How I Boosted My Confidence To Write And Publish My First Book – A True Story And Guest Post By Stephen Havard @StephenHavard

What’s stopping you from writing and publishing your first or next book?

What was it that helped you write and publish your first book?

You may be surprised by what it was that helped my guest Stephen Havard write and publish his first book. I’d never have guessed. But not only did it help Stephen write and publish his book, it also helped him with mental health problems he was encountering at the time.

A very warm welcome on Hugh’s Views And News to Stephen.

Blog banner for the blog post 'How I Boosted My Confidence To Write And Publish My First Book'
A guest blog post by Stephen Havard

It’s January 2011, and I was sitting at my desk at work feeling depressed. It had only just gone 4.30, and it was already starting to get dark, the grey drizzly day now being consumed by blackness. The advent of the shortest day last month hadn’t taken effect yet, and my mood was as dark as the picture outside the office window. 

Christmas had been great; time with the family and a period away from the laptop was just what I needed. Unfortunately, this had only been a brief respite, and here I was once again sitting before a computer in a job I hated more and more by the day.

I was stuck in the rat race with no way out, and it was draining the life out of me more and more. I needed something to spark me into life; the only question was what, though?

My job was the main issue, but the option to leave wasn’t possible right then. I had a young family to support and couldn’t just jump ship. I’d have to persevere with it for the time being and find another outlet to lighten my mood.

That outlet came unexpectedly to me a few weeks later as I browsed the BBC website and noticed that the quiz show ‘Pointless‘ was looking for contestants.

I’d loved quizzes from an early age and had even auditioned for another quiz show, 15-to-1, without success after leaving university in 1997. Over the intervening years, my passion for quizzing had remained, regularly going to pub quizzes and still avidly watching every quiz show on the TV. I had never applied for another quiz show, though.

Was this a sign?

Pointless was one of my favourite quiz shows and something that played into my relatively obscure knowledge. This contestant call which was now staring back at me was surely telling me to apply and once again try and get onto a TV quiz show.

I spoke to my wife, who was seated beside me and urged me to apply and follow my dream. She knew how much I hated my job, how it affected my mental health and made me quite hard to live with at times. She wanted me to be happy and believed that the simple act of applying for this quiz show would help in that regard.

So that very moment I applied, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my wife, I spent hours perfecting our application in the hope that what I was writing would be what the show wanted. I say ‘our application’ as my wife had agreed to be my partner on the show as well.

Now I’m not the most patient of people, and as the weeks passed without any news, I thought the worst. Had my attempt at TV stardom fallen at the first hurdle? The very thought that it probably had depressed me even further.

Over a month later, I was again sitting at my desk and facing a now-familiar dilemma. What was I going to do to get out of the malaise my life was currently in?

While I sat there debating the options, my phone started to ring. A quick glance at the screen told me it was from a private number, another bloody call centre, I guessed as I declined the call.

Less than a minute later, I heard the familiar beep that indicated a voicemail had been left. Strange, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialled my answerphone, those call centres don’t usually leave voice messages. And as I listened, my heart began to beat more quickly. The voice at the end of the line was from a casting researcher at Pointless who wanted me to ring them back!

And to cut a long story short, my wife and I seemed to impress them on that phone call, Cathy being rung moments after me.

Our successful telephone audition led us to a hotel in Cardiff a week later for a face-to-face audition.

Now, this was the scary bit. Not only did we have to impress the researchers there, but we also had to do it in front of a room of 30 other hopeful contestants.

I’m quiet by nature but knew I had to shine here and create a persona that the TV execs wanted on their show. Having my wife there helped me as she is naturally more outgoing and chattier than me. I treated that day as a job interview, I knew I had to impress, and that’s precisely what we did as a couple of months later we were at the BBC Television Centre in London recording our episode of Pointless.

Photo of Stephen Havard and his wife on the TV quiz show 'Pointless.'
Steve and his wife, Cathy, on the TV quiz show ‘Pointless.’

It was a day I’d never forget as we came away with a Pointless trophy and the jackpot!

So how does appearing on a daytime quiz show lead to me writing my first novel, I hear you ask.

Well, since that first quiz show appearance in 2011, I’ve auditioned and appeared in many more shows with various degrees of success. Quizzing has become a great passion, and I love to appear on TV to show off my knowledge and test myself against other great quizzers.

I’m also convinced that appearing on them vastly improved my confidence and helped with my mental health.

Writing a book had also been something I’d always wanted to do, but like most things, that passion had been put on the backburner with work and family life taking precedence.

Then in March 2020, lockdown happened, and my life, along with the rest of the country, changed utterly. I was ‘working from home’ permanently, and my daily commute of over 2 hours had suddenly disappeared.

Despite the awful circumstances of the pandemic and lockdown, I sensed this was an opportunity to follow that dream of writing a novel.

The only question was what to write about?

This had been a conundrum for so long and another reason why I hadn’t yet typed any words. Yet during those first few weeks of lockdown, the idea of my debut novel locked into place, and it was an idea that was staring me in the face all along if I’m being honest now. Why not write about my other great passion, that of quizzing!

And that’s what I did over the next seven months as ‘The Duel’ took shape. It incorporated the world of quizzing, which I knew well and required very little research with a murder mystery.

