners, a short story contest named after Laura Ingalls. Again each author read a short section to give the audience a test of the story–delightful experience!

My Memoir workshop on Saturday afternoon went well even though I had some technical difficulties. The attendees participated, thanked me and seemed appreciative. I had thought that the attendees would buy my books because of me being a presenter–I did not sell one book.

Then add insult to injury, they have a Book Signing time Saturday from 5:00 – 6:00 pm. Supposedly shoppers could still buy books, but no one bought mine. I looked around the room and mostly the winners and finalists of the Willa awards sold books. The rest of us authors–the majority in the room–sat and watched the action happening away from us!

Then the evening ended with another banquet to celebrate the Willa winners–the third banquet of the weekend. Saturday noon’s banquet celebrated the finalists in the Willa awards. I was “banqueted” out.

Today I realize the conference is about celebrating the twenty-one winners and finalists of the Willa awards and the five winners of the Laura awards. I get that now, but it was an expensive lesson. In writing this blog, healing happened: I also realize I’m a successful writer because I write–pure and simple!

I always have to look at the positives in every experience: I met some wonderful, friendly people at the conference. I always learn something helpful at any workshop I attend. I made some connections which could possibly help me on the biography I’m writing. I will continue my membership in this organization and continue to submit entries into their contests because it stretches me.

The drives to and from Walla Walla were breathtaking and stressful. I will tell you about my adventure in my next blog.


Have you ever had an experience like this at a conference? If so, what did you do? Share your comment below.


Check out my books at my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Fall specials continue at my Etsy Shop:  Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Writing

My Memoir Wins Fourth Award

A Time to Grow Up FINAL COVERIndependent Press Awards is proud to announce the 2018 Distinguished Favorites in the Memoir category: A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir. See the listing at the URL below;

http://www.independentpressaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites

I’m so excited! This is the fourth award this book has earned!

The other three awards are:

~”Official Selection” for 2017 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing in the Biography|Autobiography|Memoir category.

~Finalist in 2017 New Mexico-Arizona book awards in 2 categories: Biography (Other) and Ebook Nonfiction.

Have you bought your copy yet? Go to Amazon to get a copy now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0996614427/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1497309604&sr=8-4&keywords=larada+horner-miller

Have you read it? Would love to hear your comments about it!

 

 

 

 

Mom · My Thoughts · Writing

A Mother’s Day Tribute!

mom&me copy 3.jpeg

I am veering off Lin and my trip to Ireland and England for one week and sharing a poem I wrote for my Mom for Christmas in 2003. Enjoy and hug your mother real close today! My Mom has been gone for five years and this Mother’s Day has been one of the hardest! This poem celebrates the place she had in my life.

Mom & FragrantLilac.jpg

Have you ever written a poem or story about your Mom? Share it here! I would love to read it.

My Web Site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

My Etsy Shop–Larada’s Reading Loft: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Writing

A Break From Our Trip & My New Project

Quiet surrounds me. A canopy of a clear blue Colorado sky covers this warm spring day. I’m in a small ranching community in southeastern Colorado–the home of my childhood.

Since my mom died five years ago, I visit here monthly to check things out. I forgot to bring my Ireland/England travel journal and hard drive that has my pictures, so I’m going to take a break from the travelogue and update you on my current writing project.

I’m writing the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, the most famous square dance caller in the world. He’s 90 years old and visiting Asilomar, CA this week, the site of his favorite square dance weekend and week that he did for years.

How did this project start? My husband and I remember its inception differently, so I’ll tell you my version.

We were at a square dance festival last year in the early spring–it was Saturday night after a jam-packed two days of dancing. A group of friends enjoyed a leisure time late in the evening and Flippo (that’s what we call him) came up.

Someone said, “Someone needs to write his biography.”

My husband, Lin, leaned my way and stated, “You’re the writer in the group. Why don’t you do it?”

Nothing more was said that night, but the reoccurring thought surfaced regularly. I was coming to the ranch about this time last year alone, so I brought up the idea to Lin and shared my serious consideration of taking on this task. I suggested we both pray about it and when I returned, we would share what had come up.

