Thursday, March 19, 2015

Are You Dealing With Bad Reviews?

I had started a comment on a blogger friend's article and decided to create an article instead because it had grown larger and more complex than what I believe is appropriate for a comment. Thank you, Auden, for inspiring this post.

I'll quote the original question which prompted this response: 

There's a ton of advice out there on how to deal with bad reviews. They like to say "dwell on the good reviews." What if you don't have any glowing reviews to off-set the negative/indifferent ones?

I've had my two short stories on Amazon since 2012 and one of them has exactly one review and the other a whopping five reviews. I can tell you this much. I didn't ask for reviews, but when I got them, I was pleased. I'm far from inspired by the numbers, but I'm flattered by and appreciate the favorable responses by those who appreciated my work. However, I've not written or produced much these days and that makes me sad.

On the contrary, though a bad review has to hurt, it's not a lost cause, because bad reviews are those things that prompt you to explore and improve! Especially if you're passionate about storytelling.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you feel you're not getting the feedback you desire. Do you attend a lot of writing conferences? I know they can be expensive, but the advice and information you walk away with is so wonderful! Have you joined a writing critique group? In-person group sessions can help your writing out quite a bit. Don't shrink away from advice and constructive criticism. It's out there. 

I've joined both, the Tallahassee Writers Association and the Florida Writers Association. Both organizations have welcomed me in such ways I can't even explain. You need to be around people who are driven and wired the same way you are in order to learn the lessons and solutions of the trade. These folks are willing to be there for you because their struggles are the same. 

Lethal Injection, The Seed is 7 pages, received almost 400 downloads, and I have 5 reviews, 1 from a relative. The story has no action but is described as powerful. How does that happen? Writing classes, conferences, critiques, and encouragement helped my confidence in putting the story out there. It's the readers who will figure out if it works or if it doesn't. If it doesn't work, I agree, it would be helpful if readers would provide better feedback. Unfortunately, they are not required to give anything of value. It's other writers who will fill that void.

So how do we improve as writers and storytellers? Stephen King advises that we read, read, and read some more. However, how do you take the time to read if you're pumping out novel after novel? After all, Dean Koontz does it! He has an excuse. He's famous and people buy his books because it's branded already. Come on! He's Dean Koontz. 

If you don't have the time to read much, do like I do. Audio books! They are great because I pop them in on my way to work, and they start up again when I'm driving home. 


Hope I've been helpful in some ways.

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Get Yourself Some Sophie Kinsella

After the passing of my husband, I needed something to occupy my time and to take my mind off the deep sadness that comes from losing your best friend. I can't praise Sophie Kinsella enough for her stories, and I had no idea how entertained I would become just listening to these two audio books.

In Can You Keep a Secret, Emma Corrigan spills her deepest, darkest secrets to a complete stranger because she kind of gets nervous when her plane is getting ready to crash, and in her last moments of living, it's her way of confessing all her sins before the end. 

The thing is, the plane never crashes. And as it turns out, the complete stranger happens to be going to the same town as Emma because he's the CEO of the company which employs her. How funny is that? It's hilarious and had me entertained for hours.

The Undomestic Goddess is another Kinsella novel which kept my spirits high during some very trying evenings. The protagonist, Samantha Sweeting, is a perfectionist and an attorney trying to make partner in her law firm. When a simple mistake on her part impacts a client by costing them several million dollars, Samantha has a melt down, takes a train to the middle of nowhere, and gets lost. 

When she stops to ask for directions at a huge mansion, she is properly interviewed and accepts a job as a housekeeper. She does everything she can to not blow her cover. She even subcontracts out some of her duties to hide her incompetence.

These stories are hilarious and if you haven't heard of Sophie Kinsella, hopefully these brief summaries will get you out to the books stores exploring some.

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Making Room for Women with Effective Strategic Communication

You know me. I'm all about the progress. And now it's for the women out there. I'm sharing the presentation I put together in my first graduate level course in Strategic Communication. As we all know, women have been major contributors in the workforce for decades and we still manage to fly under the radar when it comes to being recognized for our talents and potential in leading others, especially in male dominated fields such as science and engineering.

Please feel free to share my work as a reminder to organizations that women have made tremendous progress, and we are ready for some recognition.