‘The Duel’ was self-published in November 2020 and has been well received by readers that have bought it. It’s a story I’m happy to have told at last, and I hope it may lead to a full-time writing career eventually (fingers crossed).


About Stephen Havard

Photo of Stephen Havard

Stephen Havard lives in Swansea, South Wales, with his wife and two children, he also has 2 stepchildren.

Currently working in the IT industry, he enjoys quizzing and watching Swansea City football club in his spare time.

His quizzing exploits have resulted in a few TV appearances, with varying degrees of success!

The Duel is Stephen’s first novel.

Connect With Stephen

Twitter

Amazon

Stephen’s Book – The Duel

Ashley White is desperate. An ill-advised investment in cryptocurrency has left him in financial meltdown, with the bank threatening to repossess his home and a wife that knows nothing about the mess he is in.

A new quiz show called ‘The Duel’ is about to hit the TV screens, offering a mouth-watering 2 million pounds to the winner. The show is to be hosted by Patrick Reed; the scandal-hit presenter who hopes it will revive his flagging career.

Ashley hopes the show can be his way out of his financial problems and does all that is necessary to appear, even when those things have murderous intent.

Image of the book The Duel by Stephen Havard
The Duel – by Stephen Havard

Available on Amazon UK

Available on Amazon.Com

My thanks to Stephen for writing this guest post.

If you have any questions or comments for Stephen, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you enjoy reading true stories, check out these previously published true stories

Supernatural Encounters – True Stories And A Guest Blog Post By Victoria Zigler @VictoriaZigler

Please welcome author, writer and blogger, Victoria Zigler to my blog.

Just in time for Halloween, Victoria shares some true stories of supernatural encounters she has experienced, including one about a missing bath plug.

Have you had any strange, supernatural encounters?

Do you have a true story you’d like to share on my blog? Contact me via theContact Hugh’ button on the menubar.

Copyright © 2022 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Seat Of Horror

September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!


Seat Of Horror – by Hugh W. Roberts

“Happy Birthday.”

“What is it?” squealed Richard as he tore off wrapping paper while Adrian took photos.

“You’ll soon find out.”

“A chair?”

“Not just any chair. Stephen King’s chair.”

“Stephen King?” You’re kidding me?”

“Nope. I got all the paperwork of authenticity.”

“I love it.”

“Get writing that first novel you keep telling us you have inside you.”

“Horror! It’ll be a horror story. It has to be horror, what with it being Stephen King’s chair.”

“Don’t let it go to your head. I’ve hidden all the knives and sharp objects but left you a pen,” giggled Adrian.

***

Richard and Adrian first appeared in Edge Of Summer – another piece of flash fiction written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge.

Image of a chair that looks as if it is floating on top of the waters of a lake.
Image Credit: Charli Mills

Written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join in.

***

Enjoyed this piece of flash fiction? Then you’ll love Glimpses

Glimpses

28 short stories and pieces of flash fiction take the reader on a rollercoaster of twists and turns.

Available on Amazon

Paperback – £4.99

Kindle – £0.99

***

Diversity with a Twist Banner showing some coloured straight lines and pens on a white background

Click the ‘Diversity with a Twist’ image to check out my latest post on my column at the Carrot Ranch.

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Copyright © 2021 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Confessions Of A Holiday Let – A True Story And Guest Post By Judith Barrow @judithbarrow77

I’m delighted to welcome Judith Barrow to my blog today, who shares a true story about the perils of holiday letting an apartment.

Having read some of Judith’s other stories of holiday letting, there’s always a humorous side to them which I believe would not only make a fanatics book, but a television comedy show.

Confessions of a Holiday Let – A true story by Judith Barrow

Will Judith’s story have you laughing as much as I did when I read it?

***

For many years we summer let the apartment which is attached to our house.

We had many visitors from other countries staying in our apartment and shared great times with them.

Couples from the USA, Australia enjoyed barbeques on the lawn; long boozy evenings of wine and slightly burned kebabs and steaks, of tall tales and laughter.

Visits to restaurants with people from France and Italy. Long walks and talks on the coastal paths with a couple from New Zealand that we’d met from there on holiday in Christchurch, followed by drinks in local pubs.

We had a German man stay with us for three weeks who’d come to participate in the Iron Man Wales event. He’d worked hard for twelve months, he told us and had to acclimatise himself to the course. Three days before the event, he caught a chest infection and had to drop out. Despite his anti-biotics, he still needed to join Husband in a double whisky that night.

Oh dear, I’m sensing a common theme here.

This is the story of our last visitor for the season one year.

He was a single man. We’ve had people come on holiday alone many times over the years and thought nothing of it. When he arrived, we quickly realised he could only speak a little English, and we couldn’t speak his language at all.

He hadn’t been in the apartment before he came to the door brandishing an empty bottle of washing up liquid.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, “I thought there was plenty in it.”

“Used it.”

An hour later, washing powder was asked for by a demonstration of vigorous scrubbing at a pair of underpants.

“There’s a box of it under the sink.”

“Used it.”

Sunday brought him to the door twice. First, with the sugar bowl.

“Used it.”

Then the salt cellar.

“I thought I’d filled it—”

“Used it.”

‘Used it’ quickly became the watchword whenever we supplied tea bags, vinegar or handing over shoe polish.

Monday, he arrived with an empty tube of glue.

“Sorry, we don’t supply glue.”