Again the idea intrigued me–in the last four years, I had self-published four books and three cookbooks, but the topics had been personal for me. I wrote two memoirs, a historical fiction from a story I had heard my childhood and a non-fiction about our family ranch. Could I write about someone else?

When I returned home, Lin and I both agreed it would be a worthwhile project. So Flippo was fulfilling his last contract at the New Mexico Square and Round Dance Festival in mid-May in Albuquerque, so I called him in mid-April to query if he was interested.

His first comment was, “No one would want to read a book about me, but I do have a topic of a book that would sell–all the stories of traveling callers, but it would be X-rated.”

Seriously, Flippo said he would give me his answer at the festival in May. Friday evening during a break, he was surrounded by several local callers and dancers. I didn’t have to bring it up–he did.

“Larada wants to write my biography. Who would want to read it?” He queried. They all raised a hand, and I think it shocked him.

In traditional Flippo flirtatious manner, he said, “OK, come over to my hotel room tonight at 1:30 am and we’ll talk about.” Laughter exploded and then he said, “Yes.”

During the summer, I started gathering resources. I talked to several close caller friends of Flippo’s to start gathering their stories and information about him. In October, I went to Tucson, AZ for a Women Writing the West. Flippo lives in Tucson, so we planned to meet together on Thursday night.

He called and wanted to change nights because the Houston Texans were playing in the World Series and he wanted to watch the baseball game, so we moved it to Friday night. Before interviewing him, I didn’t realize Flippo had a strong connection to baseball–he was so good, that’s what he did in the Navy.

Lin and I met him for dinner, and Lin started him talking immediately. I was going to wait until we moved to his home so I could record it, but he was off and running, so I grabbed my notebook and started writing. He picked a the Texan Steakhouse which had TV multiple screens on every wall, so he could watch the baseball game as we talked.

After dinner, we went to Flippo’s house, turned on the TV and muted it, and he continued our first interview, watching the game. He sent me home with three scrapbooks/photo albums and three photo albums as resources.

Since then we have talked weekly for an hour, and I have recorded each interview. What a delightful experience this has been. The hardest part is transcribing the recordings; we talk for one hour, and that one hour takes three to four hours transcribe.

Flippo’s last calling event was a New Year’s Eve square dance in Green Valley, AZ. Several caller friends encouraged Lin and I to go, so we did. Twenty-five professional callers and friends from all over the United State supported Flippo on this monumental evening of his career. He announced from the stage that I was writing his biography, and the chair-woman of CALLERLAB (the international organization for callers) said to me, “How are you going to edit out the X-rated stuff?”

During the night I watched several of the professional callers’ eyes riveted on their hero on the stage–expressions of respect, love and admiration for their mentor and teacher covered their faces. I also witnessed traces of a deep sadness at the loss of such a great caller and friend. He ended his final dance with the song, “I’m Leaving Here a Better Man.” I’m sure he selected that carefully.

I’ve spent the last six months doing the work: weekly interviews, research online and reading books. Flippo stands pivotal in the history of square dancing, and I have had confirmation from many callers and square dance historians that this book needed to be written–I’m glad the muses chose me!

I’m collecting data to see if a hard back book is a viable option. Here’s your opportunity to pre-order the book, go here Pre-Order Flippo Book

Visit my web site for information about my other books: Larada’s Web site

Visit my Etsy shop for specials and some great Mother’s Day gift ideas: Larada’s Etsy Shop

Ireland & England · Travel · Writing

Day 6 – Lahinch

Our day began again with a traditional Irish breakfast again.  We especially loved it here in Killarney.

Our route from Killarney to Lahinch changed because Pat, our host at the bed and breakfast in Killarney, suggested we go up to Tarbert and take the ferry across the River Sharon. Originally we planned to go through Limerick, so this new plan shortened our travel and gave us a delightful ferry trip. IMG_0599.JPGThe drive through the countryside in Ireland dazzled me with all the variety of greens!