Thanks, and enjoy.

You "knocked it out of the park" with your slide design and your delivery. Very well done. One of the best. -- Dr. Chupp

My next class is Crisis Communication. That will be fun. Stay tuned!

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Sunday, March 1, 2015

50 Shades of Good Morning

I respect an education. I do. But, oh my GYAD, can we just sound normal regardless how smart we think we are? I never realized how hard we try to sound smart when producing work at school. If you thought an undergraduate course made you stressed with this sort of thing, imagine graduate level work...

Only 1 out of 20 students in my class sound like me: normal. Just say it!! “Good morning.” See how natural that sounds?

How do you say good morning?

Meet the grad student:

  • Might I temporarily engage you in conversation this morning?
  • I’d like to utilize a brief form of discourse in welcoming you this morning.
  • I would like to communicate my excitement in discovering your presence seven hours and thirty six minutes after the stroke of midnight.

Me? I would like to shoot myself before this semester is over. Thank you!

I’m exaggerating, of course. I’m just ashamed that the work I produce in academia sounds nothing like me! I’m actually pretty stoked to celebrate the end of my first graduate level course. Cheers!

Your challenge for today!

How would you say good morning in your most intellectual or creative use of language? Share in the comments below!

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Monday, February 23, 2015

The A to Z Challenge - Stream of Consciousness Writing Prompt

Are you involved in the April A to Z Challenge? What is your theme?

I am starting my work on the upcoming A to Z Challenge for bloggers. That means I have to share my theme so that I can begin to compile what I will be publishing in the month of April and I need your help!

The A to Z Challenge is an opportunity for bloggers to push themselves to produce articles for their blogs which further advance their brands for loyal readers, networked partners, and future followers via a theme. It's also a great way to meet other bloggers and share readers.

Okay, so my blog is about making progress, whether it is with my writing, my career as a technologist, or my own personal and spiritual growth. Therefore, my theme will be "The A to Z Stream of Consciousness Writing Prompt." I will take one word as my seed, and without any filters, I will produce anything and everything on my mind in a stream stemming from that root word (unedited) and I will publish those words on my blog each day until all letters of the alphabet have been used.

Send me a word and I will add it to my list. I need one word for every letter of the alphabet, so please don't be shy! Post your word in the comments or send me an email (diane-carlisle at comcast dot net). There are no restrictions for your suggestions either. :)

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Memorial to my Husband - Mr. Universe

This is my first post in February. I know I've been pretty consistent in posting at least once per week, if not more, but my life has been turned upside down recently and I am taking some time away to recover from the passing of my husband of 27 years. You all know him as Mr. Universe, the love of my life, and the master of everything that is my world. I guess you know why it has been hard for me to jump back into the swing of things, but here I go.

The best way to share with you is to share my message as it appeared to my closest friends and family on Facebook shortly after Tim passed on February 1st:

I want to thank you all for your support and words of encouragement. I'm reading your prayers, every single one. I just didn't want to respond until I had more information to provide, especially to those who did not realize that Tim had been ill. Tim had a soft tissue sarcoma 5 years ago and they successfully removed it. His scans had been clean for 4 years. However, about 3 years ago, I discovered a pinhead sized melanoma on his back. They removed it successfully and we thought nothing more of it. 

In August of 2013, during a routine scan to ensure the earlier sarcoma had not returned, they found some spots on his liver which turned out to be a spread from the melanoma they had removed years before. They gave him a prognosis of 6-9 months (without treatments). We elected treatments. 

In the meantime, we created a bucket list and traveled about having the time of our lives. He passed just like he wanted to, with nobody fretting over him and nobody being sad. I realize it's not the best way to learn of someone's passing, but it's how he wanted it.

I hope in respecting his wishes for as much privacy as I could possibly allow him, I deserve to at least share his story now that he has passed. 

Thank you! 

Please visit Tim's memorial site and leave your blessings. He made his life in the same manner as he viewed the world and he had no regrets, as can be expressed in this photo I took a few short years ago. It is how I will always remember him.

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pick a Word Blog Hop

This is a stream of consciousness exercise. Please join in the fun, or not. If you join, don't feel like you must edit your post if you can help yourself, but visit other participants by taking their links and leave comments!