He stands, smiling, waggling the tube. “Used it.”

Husband went into his Man Drawer and produced a tube of Super Glue. Scowling. We never found out what the man wanted it for, even though Husband examined everything he could that would need to be stuck the following weekend.

Each day, at least once, the man came to the door to ask for something by waving the empty bottle, carton, container or label at us. Unlike most holidaymakers, he didn’t knock on the back door but always came round to ring the doorbell at the front. In the end, Husband and I would peer through the hall window.

“It’s Mr Used It,” one of us would say. “It’s your turn to go.” Pushing at one another. “You see what he wants this time.”

On Wednesday, he arrived with a cardboard roll.

“There are six more toilet rolls in the bathroom cabinet to the right of the hand basin,” I offered helpfully.

“Used it.”

Seven rolls of toilet paper usually last a couple the whole week. I handed over four more.

“What’s happening in there,” Husband grumbled, “do-it-yourself colonic irrigation?”

On Friday, Husband produced a list. “We should charge for this lot,” he declared. “See?”

It read like a shopping list: milk/salt/sugar/vinegar/butter/tea bags/ coffee/soap/soap powder/toilet paper/shampoo/glue/shoe polish.

“Really?” I said, even though I knew the chap had been a pest. “You’ve been keeping tabs on our guest?”

“Too true.” The husband was indignant. “We could even charge him for overuse of the battery in the doorbell.”

“Except that it’s connected to the electricity.”

“Even worse!” Husband grumped off to his shed.

Saturday morning came, and the doorbell rang. Smiling, the man put his suitcase down onto the ground and, vigorously, shook hands with both of us. He waved towards the apartment.

“Used it,” he said. “Very nice.”

***

Judith Barrow

About Judith Barrow

Judith Barrow is originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, in the UK. She now lives with her husband and family in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where she has lived for over forty years.

Judith has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. She also has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University.

She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

She has written all her life and has had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. She only started to seriously write novels after having breast cancer twenty years ago.

When not writing or teaching, she enjoys doing research for her writing, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline and reading and reviewing books.

Connect with Judith

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Judith’s Latest Book – The Heart Stone

The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow

1914 – and everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her true feelings for her childhood friend, Arthur. Then just as they are travelling home from this rare treat, war is declared.

Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened of the future, she agrees to marry the vicious Amos Morgan, making Jessie’s home an unsafe place for her.

Before he leaves, Arthur and Jessie admit their feelings and promise to wait for each other. Arthur gives Jessie a heart-shaped stone to remember him. But with Arthur far away, their love leaves Jessie with a secret that will see her thrown from her home and terribly abused when she can hide the truth no longer. Faced with a desperate choice between love and safety, Jessie must fight for survival, whatever the cost.

Click on the book cover to buy The Heart Stone

More Books from Judith

Saga of the Howard family
The Memory

Click on the book covers to buy Judith’s books.

My thanks to Judith for writing this guest post.

If you have any questions or comments for Judith, please leave them in the comments section. She’d be delighted to hear from you.

Do you have a true story you’d like to share on my blog? Contact me via the ‘Contact Hugh’ button on the menubar.

Copyright © 2021 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

A Different Type Of UFO – A Guest Post By Mae Clair @MaeClair1

Hugh, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today! I’m delighted to be here, and happy to share an encounter I had when I was a child. It might sound a little off the wall, but…

When I was six, my family lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My father and I had a habit of sitting on the porch after dinner. We’d take in the sights of people passing on the sidewalk, cars on the street, the occasional thunderstorm. That evening, my dad fell asleep as twilight settled.

Was there traffic? Maybe.

People on the sidewalk? Not then.

What I can tell you—what I still see clearly in my mind—is the object in the sky. I can’t recall if it suddenly appeared, popping into view, or slid from somewhere overhead.

Before I continue, however, I’d like to share some facts you may not be familiar with. As an example, did you know most UFO sightings are not of the saucer-shaped variety, but light sources?

Image credit: Bigstockphoto.,com
Image licence owned by Mae Clair

Have you ever heard of a “UFO Flap?” This occurs when an exceptional number of sightings are confined are to a specific area during a limited time frame. Point Pleasant, West Virginia experienced a well-publicized flap during 1966-1967.

Several years ago, while reading a book on UFOs, the author mentioned the skies above Harrisburg, Pennsylvania being filled with light sources. Guess what year? Yep—I was six years old. Harrisburg didn’t experience a flap, but there was a buzz of activity.

Next up: I bet you’ve heard of Men-in-Black. But did you know the late author, John Keel, coined the phrase to identify mysterious strangers who descended on Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966? MIBs, as they’re called, had one purpose—find anyone who’d reported seeing a UFO and warn them not to talk about it.

The government denied the existence of MIBs, as did the Air Force, but there were plenty of eyewitnesses. When you descend on a rural area in shiny black Cadillacs, wearing black suits and broad-brimmed black hats, you’re bound to stand out.

Speaking of rural sightings, did you know pastures and fields are often covered with blobs of a mucous-like substance after a UFO appears? Many locals refer to these globs as “starsh*t.”

I could go on, but let’s get back to Harrisburg, and that warm summer night with my dad.

Sometime after he nodded off, the cloud appeared. Not a normal cloud, but something massive and green, moving rapidly across the sky. I remember looking from the cloud to the ground because it emitted a broad beam of light, the same eerie green as the cloud.

