Murder Blog Is Moving – Yay!

Though I’m biting my nails to the quick, I’m very excited to announce that Murder Blog is moving to a self-hosted site. The new site, if all goes according to plan, will be the same domain: http://www.suecoletta.com. I’m adding the upgrade to redirect http://www.crimewriterblog.com to the new site too, so, God willing, I won’t lose all of you in the process.

Why am I chancing this right before Marred is set for pre-release?

Because I’m a glutton for punishment I want to do so many things that WordPress.com won’t allow. As many of you know, we’re at the mercy of WordPress.com to tell us what we can and cannot do.

That’s not okay with me anymore. Also, I can only go so far with WordPress.com. I’d need to add images to the sidebar to sell books, I can’t use a Hello Bar, or any HTML coding. With the move I can also get better SEO ratings because I’ll able to track what works and what doesn’t. The reasons are endless.

WordPress.com was my home for so long it’s still kind of sad to leave. But I’m a firm believer in looking forward, not back. In order for me to achieve my new goals I must make a change. So, I’m jumping in with both feet and hoping for the best (after hours and hours of research).

The only con that I can see is the ability to reblog, which you cannot do on WordPress.org. However, if anyone wishes to republish a post, contact me using my email or contact form, both of which can be found here.

In this post, as well as notifying you of the change I figured I’d share the new features in case anyone else is thinking of moving. If you are, here are simple step-by-step instructions on how to do it: Moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

The best part of moving to a self-hosted are plugins. Here’s a list of some of the ones I’m going to use and what they do:

Comment Luv

I love this plugin. It’s sharing to the fullest degree. If you’re not familiar with this plugin, I’ll explain. When you comment on a post a link will appear next to your name with your latest post. So if you have a new book release, a kickass post, or even just a recent post you’re especially proud of, come by and leave me a comment. All my readers will see your link and you could get new readers. How cool is that?

Shareaholic or Easy Social Share (haven’t decided yet)

I already have share buttons, but these plugins allow for sharing buttons on the sidebar, big or small, you have more flexibility and more options. Plus, you can track your shares. Very cool.

Dig Dig

Allows a floating share bar. Not sure if the others do as well. Need to research more.

Google Analytics by Yoast

This plugin tracks your site and gives lots of information about your stats.

Yoast SEO

I just took a webinar from Mary at Write to Done about using SEO to optimize posts for first page ranking on Google. Stay tuned for an eye-opening post about how to best optimize your posts. She recommended this plugin.

Akismet

Ban that spam!

Front End Editor

Checks for typos and grammatical errors. A must, in my book!

Copyright Proof

So no one can steal your content and post as their own. I’m really not worried about it, but I might as well include it.

Mail Chimp for WordPress

No brainer. It intergrades Mail Chimp with the site so I can use an actual opt-in box rather than the hassle of using an image and having readers click a million times to get to the sign-up page.

Mail Poet

This is cool. It will send you guys an email of my new posts and when I reply to your comments. Because I don’t think I’ll be in your readers anymore, I needed a way to reach you guys. You should have the option of choosing whether you receive a “digest” or “instant”. Digest would be a weekly roundup and instant is self-explanatory.

Facebook and Twitter Widgets

Post directly to FB from the site. Or add Facebook Feed to show your custom feed for your author page. There’s also a Facebook Like Box widget. Show your latest Twitter timeline.

Hello Bar

Instead of those annoying pop-ups a Hello Bar gives a call-to-action discreetly at the top of each post and page.

Social Media Widget

Posts automatically to all my social media sites.

Goodreads

This is really cool. You can ask your readers to add your book to their To-Read List, which raises your rank on Goodreads. All you authors want one of these, huh? Squee!

Subscribe to Comments

Allows non-followers to subscribe to comments so when I reply they’ll get a notification.

Easy Digital Download and WooCommerce

To sell books directly from site, with shopping cart, discount options, and user data. Turn your site into an online store on the sidebar. How cool is that?

Love It Pro

Because WordPress.org does not use “likes,” this plugin puts a tiny heart at the bottom of a post so you can “love it.” Awesomely adorable!