My word is chopped.

I picked this word out of the air, maybe because I was watching that Food Network show. Kids were competing, like 9 year-olds, using KNIVES! What the hell. Can someone say liability? I just saw a kid cut herself in the chopped kitchen. Am I over-reacting? Why do I choose a word which needs hyphenating and why do I choose words I don’t like to spell…like hyphenating. Sucks. And why did I even picked the word chopped anyway?

What can you do with this word except describe something that gets divided in two or more things, smaller things, smaller meaning lesser. Lesser meaning not more, so if I want more of something, now I have less because I chose to use the chopped and get lesser. Unless of course I keep all parts and glue them back together. My logic sucks, but as promised I have to post this shit, cuss words and all. This is embarrassing and I should never have decided to do this assignment.

Can I get something positive from this word chopped besides this chubby cute kid who just missed an opportunity to win 10 thousand dollars? Oh, yes! It’s the dessert round, now that’s freaking positive as hell. I’m getting another beer and watching this. Kids making dessert has to be better than my writing about the word chopped.

This is my stream of consciousness writing assignment. Please don’t judge me!

Join this linked assignment by adding your own stream of consciousness  work. Pick a word,, any word. Then write your post and share it here. Deadline has not been set yet, but if you spam this blog, you might get chopped!!

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Saturday, January 24, 2015

3 Types of Unbeatable Settings

I know I’ve probably harped on this before and I’m sure there are novelists out there who have used these types of settings, but I’ll go a step further and explain to you why they work for me. Remember, I’m the reader here, so I should know, right?

Put an ordinary man in an extraordinary place. 

Think about this for a moment. An ordinary man works in a third world country providing humanitarian aide to the natives. It is his passion and all the children love him, the men respect him, and the women shy away because he exudes virility and a superior masculinity. You, as the novelist, do not have to work that hard to show anything more about this character.

If you had an ordinary man in a setting where everyone else were ordinary, you would have to transform this character into an extraordinary one in order to stand out, or else what’s the point of this character anyway, right? Sounds like too much work to me and it doesn’t feel authentic.

Take me somewhere for the first time.

I’ve read plenty of novels with settings on beaches, cattle ranches, grand estates, and beautiful islands. I’m sorry, did I put you to sleep there? Why must romance involve beautiful sunsets, roses, and champagne? If you put me on a beach, the dominant sound of waves will ruin it for me, even if we’re supposed to be on the shores of some Caribbean island, unless you have other things going on too!

I want to listen to classical Malhum while walking through the streets of Morocco and biting into a sliver of B’stilla. Put the traditional settings out of your mind. Take me somewhere I can experience for the first time, and if you want to get more into the details you can even share the savory and sweet tastes of your pastry by describing it to me! MmMmm.

Pick an event, any event!

A carnival, a national football game, a political campaign, a wedding. Why do these work? Because it’s easy to hear, smell, see, and touch almost everything imaginable and the writer doesn’t have to work as much. Every beach has water and sand, but a carnival has rides, games, funnel cake, and people walking around with stuffed animals larger than their kids.

If you never had a wedding, here’s your big opportunity. You can make it as extravagant as you like and not have to pay a dime. Everyone loves a wedding. I know it’s been done over and over again, but not by you, right?

Do you have favorite settings that draw you in EVERY. SINGLE. TIME?

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Making Progress with Strategic Communication

My first discussion post for Strategic Communication class asked how we viewed communications in the past and to reflect upon the materials provided by our instructor. Which perspective did we find most helpful to our understanding of strategic communication? You all know me. I can't resist using personal experience in any challenge. This is about progress, so why not?

When Hatch (2013) mentions Malinowski’s photograph of the anthropologist observed by the natives (p. 39) it struck me as funny and reminded me of another photograph I had found years ago. In my photo, one guy is digging a hole. Joe, according to his name tag, is surrounded by several folks with similar name tags, only each of the observers has a title rather than a name, with “manager” on the end of their titles or “lead” at the front: Operations Manager, Lead Technician, Total Quality Manager, Facilities Manager, Heavy Equipment Manager, Lead Gopher, etc. all surrounding, watching, and pointing at Joe, the hole digger. Ironic? How many managers does it take to dig a hole? Zero. Just hire Joe.