The light scrolled across the sidewalk, onto our front lawn, then crept onto the porch, enveloping me, edging near my father. I don’t remember if it touched him, but I looked up into the light.

The next thing I remember is being on the sidewalk, several houses down, with my dad. People were everywhere, chatting with excitement. A woman with two children stopped to talk to us. I distinctly remember her telling my father “the sky looked like it had a tail.”

This incident has stayed with me, vivid in my memory, but there’s something that niggles in the back of my mind. Why didn’t I tell my dad what I’d seen, especially given the excitement on the street? Why is everything blank from the time I looked up into the light until talking to the woman on the sidewalk?

A Cold Tomorrow, the second book of my Point Pleasant trilogy, deals with UFO sightings and MIBs. I dumped a ton of research into the entire series, including making two trips to the actual locations that factor into the story. Something I found highly interesting while doing research: many UFO witnesses don’t recall the incident until years later—especially if they’ve seen a light source.

Some experience “Flicker Phenomena” an occurrence that mesmerizes the individual and blocks the incident from their mind. I wish I could recall when the memory of that warm night in Harrisburg resurfaced. I know it was there by the time I reached high school, because I was enthralled by the idea of spotting a UFO. I desperately wanted to see one again.

I never did.

Many people are able to talk of their encounter immediately after witnessing the sight. Some experience conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eyes.

When I wrote A Cold Tomorrow, I wanted the cover to reflect the image in my head. My green cloud scrolled across an urban street­ whereas Point Pleasant is a rural river town. Even so, my cloud factored into my fictional “flap.”

Dirt lane image credit: Bigstockphoto.,com
Image licence owned by Mae Clair

Excerpt from A Cold Tomorrow:

Doreen Sue Lynch stubbed her cigarette into an ashtray and craned her neck to glance out the kitchen window. Her grandson, Sam, had promised not to stray. He’d helped her with the dishes after dinner, then begged to go outside with Rex, a friendly mongrel mix of Australian shepherd and retriever. She’d agreed to take her boyfriend’s dog while Martin’s house was being fumigated for spiders, and Sam would stay overnight because Katie was off visiting a friend.

Not that she minded. She loved having Sam, and Rex was hardly any trouble. Boys and dogs were good together, both bursting with bundles of energy. Even so, she’d have to call them in soon. It was getting late in the evening for an eight-year-old, and she wanted to set a good example as his grammie.

Spying him through the window, she drew in a sharp breath. An eerie green light spilled from somewhere above, haloing him in a cone of brackish illumination. Stock-still, Sam stood as if transfixed, his head tilted back as he gazed up into the weird light. Somewhere out of her line of vision, Rex barked furiously. The sound made the hair on the back on her neck rise, but by the time she reached the door and wrenched it open, the dog had stopped yapping.

“Sam.” Doreen Sue walked onto the rear stoop just as the green light winked out. Like someone throwing a switch. The jarring abruptness left her off-kilter and lightheaded.

It isn’t happening. Not again. Please God, not to Sam.

Shaking off her vertigo, she sprinted from the stoop and was across the yard in record time. “Sam.” Gripping her grandson by the shoulder, she gave him a gentle shake, drawing his attention from the sky. There was nothing. Nothing she could see. “What are you looking at?”

“Huh?” He blinked as if waking from a fog. “N-nothing. Just a cloud.”

Doreen Sue bit her lip. Sam sounded befuddled and, although he wore a jacket against the crisp October air, he shivered. “Look at you. You’re cold to the bone. Let’s get inside.”

Wrapping an arm around his shoulders, she cast a worried glance at the sky. Nothing is there. Nothing was ever there. “Did do you see where Rex got to?”

Sam shook his head as she led him toward the house.

“All right, you go inside and get warm. I’ll look for him.” The dog’s barking had sounded frighteningly out of control. Nothing like the gentle animal she knew. “I won’t be long.”

Sam hesitated when she held open the back door.

“Grammie?” His expression hadn’t changed, still composed of that same odd blankness as if he moved in a haze.

“What is it, baby?”

“Do you have any paper?”

Puzzled by the question, she cocked her head to the side. “What kind of paper?”

“For drawing. I want to draw the cloud.”


Although I changed the events of the encounter in my book, it remains lodged in my head with a sense of wonder and curiosity I hope never to lose. I want to thank Hugh for allowing me to visit and share the story.

If you’d like to read more about UFOs, may I recommend my novel, A Cold Tomorrow? Within its pages, you’ll find green clouds, animal disappearances, MIBs, bright lights in the sky, power outages, and plenty of other oddities. It’s based on historical facts, legends, and folklore surrounding the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

A Cold Tomorrow Blurb:
Stopping to help a motorist in trouble, Katie Lynch stumbles upon a mystery as elusive as the Mothman legend that haunts her hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Could the coded message she finds herald an extraterrestrial visitor? According to locals, it wouldn’t be the first time. And what sense should she make of her young son’s sudden spate of bizarre drawings—and his claim of a late-night visitation? Determined to uncover the truth, Katie only breaks the surface when a new threat erupts. Suddenly her long-gone ex-boyfriend is back and it’s as if he’s under someone else’s control. Not only is he half-crazed, he’s intent on murder….