Jet Pack

This is a beast of a plugin with all kinds of features, including a social sharing. I need this in order to switch, but there are tons of other things to do with this plugin. I can hardly wait to see what they are.

WP Touch 3

To make your content mobile-friendly.

Super Cache

This plugin has more users than there are people in Costa Rico. Why? Because it streamlines your site for super fast uploading and allows you to use a static page, like I do now, turning your blog into a website as well.

Notification Bar

Because WordPress.org does not have one, I’ll have to install this plugin in order to see my notifications.

Contact Form 7

I get so many people using my contact form on the front page that I’d be remiss not to include one on my new site.

BackUp WordPress

This is really cool. You never know when problems can arise. So with this, you back up every time you publish and if anything goes wrong…voila. You’re up and running in minutes. Incidentally, you can get your backups emailed to you so they don’t take up space on your hard drive. Cool, right?

Uber Menu (premium feature)

This only costs $19., but I think it’s important to have. With this menu option you can create drop down menus, layered menus, all kinds of different menus to make navigation easy for your users.

Security Ninja

There are two. The Lite, which is free, and the regular. This protects your site from hackers. Very important. Wouldn’t you agree?

Pretty Pink Lite

This is cool, too. You know how bitly.com shortens links but turns them generic? Well, Pretty Pink allows you to customize short links for sharing, using your domain name, or anything else you want, and tracks that link wherever it goes. You can see how well a post is doing on Twitter, or any other SM site, by using this feature.

WP Google Fonts

No more paying for the custom fonts that have a limited supply and you can only use one font for certain things, like header, site title, post font. With WP Google Fonts you can choose from 600 fonts and use them wherever and whenever you want in your theme.

Font

And this free plugin allows you to change the font in portions of your posts and pages, and/or change the color too.

YARPP

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin allows readers to see related content, like you get with WordPress.com. I get many click-throughs to other posts this way, so I’d be remiss not to have this plugin.

Automattic (yup, two “t’s)

If you’re thinking of switching, you should add this plugin to ensure your WP site stays up-to-date and working properly. With one click you’re all set, and safe from hackers, too.

Plugin Performance Plugin

You can install 50 good plugins and if you install 1 bad one, your site will crawl to a stop. By utilizing this plugin, it will test your plugins to make sure they’re working for you instead of against.

There are so many other plugins that I haven’t listed here. Honestly, there’s a plugin for every need imaginable. If you’re thinking of switching to a self-hosted site, you need to be careful when choosing plugins. Like anything else, there are people looking to infect your site with malware, and they do it by offering free plugins. I’ve stuck to WordPress recommendations and ones I know others use and love.

So, I’m off to pack up and move. I’m told my site (this one) should not go down or become temporarily available while I’m implementing the switch.

Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side!

Go Set a Watchman Blog Tour

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman follows Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as she returns to her hometown, Maycomb, Alabama. Yearly, she travels from New York to Alabama, and the novel opens with her long train ride. Jean Louise muses about the past, blogger-image--1888984075surrounded by loved ones and friends, for a large chunk of the beginning of this novel.

Once home, she unearths secrets about her father, Atticus Finch, an attorney and former legislator. Discovering harsh truths, she breaks ties that held Maycomb close to her heart and her inner child alive and naïve, despite being in her early twenties. This revelation in adulthood gives her an eye-opening understanding of her past, present, and her heritage as a Southern woman as the Civil Rights Movement takes shape.

The most prominent theme here is racism. Jean Louise’s altercation with Atticus and Henry “Hank” Clinton–Jean Louise’s love interest and Atticus’s junior partner in his law firm–about their resistance to the NAACP in Alabama is exacerbated by her father’s long-standing ties with the KKK. An interesting aspect is that the issue of race was brought into Atticus’ home. The story shows how it affected a young woman who had such high opinions of her father, then became crushed by the truth.

I read a fascinating analysis of the symbols used in this novel. For instance, the title itself refers to the Biblical Isaiah 21:6. “For thus hath that Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” — King James version.