IMG_0607 Lin in the car.JPGLin waited in line to get on the ferry. Yes, he drove on the left side of the road–some say the wrong side, but he did a great job.

IMG_0606 ferry.JPGThe ferry we rode across the River Sharon.

IMG_0647 cattle BEST.JPGArriving at the other side of the river, the scenery was breathtaking with cattle grazing in lush green pastures. The hedge fences accentuated the symmetry of the pastures–a magical line drawn around each pasture.

From here, we drove to Lahinch. Again we had trouble finding our bed and breakfast, but Lin listened to his gut and we found it. Susan Harrington was our hostess and provided us a beautiful room.

Susan suggested a great lunch spot a long the way–Vaughn’s, so we stopped and had a seafood platter that was mostly mussels. It wasn’t my favorite meal of the trip for sure, but Lin loved it.

Our next destination was one of Ireland’s most popular:  the Cliffs of Moher and what a sight–gigantic vertical cliffs plunged down to the Atlantic ocean abruptly.

IMG_0717 Weeds Focused BEST.JPGI loved to focus on trees or plants in the foreground on a picture like this.

IMG_0721 Close up.JPGThe beautiful cliffs unobstructed.

IMG_0737 w:sunflowers.JPGAnother one of my pictures with something in the foreground.

Lin and I hiked the path that wove its way near the edge of the cliffs, but we didn’t walk the other direction because he was dealing with plantar fasciitis the whole trip. It was here where the pain affected him the most! And thank God–I couldn’t have hiked the other side of the cliffs anyway (the direction of the above picture).

IMG_0797 Several Paths.JPGThe path we walked to arrive at the sheer cliff below.

IMG_0804 Far Edge with bird.JPGThe birds soaring between the rock face and me highlighted this view. This was our destination. Standing on the edge of this cliff overwhelmed me–usually I’m OK with heights but the sheer drop off took my breath away.

IMG_0830 green grass shocked.JPGOn the walk back, I marveled at the cattle grazing on such lush green grass and tried to get this picture. Being a rancher’s daughter, I’m always captivated by green grass and cattle. I reached down to focus on the grass and touched a hot wire and was electrocuted, screamed and blacked out for a second. The pain was piercing!

IMG_0829 Lin.JPGLin rested his elbow on the fence that electrocuted me! He didn’t touch the hot wire like I did!

IMG_0832 cow on the hill.JPGOne of the cows that caused me to reach across the fence and get shocked!!

We spent a restful night at Lahinc reading and relaxing. Our hostess’ children played in the backyard which added a familial feel to our stay–this truly was a bed and breakfast in someone’s home.  The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast to send us on our way!

Coming up next – a drive to Westport through the Burrens!

Uncategorized · Writing

Does Size Matter?

Does the size of a book matter, the thickness of its spine? the word count?

My first book, This Tumbleweed Landed, was less than 125 pages–over 10,000 words. It was collection of poetry and prose about growing up in my small ranching community of Branson, CO during the fifties and sixties. My second book, When Will Papa Get Home?, was about 150 pages and over 20,000 words. Does that mean that those books were less than, inferior? I’ve had people comment on these books and how the content touched them in a variety of ways.

My newly released book, A Time to Grow Up–A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, is 412 pages long–over 46,000 words. Does the size of this book make it better than my previous ones? This mindset baffles me.

Shakespearean scholars would have a hay day with this idea and say there’s a phallic symbol hidden in there somewhere. 

I had a conversation with someone the other day about creative writing. She has not published a book yet. She said she was only going to write thick books, so that’s what encouraged this blog post.

If you judge a book by its size, you may miss out. Many small books have big messages. Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull comes to mind immediately. How about Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet?  It’s a short 107 pages yet those 26 prose poetry fables are world known and celebrated. 

I never judge a book by its size. I have some huge tomes that bore me to tears and small ones that have touched my life deeper than any long winded volume. 

As a writer, I don’t focus on the size of the project I’m working on–my books dictate their size and message.