As a sergeant in the sheriff’s office of the famously uncanny Point Pleasant, Officer Ryan Flynn has learned to tolerate reports of puzzling paranormal events.   But single mom Katie Lynch appears to be in very real danger—and somehow Ryan’s own brother, Caden, is caught up in the madness, too. What the skeptical lawman discovers astounds him—and sends him into action. For stopping whatever evil forces are at play may just keep Katie and Caden alive…

Click here to buy A Cold Tomorrow.

Red house image credit: Bigstockphoto.,com
Image licence owned by Mae Clair

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads

My thanks to Mae for writing this guest post.

Have you ever seen a UFO? What happened and how did you deal with it? Do you have any questions or comments for Mae? Please leave them in the comments box. She would love to hear from you. (No comments for Hugh, please).

Top image credit: Hugh W. Roberts. All other images are owned by licence to Mae Claire.

How To Make Your Blog Standout From All The Other Blogs Out There

Thank you to Marje Mallon, who blogs at M. J. Mallon – YA/Paranormal Author, for asking me a question about blogging after reading my blog post ‘Do You Have A Question About Blogging…’

How To Make Your Blog Standout

Marje’s asked two questions, which I’m going to answer as best I can. Here they are –

Marje’s comment

With millions of blogs out there, Marje’s first question is one I get asked a lot.

Every time we hit the publish button, our blog posts are launched into vast cyberspace in the hope that they will stand out enough from all the other millions of blog posts out there.

How do we make sure our post is brighter than all the others? 

For me, the most crucial part of a blog post is its title. If it doesn’t stand out or is eye-catching enough, then it’s likely that it will fade away fast. Almost certainly, after a few weeks, it will probably be long forgotten and never receive any further attention.

I firmly believe that when getting the title of a blog post right, you’re already halfway to getting a blog post to stand out.

The other half, of course, is getting the content of the post right. Get the title and the content correct, and you’re well on your way to having a successful outstanding blog post on your hands.

Why? Because it opens the door to make it stick in the memories of many of the people who read it.

Many of those readers may save the post so they can refer to it in the future. It’s also likely to attract lots of attention by way of comments and by being shared on social media and other blogs.

#bloggingtips #blogging #socialmedia

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Indeed, the number of shares a blog post gets on social media will almost certainly tell the author if their blog post has stood out.

Of course, some will share the blog post of others they are friendly with regardless of what the post is about, but if other readers who are little known to the author also chose to share it, then that is when the author knows their post has stood out.

The same goes for when a post is shared via a reblog, Press This, or by way of a pingback on another blog. If the number of shares is more than average (taking away those who always share the posts of certain bloggers), then it will have stood out. 

Keep publishing blog posts that have eye-catching titles and excellent content that engages those who read it, and it won’t be long before the whole blog starts to stand out.

When it comes to content, don’t rush the post and publish it on the same day you write it. Give it time so you can go back to it and make changes that will make it stand out even more. 

Remember, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.         

What are some of the key elements when deciding on the title of a blog post?

  • Making sure the title makes sense and reads correctly.
  • Word it in way that will make the reader want to find out more.
  • Ensuring the title is not misleading and has little or nothing to do with the content. 
  • And, of course, ensuring you have a title for your blog post. 

You’d be surprised by how many blog posts I come across that have no titles.

Did you know that when a blog post with no title is published on WordPress, the title is made up of a random row of numbers?

Numbers, numbers

That doesn’t look good, does it?

If you really are stuck for a good blog post title, ask yourself what title would make you want to click the link to read the post you’ve just written.

Once you have your title, try inserting it into a headline analyser and see what score it gets. The higher the score, the more likely your blog post title will attract search engines and readers. I use CoSchedule for this. Click here to try it out for free.

What else can I do to get my blog post titles to stand out?

To get my blog post titles to stand out, I like to ask a question or use certain words in the title such as –

How

How to

When

Have

Have you

Don’t

Did

Do you

This

This is

Who

Why

What

Where

And don’t forget to add an excerpt after your blog post title. This will help the post stand out even more.

Click here for more tips on how to make your blog posts stand out and get noticed.

How To Get Your Blog An Audience

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Of course, you also need an audience to get noticed. Some of the best ways to get the attention of an audience is –

  • Leave good meaningful comments that add value on the blog posts of other bloggers.
  • Participate in a blog party.  
  • Look for opportunities to write guest posts for other bloggers.
  • Open up the opportunity for other bloggers to write guest posts for your blog.
  • Ensure you promote your blog and blog posts on all your social media accounts.
#bugs #photography #SundayStills

Looking for nectar – A Bugs Life – for the Sunday Stills Challenge. ©hughsviewsandnews.com

Now, you may have come up with the best blog titles in the world and have excellent content in your posts, but remember that if the layout of your blog is not friendly or inviting, then you’ll be dimming the way your blog stands out.  

What are some of the most critical aspects of making a blog standout from the rest?

  • The name and subtitle of the blog.
  • A good blog theme that matches what you blog about.
  • Easy to use and accessible menu and widget bars that do not include any broken links.
  • A blog that downloads quickly (especially photos and images). Click here for some tips on how to improve your WordPress site speed and performance.
  • Using neutral or coloured backgrounds that do not strain the eyes or make reading posts difficult. 
  • Ensuring that the font (and the size of the font) used is easy and comfortable to read.
  • The layout of your blog is not cluttered (e.g. too many items in the menu bar).
  • Any images or photos do not overlap with other images or text (especially on the emails notifications that are sent out). 
  • Images and photos are aligned correctly (especially on email notifications that are sent out).
  • Using the latest software and tools available when drafting posts.
  • Publishing blog posts that are of good quality content that invite readers to engage with you and each other.

