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3 Key Qualities to a Successful Blogger

First, let me begin by saying that I would not (yet) consider myself a successful blogger in terms of a following or any sort of fanfare.  However, I do have 15 years marketing experience along with a degree in marketing from Sonoma State University.  (NOTE: I also took a marketing and advertising semester-long course at the UMASS Amherst.  This foundation has gained me the ability to recognize effective qualities executed by a blogger.  Below, I’ve bulleted the top three qualities that I believe are critical to an effective blog.


Be honest with your readers.  Don’t spew on the screen keystrokes full of b.s. this will turn away readers.  If you are not an expert in the field in which you are writing, at least admit it.  This will actually gain you more respect than trying to be someone you’re not.

I talk a lot about gaining favorable attention by an appeal to pride.  Favorable attention only works if you truly mean it.  Although, it may gain you a short-term boost in reader traffic, these readers will eventually catch on.  If you’re not dishonest or the compliments you’re delivering are just an illusion to gain more followers, your long-term retention percentage will be extremely low.


This can be broken down into 2 elements:

  1. UNIQUENESS:  What sets you apart from other bloggers in your category?  Do you stand out or do you blend in with the rest of the crowd?  Keep in mind, the crowd I speak of is a rather sizable blogosphere of 152 million (as of July 2014) with more bloggers  adding to this population on a daily basis.  Is the topic of your blog creatively engaging?  One of the best ways to answer this question is by following other bloggers within your targeted market?  Are you repeating the same things they’re saying in their blogs?  Or is your blog teaching them something that they can get nowhere else?  Or if the purpose of your blog is to entertain, does your blog have a uniquely magnetic personality?  Kurt Mortensen is the author of the best selling book “Maximum Influence” where he explores his ’12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion.’  This is a great book for salespeople and I have learned a tremendous amount by reading Kurt’s work.
  2. WIFFM:    What’s in it for your reader?  To answer this question, you need to step outside of yourself and review your blog from your targeted customer’s point of view.  You should be able to identify at least one WIIFM within each of your blogs.  What are some take aways from your blog?  Is there at least one take away that’s either changed or enhanced there reader’s perspective in a way they’ve never looked at that idea before?  As your blog gains popularity you will know if you’re achieving this based on the comments your followers are leaving.

This is the area in which my blogging struggles the most.  Interestingly enough, attention to detail is a considerable strength in my Extra Innings trilogy.  Of course, writing in the genre of historical fiction, I better pay close attention to detail for if any of my readers were alive during the period in which this story takes place, they would surely call me out on any oversights.  Granted, the McGee twins are fictional characters so that does give me, as the writer, some wiggle room.  As for blogging, I struggle with attention to detail mostly because I am a new author trying to build a popular reputation and so I feel rushed to produce an eruption of blogs.  My advice is to slow down.  Take your time.  Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct before clicking publish.   Review your blog for rambling.  Are you repeatedly repeating yourself?  Repetitiveness and rambling seem to be common mistakes in many of the blogs I read.  In today’s fast-paced society, ain’t nobody got time for that.   Especially, my YA target market.  I’m lucky if I’m able to capture five minutes of their undivided attention.  I recommend saving your blog as a draft, sleeping on it or walking away for a little while.  Then, go back and review before publishing.  Ask yourself: Are you making your point clear and concise?  There’s nothing worse than having a captivating title to your blog but the body that proceeds it is irrelevant.  The details of your blog must be relevant to it’s title AND to your target market.

Hope this helps boost traffic to your blog!  Please let me know and stay tuned for more marketing tips!


Why Twins?

Identical twins have always fascinated me.  It was purely a selfish reason to have the main characters of Extra Innings be identical twins because it gave me a purposeful excuse to research the topic.  As the original storyboards were being developed and my excitement grew I realized that this topic gave the story very unique opportunities.   After all there are very few fictional novels on the market about identical twins.  I think the trilogy would make for a fun movie.

I was fortunate enough to encounter a handful of identical twins throughout my research.  One question in particular, I will not disclose in this blog as it will give away too much information. Readers will just have to complete the trilogy to find out.

One of the first and very apparent concepts I learned was that the general stereotype of identical twins acting identical is grossly mistaken.  Learning this really helped me to develop the characters of Jimmy and Billy McGee.  I wanted them to be almost polar opposites so I was pleased to learn this concept is widely justified.  At the same time, this is where the pieces throughout the story become intellectualized WITHOUT becoming ponderous.

The correct term for identical twins is monozygotic.  This is where two embryos are formed from a single (mono) fertilized egg.  Because the two embryos are formed from a single egg/sperm fertilization, the twins have the same genetic origins and, therefore, the identical DNA.  However, despite this shared gene set, they have clearly individual personalities.  Studies are done as to whether parents should encourage this individualization more by not permitting the twins to share the same bedroom growing up or not to dress them alike, etc.  Right from Chapter 1 of the Diamond Thieves the reader learns that Jimmy and Billy both share the attic as their bedroom  I touch a little bit on their infancy and the whole concept of “twin ESP” and “twin talk” but mostly the story focuses on how the cavern of their individuality expands as their teenage years move along.  Still, what I find fascinating is how despite their differences they both often find the same platform with which to express themselves.  My favorite example of this is in Book 3 (A Hero Among Thieves) when both twins are experiencing stress they both express it through writing.  Jimmy, the more deliberate and intellectual of the two, completely emerges himself in a research paper at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) while Billy, the more free-spirited and creative type begins to write songs and poems about his experiences in Korea (during the Korean Conflict).  It’s also interesting that Jimmy naturally begins to develop a rigid routine to his mornings at college while Billy is forced into a rigid routine with the United States Air Force.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) the reader is immediately told that Jimmy and Billy McGee are “clearly individuals.”  Behaviors, actions, expressions and thoughts help to illustrate this.  However, this book constellates more around the battle over their baseball diamond and how to handle the prejudice of their enemies “the mob” with respects to their good friend T.J. who is black.  With respect to this topic, both Jimmy and Billy have the same feelings although Jimmy (like his character describes him) is more in tune and responsive to T.J.’s emotions.