Early interpretations assert that the watchman refers to Atticus, and how he serves to undermine the morality with which Jean Louise had oriented herself in the world. It could also be said that Jean Louise herself becomes her own watcher, observing the world through her own eyes rather than her father’s. Her nickname “Scout” seems to favor the idea that scouts range ahead to see what’s coming. Which makes me wonder if Lee was intentional in her decision to give her this nickname. My guess is that she knew exactly what she was doing with these symbols, and that is truly commendable.

That said, this novel does not follow contemporary structure. In that, there is no real hook, large chunks of backstory, continuity issues, and the entire beginning is mainly musings with very little tension. Other than when she locks herself in her bunkroom and can’t get out. Which, honestly, didn’t work for me.

I will say, a large part of the problems I had with this novel is that I was expecting a crime novel. This story is more of a politically, racially-motivated family drama. And those who enjoy this type of story will find much to like. For me, reading an unedited first draft is not something I’d do twice.

Many loved this novel, however, so please take my comments at face-value. This is only one opinion…mine. I don’t normally review books that I can’t in good conscience give at least four stars. To shred someone’s hard work goes against everything I hold dear, but I also refuse to lie and tell you this book kept me up nights, flipping pages.

I’ll leave you with this. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a cherished piece of literary history. If you want to see what Harper Lee envisioned for what happens next, Go Set a Watchman is definitely worth the read. If you’d rather not ruin your memories, then perhaps skipping this sequel is best.

Your call.

Next, we’ll continue with the series Murder at Cabin 28.

Looking for a way to commit murder? Get a sneak peek of 50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters, and learn how to get your FREE copy.

It’s Official… I Did It!

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement, fear, anxiety, angst, and overwhelming joy all rolled into one enormous feeling of upheaval. Why? Because I landed a publishing deal for my novel MARRED!!!

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Now that the legal issues are out-of-the-way, the contract signed and sent back, I can finally share the news. MARRED will be released this fall.

And it terrifies me.

The world will see my words, experience my story.

What if no one likes it? What if readers shred me in reviews? What if it doesn’t sell?

These are real fears, albeit probably foolish ones. I have to wonder if other authors feel this way, too. Not many talk about this aspect of publishing. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want potential readers to know. Whatever the reason, I believe admitting that I’m human with real fears about failure is just being honest. How can that be a bad thing? Actually, I feel a little better saying it out loud writing it.

victims

When I started taking my writing seriously I had one specific goal in mind, to find an agent and get traditionally published by a large house. I stuck to that goal until it blinded me. Because when you have your heart set on one specific way to get published you tend to shut out other opportunities. Looking back, I realize how one-sided this line of thinking was. In today’s publishing world there are many ways to turn your dreams into reality. Don’t be like me and waste years on only one path. Branch out, consider your options.

Which is exactly what I did this year. Instead of querying agents I decided to go direct to publishers, a frightening venture indeed. I sent my manuscript to four publishers. If you decide to go this route here’s what you need to keep in mind: agents do NOT want a manuscript that’s been “shopped around”. Meaning, if you send your manuscript to every small and medium press and then get rejected, you’ve effectively tied their hands. Very few debuts get picked up by one of the Big Five. I think the statistics show 1% out of 100. You have a better shot of winning the lottery. Which is why agents look at these small to medium presses as great alternatives.

Does this mean you shouldn’t try? Absolutely not. Just don’t close your eyes to other options, like I did.

I sent my manuscript to my top three choices and to one imprint I’d never heard of (still don’t know who they are). And then — BAM, an offer. By email. As I read and reread the email I kept waiting for the word “unfortunately” to pop up, certain I had missed it along the way.

Hearing about a team of editors who LOVED my story nearly knocked me off my chair.

I glanced up at my husband, Bob, who was on his way upstairs. “Honey, I think I just scored a publishing deal.”

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He twirled back to me. “What? How?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Remember when I told you I was sending out a few submissions to test the waters? Well, one of them already wrote back. They said they loved my story. A whole team of editors loved my story.”

“What do we do? Ask for a contract?”

“It’s here. Now. Along with all kinds of other stuff, including a sheet for the Cover Art Department asking me for my input; how I want the cover to look.”