Yes, I know that size matters in some things, but when it comes to books, I make my decisions to buy a book on its topic, the author, the cover and much more than its size, so size does not matter.

Life Lessons · My Thoughts · Uncategorized · Words Matter · Writing

Harmony

harmony

This continues my series of Words Matter.

Often when I think of harmony, I first think of music–Barbershop Quartets, Sweet Adeline’s, and the OakRidge Boys. That sweet, harmonious sound thrills my soul. How do they do it? It seems so simple, but is it?

There’s so much more to that simple word. Look at four definitions of harmony:

  1. agreement; accord; harmonious relations.
  2. a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.
  3. In music:  any simultaneous combination of tones, the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished, from melody and rhythm.the science of the structure, relations, and practical combination of chords.
  4. an arrangement of the contents of the Gospels, either of all four or of the first three, designed to show their parallelism, mutual relations,and differences.

These definitions all have something in common: something in agreement or accord.

Harmony in the world is a lofty goal. I want harmony in my life–the inner landscape of my life where I really live. To realize this, I have to train my voice (my spirit and soul) to listen to those around me and blend in with their tones and nuances. That’s where I get stuck sometimes, but I dedicate myself to be aware of that possibility and give it a try.

More so, I have to listen to my differing inner voices and be in harmony with them in my mind, so I can be more harmonious with those who around me that grace my world. If, I am in discord with my inner landscape, I will be the same in my outer landscape.

I want harmony in every aspect of that inner life–a mesh of all the different parts that fill my busy life. Let’s see what you think about harmony: do you think about being in harmony with family and friends? are you in harmony with yourself? do you harmonize or are your relationships off key?

Share your thoughts with me–I’m interested in your thoughts and remember–words matter!

My Thoughts · Writing

Where Are the Readers?

I am sitting at a craft fair at one of the top schools in our city trying to sell my books. The visual aversion people have to books is remarkable. I bet that 2/3 of the people I have offered a free bookmark to have refused. 

Where have all the readers gone? I offer historical fiction, memoir and non-fiction.  The most interest is in a cookbook series I created from my Mom’s recipes. The intrigue is in the fact that I scanned in her recipe cards but no buyers.

I self-publish my books and thought that Arts & craft fairs would be a good venue for selling–especially at a school,  it I had a similar experience last year at the top school here. 

Any suggestions?

My Thoughts · Writing

Don’t Wait 30 Years!

stressed-woman

I wrote two books and waited 30+ years to publish them. Don’t wait! I stashed those manuscripts away in a desk drawer for years, but they were not silent. They whispered to my spirit often, but I ignored them. At first, their constant chatter distracted me, but after repeated negligence, the sound grew dimmer and dimmer. I married; I divorced. I walked away, turning my back on my creations.

Somehow I listened to the soft voice of This Tumbleweed Landed, sent out a query letter, and received a request for the full manuscript. Then came the rejection—that put an end to my writing career for several years.

I filled my life with other activity, but those two manuscripts kept up their relentless vigil. They haunted me, wanting to be released from that dark prison of my desk drawer. They were stories and poems that needed to be told.

I retired and refocused. Finally I couldn’t stand their noise anymore! The endless clamor ended because I listened!

I took out This Tumbleweed Landed and fell in love with my poems and stories again. J. R. Gilstrap’s illustrations ignited my heart and soul. I self-published this book in 2014 and felt empowered and successful.

After this experience, When Will Papa Get Home? demanded my attention. After my first read-through after so many years, I knew it needed expanded–it was only 10,000 words. As often happens in the creative world, snippets came to me about several additions: how about Felipe Baca, the founder of Trinidad, CO which led to tying Mora, NM to my immigrant family; how about adding reference to Dutch Henry, the notorious horse thief; how about Philly building his own rock and adobe house and starting with an outhouse as a prototype; how about a family outing to pick piñon nuts.

When Will Papa Get Home? was released November 2015. The clamor of those two books has ended because I listened! And I continue to write–a new book to be released this year and another next year.

Promise me you won’t wait! Write! Publish! Share your stories with the world! We need them!