With regards to Marje’s second question – ‘how do you successfully combine an author platform and a blog?‘, I believe there are several choices open to an author who also has a blog. 

 

Image by ptra from Pixabay

Some authors will have one blog purely for their books, their current work-in-progress, author interviews, etc., and another blog for more personal stuff that does not include anything about their books. 

Some will have two (or more) blogs that combine everything, but this is something I don’t recommend as it is likely that there is a lot of repeated and duplicated information on each blog.

Then there are authors, like myself, who will have everything on one blog.

I think the main thing to remember when combining an author platform and a blog is continuity.

The author should stick to using the same photo, logos, and themes on all their social media accounts, blogs and author platforms. This helps readers identify you as the owner and gives you a brand. 

If you’re a blogger who already has a book published, ensure your author platforms (such as Goodreads) follows the same theme as your blog. That way, your readers will instantly know it’s you when they see your page.

Thank you so much for your questions, Marje. I hope my answers have helped? 

Connect with Marje

Blog – for information about new releases, photos of main characters/character interviews, book reviews and inspiration: https://mjmallon.com

Facebook Group #ABRSC: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook

Instagram: Instagram

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and Twitter: @curseof_time

Facebook: Facebook: m j mallon author

Marjorie has devoted the past few years to writing over 100 reviews on her Goodreads Review Account, and on her blog to help support traditional and indie writers.

#author #books #interview

Author, Writer, and Blogger, Marjorie Mallon

Do you have any tips on making your blog stand out? Share them with Marje by leaving a comment. 


If you have any questions about blogging, please leave them in the comments box. If your question is selected, I’ll feature you in the post that answers your question.

Copyright © 2019 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Creating Atmosphere In Fiction – by Esther Chilton

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Esther Chilton to my blog.

While I’m putting the finishing touches to my next short story collection, Esther kindly accepted my invitation to write a guest post. This is a must-read for anyone who is in the process of writing fiction, whether it is for an upcoming book, competition, for publication in a magazine, or as a blog post.  Esther gives lots of great writing advice and tips over on her blog.

#writingtips #writing #authors
Image Credit: Pixabay

To be successful, a short story or novel needs to develop a strong sense of atmosphere. This draws your readers into your story so they can imagine this world you are creating. It also sets up expectations for them and gives them information about the characters they’re likely to meet in your story.

Here are some ways to help you ensure your readers feel as if they’re right there alongside your characters, experiencing the story for themselves:

Setting   

Setting isn’t the same as atmosphere, but it is a big part of it and can help to shape the mood of the story. A story set in an abandoned warehouse immediately evokes a sense of eeriness and isolation, of neglect and dreariness.

Make sure you choose a setting which suits the type of story you’re writing. Different settings create different atmospheres. In a ghost story, you want the atmosphere to be creepy and one of trepidation. An ideal setting is an old theatre or graveyard. A setting on a crowded beach in Malaga induces a very different atmosphere.

Description

You can’t create atmosphere without description. But this doesn’t mean you need paragraphs and paragraphs of purple prose to ensure your readers can picture the scene. A few powerful adjectives and adverbs will effectively make your readers feel part of the story.

Perhaps you have chosen a hotel as your setting. Using different words can dramatically vary the atmosphere created. For example, look at the following description of the hotel:

She eagerly hurried inside, her eyes soaking up the sumptuous sofas, gleaming floors and dazzling chandelier taking centre stage. 

This short passage gives an image of light, of space and a pleasant place to stay. From this passage, your readers can also imagine the type of people the main character will meet e.g. smart businessmen and wealthy women.

The following describes a contrasting hotel and produces a very different mood:

She gingerly stepped inside, her eyes widening at the sagging sofas, the filthy floor and dull, flickering light.

Here, the hotel comes across as dingy and dirty. Your readers can picture this hotel’s patrons as seedy and up to no good.

Five Senses

Sight and sound are often used to bring a scene to life and for impacting upon the tone of a story. But the senses of smell, touch and taste can also affect a story’s mood. A rundown cafe might smell like a mixture of sweaty training shoes and over-fried chips. The menu may be caked in sticky sauce and clammy mashed potato. Perhaps the tea tastes like stagnant water.

Your readers will be able to imagine themselves there, smelling the vile scents, feeling the congealed food on the menu and tasting the liquid being passed off as tea.

Weather

The weather is a useful tool for producing a certain type of atmosphere. A gloriously sunny day immediately conjures up feelings of warmth and joy, where something happy is about to happen. This may be the atmosphere you want to create for a wedding in your story. Though, perhaps it’s a wedding doomed not to take place. Again, you can use the weather to change the mood of the story and build up a mounting sense of tension, with the wind gathering momentum and thick clouds charging across the sky.

Time

The time of day can make a difference to the type of atmosphere your readers feel. For example, you can darken a story by setting it at night. There’s always an extra sense of menace, of threat and uncertainty in a story that takes place at night.