Bob didn’t move, shock registering on his face. A pause. And then his brow furrowed with confusion. “But I thought you’d get a call.”

“Me too. And fireworks, a marching band, a plane skywriting the news above our house.”

“Maybe you should read the contract before we get too excited.”

He was right. And so I did.

Moments later, an unintentional shriek escaped from somewhere deep inside me. “It’s true! I’m officially a published author!”

Hooping and hollering ensued.

Next, came the writing of emails to ask advice from other authors I respect who’ve been through this process, followed by running outside to tell the neighbors (we live on a mountain with two other houses so we’re all extremely close).

I then buckled down, went over all the material my new publisher sent and wrote letters to the other houses thanking them for their time. I was now committed. This was it. My dream was becoming a reality right before my eyes.

Sue Coletta, Published Author.

It seemed too good to be true. Something must be wrong… that little bugger self-doubt creeping in, again.

Now came the hard part… I couldn’t tell anyone. Not until I had signed the contract, the deal official. Although, if someone happened to cross paths with me during that period, virtually or in person, I felt compelled to share my news, but swore them to secrecy. A few friends who’d been fighting along with me, down this road called “the traditional path into publishing”, got an email too.

awesome

A release this fall is extremely quick, even for a small press. For some reason, that I am trying very hard not to question, the publisher had a few spots open for their fall release and want to include MARRED. To complete everything in time will be a lot of hard work, but hey, that’s nothing new. I worked three straight years without ever taking time off, even a half-day. That’s how focused I was in achieving my dream; it meant everything to me. Still does.

Without missing a beat, I set a new goal, a new dream, one I will work just as hard for, if not harder. In my opinion, this is one of the many aspects that’s so great about this whole writing gig. You never know everything; there’s always more to learn, strive for, look forward to, a focal point to zero in on. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it a gazillion more times. Set a goal and then rejoice when you accomplish it. The more small goals you achieve along the way to your big dream the more confidence you build. In theory.

This is a huge win for me. Now it’s time to work toward my next goal, and the next, and the next. It’s a never-ending cycle that ebbs and flows as your craft reaches new heights.

No other business that I’m aware of can say that, just as no other group is as supportive as the writing community. Without all of you, I could never have made it this far. You’ve been my rock when rejections stung, my cheering section when I achieved small successes, and my inspiration when I felt like I should hang up my keyboard. Writers are the most caring, generous people in the world, and I feel blessed to be part of this community.

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Before I let you go enjoy the rest of your weekend, I wanted to also let you know that I bought a new domain for this site: http://www.suecoletta.com. Crimewriterblog.com will still work too. I’ve heard horror stories about successful authors who couldn’t buy their own name because others bought all the sites to profit on their success, writing posts, selling books, basically posing as that author. So before I ever sell one book I wanted to make sure this could never happen to me.

I’m sure I’ll share what I learn as I work with the editors, artists, etc., and show you my cover once it’s available. This is such an exciting time in my life. I never thought I’d be so happy to do the little things, like updating my PayPal to a business account to sell books at signings, conferences, and the like. If you haven’t experienced it yet — it’s awesome!

I’m riding this high for as long as possible. I even took most of the day off yesterday. It felt so weird being away from my keyboard.

happy ny

Ready or not, here I come!

A Nice Surprise

Over the weekend I received a nice surprise from Robin Rivera and Heather Jackson from Write On, Sisters! They were just nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award, something they deserve in spades! So, I’m reading along, learning more about these talented authors, when I see my name. They nominated me, too!

real neat award

I’m always so honored by these awards. For one, it tells me that I’m not just talking to myself, even though some days it feels like I am. And secondly, someone thought enough of me and my site to take the time to nominate me. That’s really cool. So, if you have a minute check out their blog. You can find them listed on the sidebar, in the menu, and in my Crime Writer’s Resource, or go here. It’s an excellent blog devoted mainly to craft.

To accept this award I must answer five original questions that Robin and Heather thought up specifically for this nomination. Here they are with my answers…

What book, show, or movie do you wish you’d written?