Book 2 (Race of the Gemini) lives up to his title by digging deep into the progression of these boys growing more different.  The story describes a lot of how one twin (Billy) feels like a living shadow of the other (Jimmy).  This was an interesting idea that I picked up in many of my interviews with twins.  They felt that the other was more of a favorite of one or both parents.  Some felt the jealousy of one twin being more popular in school or better at sports or a natural at socializing.  As I asked more questions I was very intrigued by the pressure and jealousy that was felt around this topic.  Often times these feelings sparred a sense of competition between then, hence the title “Race of the Gemini.”  The trick with writing about this was trying not to intentionally downplay one twin over the other.  If the readers found themselves having a favorite among the two brothers, I wanted that to be their choice and not triggered by some intentional or subliminal seed I planted.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) both twins love baseball, however, Jimmy is a team’s all-star batter while Billy has the Ace pitching skills.  Also, Jimmy has a closer relationship with Skip, who is more mature and logical while Billy was closer friends with Whitey – the wild and fun one in the group.

Lastly, I wanted to play around with the whole concept of “switching places” or “trading places” as this was asked of each set of twins I interviewed.  I was surprised to find that this was not just a childhood experience but also performed on more of a strategic level as teenagers.  This was executed for various reasons allowing one of the twins to practically be in two places at once.  For the McGee twins, Billy insisted on Jimmy covering for him multiple times so he could sneak out of the house and be with his girlfriend or go drinking with his friends.  Jimmy, not being a big fan of drinking became almost the victim here so Billy, who was grounded, could still go out and party.

Overall, I had as much fun writing Extra Innings as I did doing all the pre-writing research.  I hope its readers fall in love with the McGee twins and all their friends as much as I have.  #extrainnings


My Mission

Recently, I attended a marketing conference in Akron, Ohio.  The primary topic of this conference was how to create a valuable mission statement.  A mission statement defines what an organization or business is and why it exists.  Mission Statements are only effective if they are communicated throughout the organization and reinforced by its leader(s).  This inspired me to think about why I exist as an author and singer/songwriter.  Why do I write?  What am I trying to accomplish with my writings?  Pinpointing this objective was really quite simple.  MY MISSION IS TO CONNECT AND INSPIRE.   I wish to connect with individuals and inspire them in a way that improves their life and way of thinking.

The origin of this objective comes from one of the first songs I ever wrote.  The song is called “Runaway.”  It’s a mostly-acoustic rock ballad that was inspired from a television special my UMASS roommates and I were watching in our apartment in Puffton Village in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The program was on teenage runaway girls.  These inner-city girls had ran away from home for various reasons and were living in poverty on the streets.  With no work experience and little education these girls were resorting to prostitution in order to survive.  As soon as the program was over, I went into my bedroom, picked up my 6-string Ibanez guitar and wrote “Runaway” in about 15 minutes.  The story focuses on one girl and how helpless and trapped she feels needing to “work the streets” to make money.  The song also talks about the girl’s family who is searching for her to bring her back home where she is loved.  One night after performing the song on campus, I told a friend that I hoped that one day “Runaway” would hit the radio.  I imagined that someone would be playing the song on their car radio and a girl who was thinking about running away from home would overhear it and change her mind.  If I could positively inspire just one teenager, I would feel the song was a huge success.

The same is true for my song “Mornie Rivers” which is a edgy rock tune about a friend of mine who overcame his heroin addiction.

As for the Extra Innings trilogy, although my goal was to tell a story that had never been told, I began to discover that Jimmy and Billy McGee’s lives were progressing into a path of constructive value.  I envision many readers extracting a positive life lesson or two from the experiences of these fictional identical twins – I know I have.  Of course, these lessons are not learned overnight and in this case cover the course of 3 books.  I suppose this is true of most people that life lessons are learned over a period of time fashioned by a string of ups and downs.  I look forward to hearing about any inspirations my readers gain from reading the Extra Innings trilogy.  And I hope I have done a good job of painting a realistic picture of the story’s setting and its characters so its readers feel connected throughout every page.



Detailing Characters & Settings: Is More Less Better Than More?

In the collection of conversations I’ve had around the topic of character & setting details in a literary work, I have heard an overwhelming response of folks in favor of authors who provide vast amounts of detail when describing a character’s physical description. And the same goes for a setting if its a key location (such as the town or street where a character lives, a room where important pieces of the story take place, etc).  For example, chapters 1 -3 of The Diamond Thieves well-depicts the main characters physical description and personalities. This is especially important since they are identical twins yet extremely different personality-wise. I have only heard of readers preferring that a character be more left up to that reader’s imagination for minor more utility role characters & places in a book.  The beginning chapters also provide an abundance of visual imagery to describe the small, fictional, Southern town of Eugene, Mississippi.