First Person Viewpoint

A story written in the first person can be very effective in creating a sense of atmosphere and making your readers feel as if they are part of the story, seeing and experiencing everything along with that character. Take the following example:

I looked at the garden, at the weeds weaving their way towards the house, merging with the ivy-coated walls. Something tugged at my memory. A smell – of unwashed skin, of bad breath and of something worse. Much worse. I shuddered, shivering and shaking. I remembered.

See how you share in this character’s horror, seeing, smelling and feeling everything she is.

So now you have some tools for ensuring your story is an atmospheric masterpiece!

About Esther Chilton/Newton

#blogger #author #writer #books
Author, writer and blogger Esther Chilton

I’ve always loved words and writing, but I started out working with figures in a bank. I was on an accelerated training programme and studying banking exams, which meant I didn’t have time for writing so it wasn’t long before it was a thing of the past – or so I thought. My love affair with writing ignited again when I had an accident and seriously injured my back. It meant I could no longer carry out my job working in the bank and it led me back to writing, which has now become a daily part of my life.

I’ve now been working as a freelance writer for nearly twenty years, regularly writing articles and short stories for magazines and newspapers such as Freelance Market News, Writers’ Forum, Writing Magazine, The Guardian, Best of British, The Cat, and The People’s Friend to name a few.

Winner of Writing Magazine, Writers’ News and several other writing competitions and awards, I have also had the privilege of judging writing competitions.

As well as working as a freelance writer, I have branched out into the exciting world of copywriting, providing copy for sales letters, brochures, leaflets, web pages, slogans and e-mails.

I love writing, but equally, I enjoy helping others, which I achieve in my role as a tutor for The Writers Bureau. I feel like a proud parent when one of my students has a piece of writing published. Some of them have gone on to become published authors and have achieved great success.

In addition to tutoring, I work as a freelance copyeditor offering an editing, guidance and advice service for authors and writers. I’ve edited novels, non-fiction books, articles and short stories.

If you’d like my help or would like to know more about what I can do for you, please get in touch: estherchilton@gmail.com

Connect With Esther

Blog: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @esthernewton201

Linkedin: Esther Chilton

The Siege and Other Award-Winning Short Stories:

Blurb: After launching her short story collection, ‘The Siege and Other Award Winning Short Stories’ as an e-book, freelance writer and The Writers Bureau tutor, Esther Newton, received numerous requests to bring out a paperback version.

#books #shortstories

‘The Siege and Other Award Winning Short Stories’ paperback features a further six short stories, as well as the original twelve from the e-book, offering more drama, more tension, more laughs and even more emotion.  From the heart-rending story of a young girl who’s never had a friend, to some special letters to Father Christmas, to a woman running away from a violent man, each story will keep you reading on straight into the next.

The collection includes prize-winning short stories from Writing Magazine, Writers’ News, The Global Short Story and Ouze Valley Writers competitions, amongst others.

Buying Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

And all other online stores. The book can also be ordered through all good bookshops. Additionally, Esther has copies of the paperback for sale at £5 each. You can order one directly through her. If you’re interested, please contact her at: estherchilton@gmail.com

Esther is currently working on her next collection of short stories, A Walk in the Woods and other Short Stories. It’ll feature some prize-winning stories, as well as some new ones. Look out for it later this year.

If you have any questions or comments for Esther, please leave them in the comments section.

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Promoting Young Authors – Evan John #Swansea

Evan John is 13 years old and lives a few doors away from me with his family. Earlier this year, Evan asked me to read some of the short stories he’d written. I was so impressed with them that I asked him to write one which I could publish on my blog. Evan is looking for feedback on his story and writing, so please do leave him some.

#writing #fiction #authors

The Final Day Of Hell

It took me a year as it spread like a wildfire in a forest. I was the only one left. Everything was destroyed within hours. I couldn’t leave, I was trapped. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I was just trying to help. I was trying to save him. I still don’t know what went wrong but all I knew at the time was that I had to find a cure, and fast.

As I ran down the side alley behind the old Queens pub, my head was full of thoughts. I had finally found the final piece to the most complex puzzle. My sword clenched in my hands, my head craning in every direction on the lookout. That day was surprisingly quiet, thankfully. I had been moving between my laboratory and every university, college and school with a sophisticated enough science department within 1 mile. I also had to go on foot because I didn’t know how to hotwire a car, but it kept me fit.

As I turned a corner, I saw a small group of them feasting on something I couldn’t see. I quickly ducked behind a bin, gripping my sword tight, preparing to fight. In my head, I counted to three and burst out from behind the bin and charged towards the group. I slammed my foot into the closet one hard, knocking it to the ground. With a quick slice to my left, I protected myself from a flailing arm lunging towards me. I then sidestepped out the way of another attack, did a low roundhouse kick to the vile creature, unbalancing it. With a final vertical slice, I decapitated it.

The gruesome creature I had knocked down before was now back up and coming for me. Obviously, zombies don’t know when to quit! I held my ground and let the zombie come to me. When it was close, it swung at me with its deformed arm. I ducked underneath it and spun around. With the zombie’s back to me, I stomp kicked it, sending it flying headfirst into a wheelie bin. Then I closed the lid and pushed the bin to a set of nearby stairs. “Sayonara ” I shouted as I pushed the bin down the stairs and watched as it bounced down them. With it all over, I leaned up against the side of a truck to catch my breath.