There are so many. If I need to pick just one I’d say Silence of the Lambs. Do I really need to explain why? This book, then adapted to film, paved the way for the serial killer thriller. Its intricate plotline, characters, and an antagonist you couldn’t help but like — even if he was a cannibal — upped the stakes and made it nearly impossible to put down.

If you wrote fan fiction, what would you write for and why? If you already write fan fiction just say why.

Hannibal, the TV series. The murder scenes alone are some of the most creative I’ve ever seen. But, I doubt I could ever do it justice. I just don’t see how it could be improved, or changed in a way that would warrant attention.

What famous author (living or dead) would you most want to team up with to write a book?

This one’s easy. Larry Brooks. He’s a master storyteller and one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever known. Maybe someday, eh?

If you could have one day to use a time machine to go forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?

Forward. To the day my début novel hits the shelf so I know how much longer I have to wait and which novel it will be. Ha! Sad but true.

Have you ever written anything that you wish you hadn’t?

Oh, absolutely! A short story that I posted on this site AND on Prose & Cons. Nightmare! Thank God for the delete button. I’d also say my first novel, but that really wouldn’t be accurate because I was learning the craft and if wasn’t for that novel I wouldn’t know half of what I know today. Would I ever want the public to read it? Hell no! Hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?

So, that’s it. Now comes the part when I nominate other bloggers. Which is not my favorite thing to do. Because I follow hundreds of blogs it’s difficult to choose just a few. So, I’m going to cheat a little here and nominate some upcoming guests instead. Ben Wallace, Adam from Law Enforcement Technical Advisor, and Lucy from Blondewritemore. Incidentally, Robin Rivera will be joining us next month, too, so keep an eye out for that.

And here are your questions…

1. What is your all-time favorite book and why?

2. If you were a serial killer what fictional character would you be (books, TV, or movies)? 

3.  What is the best and worst piece of writing or blogging advice you’ve ever received, and why?

4. What’s the best thing about blogging for you?

5. (Barbara Walters question — confession time!) What’s your guilty pleasure social media site and how long do you spend goofing off there when you should be working? 

I can’t wait to read your answers!

I also nominate all of you. My blog would not be where it is if it weren’t for awesome people like yourselves. So, for anyone who wants this award, consider yourself nominated. Grab the award, say who nominated you — moi — and answer the questions. And don’t forget to tell me about it in the comments so I can read your answers. I’m laser-focused on my WIP now so I’m behind in reading posts… again.

Next up for murder blog: A guest post by a homicide detective who still works in the Major Crimes Unit. This promises to be an exciting, informative post that you won’t want to miss.

As always, if you haven’t received your copy of 50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters go here, or read a sample here.

Where I’ve been… and why.

I don’t normally talk about my daily life. I guess I’m private that way. But I feel I need to clear some things up. I’ve been seriously lacking lately in reading your blog posts. I know this and I’m doing the best I can to rectify this. There is a good reason for it though. One of my dogs– Gideon, I’ve talked about him before– is gravely ill.

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Gideon

 

He’s been sick for a few weeks, but took a turn for the worse six days ago. Without going into detail, he requires massive amounts of my time while I attempt to keep him alive, with a quality life. At the same time my other dog, Cascius, is seething with jealously. So I try to give him extra attention. It’s both physically and emotionally draining.  lazylion

As such, everything else falls to the wayside. Family first. It’s a must.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish Gideon would magically bounce back, return to being healthy, running and playing. I wish I could leave him for a few hours to see my granddaughter, too. She’s growing so fast and we’re missing it. But the sad reality is I don’t know how much time he has left, could be days, could be weeks. When I do get a break I read to escape the horrors of my reality. Books are magical in that way. Don’t you agree?

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

So, I haven’t abandoned you. I always have and always will support you in any way I can. I just need a little time to deal with the ones I love. I think everyone can understand that.

I do have some exciting news, a surprise guest appearance by the author of six critically acclaimed thrillers, who’s also written two of the best craft books I’ve ever read. A must for every writer’s toolbox, IMO. I’ve also added some new links on the crime writer’s resource page and added menu items. More on all that later. For now, I’ll hold you in suspense.

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This pic just never gets old.