This guy has no name.

I think I’ve been kicked around over the years with having a boss clearly focused on the modern organization theory and driven by the contingency theory in organizing teams, to having a new boss who might be a fan of the postmodern perspective. I’ll explain:

My old boss owned a software company and when he put me to work on a project team, I always found myself faced with clients having insatiable appetites for sabotaging my work. Though failures on my part, each project was a successful outcome for my boss, because he had predicted my failure. He would swim in terms such as risks and constraints, assumptions, deliverables, and return on investments, all things measurable.

In my blind desire to be successful, I didn't realize my boss had not placed these same criteria for success on other analysts, so I quit playing his game and played like the others, refusing to provide him with time-wasting flowcharts, timelines, and graphs. Soon enough, I was taking on projects, reaching out to clients, and making successes (completing goals and objectives I had set for myself).

The old boss has since retired, taking with him his mask of the grand narrative. I can relate with the postmodern perspective much more because of my painful experiences dictated by the tyrant.

There is no right way to do things and by the time you’ve grown accustomed to your comfort zone, someone comes along using new terminology for the same things you’ve been working on for years, but now you’ve become seated in your ways and management isn't happy. They want change. The newly employed use fancy words explaining the same symbols of the past and management is in awe.

The emerging discourse, through hidden meetings where veteran employees are excluded and new employees become heroes, plays out until someone at the top realizes there is a communication problem which if left alone could likely embarrass the organization as a whole.

It came at a meeting and was announced that our CEO made this perfectly clear. The word “dashboard” is not to be used in any context when introducing our new portal to members. He insisted there is a public profile and a personal profile. Why not the new flashy “dashboard” terminology the new guy used the other day? Because we are not implementing a DASHBOARD, it’s a personal profile page!

How much does communication or lack thereof play a part in your successes and/or failures?

Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter

Sunday, January 4, 2015

3 Reasons Guest Blogging is a Good Idea

by Stephanie Faris

If I write one more article on “5 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015,” I’m going to lapse into a coma. I’ve written so many, I’ve lost count. But the benefit of all of that work is that I’ve put a great deal of time into studying the best ways to market your small business.

As writers, we’re all small business owners in a sense. We’re working hard to “build our brand” and engage customers (readers). Many of us have read that one of the best ways to do this is through blog tours. Blog tours allow us to appear on other people’s sites, participating in Q & As, posting blurbs and doing guest blogs like this one. But you don’t have to do a blog tour to get the benefits of appearing on someone else’s blog. Here are three ways guest blogging can help you build a reader base.

Reason #1: You Gain New Followers

Bloggers have long expressed frustration that they work hard to write a thoughtful blog post, only to have no one show up to comment. When you appear on someone else’s blog, you get exposure to all of that blog’s readers and you send your own readership over to meet the blog host. I read a large group of blogs each day and I found most of them on other blogs. One great post could connect with your host’s audience and earn you readers for years.

Reason #2: It Increases Search Engine Visibility

Google wants to make sure when you search for something, you get the best results possible. Over the years, the company has worked hard to reward good content and penalize bad, spammy sites. A page is considered a better authority on a subject if there are links pointing to it. When you guest blog, the host posts a link to your blog and you post a link to it—both of those behaviors make Google’s algorithms happy. The more our blogs are connected, the better our chances that when someone types in search terms relevant to what we’re writing, that person will see our blogs on the first page of those results.

Reason #3: It Builds Community

The community in the blogosphere is amazing. The more we cross-post and promote each other, the tighter that community becomes. Many of us participate in events like the A to Z Challenge or the Insecure Writers Support Group, which means often we all have the same blogging friends in common. Guest posts give us the opportunity to introduce our own friends to the bloggers we’ve met, growing the community even further.

Instead of waiting until you have a book to promote, consider contacting fellow bloggers with an offer to guest blog. You can return the favor by hosting those bloggers on your own blog. Not only will it help your Google visibility, but it will also introduce you to new bloggers who are probably eager to find great new blogs to read.


And thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by and sharing with us! I am in 100% agreement with all three reasons.

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 

On Amazon NOW!


Smiley faceIf you enjoyed this article and would like to receive future articles in your inbox --- Subscribe to our free newsletter