After a few minutes, I stood and started moving again. It took another five minutes for me to get back to my lab. I arrived at the huge metal door that was the entrance. I lifted up the brick that hid the secret button to open the first door. I pressed it and, with a crunch, the door opened. I went through it and pushed it until it clicked.

The second door had a series of locks on it. It took me about two minutes to unlock it. Once through the door, I re-locked it by pulling a series of handles and pushing buttons. I then quickly went through the dark corridor and straight to my mixing station. I carefully placed my bag down on the counter and laid out its contents.

On the scavenge, I had recovered the final ingredient I needed to make the cure. Along with that, I found more batteries, a few different parts from a broken motorcycle and three flares. Next, I went over to the mixing cylinder. I poured the mixture from the test tube into the first cylinder chamber. Already in the second cylinder chamber was the other part of the cure, which I had gradually made and developed over the weeks and months since this hell had begun.

Once I tightened the cylinders and checked everything was in order, I turned it on. With a whirr, the machine started to turn, combining the 2 mixtures together. I moved to my desk where my computer was at work collecting the data from the mixer. The algorithm told me that the chemicals were binding. With a sigh of relief, I sat down. I had finally done it. I could finally redeem myself and save my city. I had completed part one of my plan at last. Now it was time to initiate operation Posterum.

About half an hour after I had turned on the mixing machine, it started to bleep. The cure was finally done. I excitedly ran over to the machine and turned it off. I then lifted the heavy container in the centre of the two other cylinders and dragged it over to the armoury. The ‘ armoury ’ was more of a room with anything I could have used to defend myself with. From golf clubs to cricket bats, to guns and swords. What I would need from there that day would be the G60 Xpro rifle. This would be what I would use to shoot the darts, filled with the cure to change them, at the zombies. I took the gun out of its box, along with 300 darts and the 30 ten dart magazines.

It took me 15 minutes to fill up all the darts and pack them into my bag. I strapped my sword to my back and headed back down the corridor towards the doors. Instead of going through the front doors, I took a left and headed for the back door. After a few more turns, I got to the heavy steel door. I pulled off the barrier and dragged it open. I stepped through into the open, to see the moon glistening. I yanked back the door and waited for my contraption to re-lock the door. When I heard the bang, I set out.

I headed towards the town square, where most of the zombies in the area were. I had an idea where I could go and have the best angle to fire at them. After a few minutes of running, I got to the edge of the town square. I crouched down next to an abandoned car and opened my rucksack. I pulled out the flare I had found earlier in the day. My plan was to shoot the flare into the centre of the square to attract the disgusting beasts, and then gun them down. But, before I put my plan into action, I had to get into the best shooting spot.

Just a few meters away was a ladder that took me to the top of what used to be the council building. Once I packed my rucksack back up, I sprinted over to it. Just as I reached it, I heard a muffled groan. They were coming, so I started to climb the rickety ladder. As I continued up the ladder, the groaning got louder and louder.

I got to the top and jumped over the small wall perimeter. I ran over to the edge of the building that faced the town square. I quickly threw off my bag and unzipped it. I pulled out the tripod and set it on the edge of the wall. I secured my gun onto it and pulled the flare from my pocket. I aimed for the fountain and shot the flare into the town square. As it hit the fountain, red light exploded out from the small capsule. Almost immediately, zombies started to crawl out of the corners and towards the light. As soon as I saw a new zombie, I would fire a dart at them, each time slamming it into them with pinpoint accuracy. One after the other, my gruesome creations fell, screaming and moaning. Soon I started to wonder if my cure was actually working. Then, out of the blue, the first one started to change. Its skin was changing as its body corrected itself.

As soon as the first one started to change, another one did. Then another. And another. Soon, all the zombies in the square were morphing back to humans. I realised I had to get down there and explain what was happening to the people who had completely changed back. Leaving my tripod fixed to the wall, I rushed back to the ladder with my things and climbed down.

I raced into the square as some very groggy and naked people starred around confused. I jumped up onto the old water fountain and called for the people’s attention. They turned around to look at me, not really knowing what else to do. I hadn’t planned a speech, or anything to say, so I explained what had happened that year and then said for them to follow me so they could be safe. They all agreed without question.

I led them all into the old church. Months before I found the cure, I made the church a hospitable place for a lot of people to live so that when I did find the cure, I could bring them there and look after them. It took time, but it was worth it. Luckily, the parts I needed to patch up the holes in the roof and fix the door were easily accessible. To be honest, I don’t know how the church still stood after the wave of infection. Maybe it was because of how well it was built, with its thick wooden beams and steel gates. Or, maybe, it was just the power of God and holy intervention. Inside the church were mattresses, clothes, blankets, water and some packaged food. It was not too far from the centre, which was helpful as half of the people could not walk very well.

From there, I took care of the people and helped them regain strength and re-learn everything. We started to rebuild and find more resources, as one person thankfully knew how to hotwire a car. We also gave the word to the mainland that it was now safe to come back to the island that my city had been built on. Straight away, they brought supplies and manpower. From that day on I have always said to myself… “no matter what anyone says, there is always that spark of good.”

The End.

#writing #authors

Promoting Young Authors

Do you know a budding young author, or have a young member of the family who enjoys writing? Join me in promoting their work by publishing it on your blog. Feel free to use the above image. Link your post back to this one by creating a pingback.

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