Blog Talk: Tips for a successful first year as a new blogger

Monday, May 18, 2015

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Blog Talk: Tips for a successful first year as a new blogger


Once upon a time I considered writing a “first year’s review of a blog” post (it's the latest craze). Actually, I had it completed and then decided against it. It was long and tedious (not unlike some of my other posts...or this one) and in the end I don’t think it said anything extremely noteworthy. I had blog visitor stats, demographics, clicks, time spent – everything you can get from Google Analytics. But in the end, it was by personal observation that I was really able to tell when my blog was doing “good” or “bad”(which of course is all very subjective). 

So instead of posting my first year stats to bore, shame, excite, or elicit smugness in others, I’ve decided on a simple post that states exactly when I had the greatest “success” for this blog; success in terms of shares, comments, and interaction. 

These tips are really nothing new. You can find similar thoughts on pretty much any “successful blog” Google search, but these are personal observations for this site and a source for confirmation of what other bloggers have been saying all along. These are in order of greatest value to me, however, they all really go hand-in-hand so it’s hard to say that one resulted in a greater following that another.

1.       When I started making friends – You hear this everywhere and it really follows the same in real life: If you go out and make friends, then those friends are more likely to want to hang out with you, talk nicely about you, and help you out. I learned this pretty quickly because I had heard it from others, but it took me about 2 months in to get serious about it. Mostly because I wanted to tweak my site to be aesthetic and user friendly before I started recruiting friends and followers. No one wants to follow something that looks like a hot mess and has no foundation. Once I was comfortable enough running my blog then I jumped on some blog hops. One of the best ones, personally, was Feature and Follow Friday; a weekly hop put on by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. I liked this hop because it had a different writing prompt every week which gave me material and a place to show it off. Two birds with one stone, great people, and entertaining – what more could you ask for?


2.       When I became sincere – This probably sounds awful, but let’s be honest, when you first start a blog it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. You want visitors, and comments, and ratings, etc. In a naive but honest effort, you might start link dumping, turning to clickbait, or unknowingly spamming communities with link drops. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be the @ss of the blogosphere, but I was just following what I saw others doing. On blogs I’d comment with a “just stopping by” or “great post” and my link. I didn’t add to the conversation. Not that I didn’t want to but I had some times visited so many sites previously that I just started leaving generic comments. Other times I was just commenting to let them know I existed. There’s nothing wrong with leaving one of those comments, but if you are expecting a visit in return then you should think about adding to the discussion. Something as simple as saying you agree and with what part you agree with doesn’t take much more time than leaving a generic comment and it is more likely to engage the blogger and peak their interest in you/your blog. Just spend 10 minutes of your day (whenever you’re checking into your blog) to hit others’ and leave a genuine comment. See what happens.



3.       When I let it go and just did me – Don’t get caught up in the fight for the top. Easier said than done. But let’s be real, those guys at the top have been around a long time. Your one week to three years doesn’t have much on them. When you start blogging for you – which is what why many start blogging in the first place – then you start writing more original and interesting pieces. Thus the visitors and comments come more naturally. This ties in with the sincerity point. If you post the same thing as everyone else just because you heard that it is the “hottest” topic or “most interesting”, but you yourself do not think that it is, then that lack of interest will come across in your writing. It’s like forcing yourself to write a philosophical reflection the ever-beloved Hamlet. Sometimes you just don’t f#@%ing like Hamlet. Or Shakespeare for that matter. Furthermore, readers like variety and if they’re following the same blogs that you are retrieving ideas from, then it is even more so in your best interest to switch up the topics.


4.       When I found my groove – Everyone’s groove is different and you’re probably not going to hit it right away. But you probably won’t realize the exact moment that you hit it either. I certainly didn’t. But at some point you start to look back and realize that you’re pretty comfortable with your writing topics, writing style, and writing process. Your readers will notice it too and that consistency is what brings the repeat readers (true followers) back. At this point you’ll likely notice the high visitor numbers from spam sites drops and your uniqueness and repeat rating increases. It all comes with practice. My first posts are vastly different than they are now. Not that they were particularly bad, but I found what worked and what didn’t work for me.



5.        When I was everywhere but couldn't properly dedicate time to those places – And by everywhere I mean everywhere; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, BlogLovin, Networked Blogs, Book Bloggers (NING), Goodreads, and more! Everyone has a different niche. I quickly found out that I was not a Pinterest or Tumblr person (even though my sites are still up). But the others have worked out quite well for me because they each reach a different set of readers. My casual readers come from Facebook and Twitter, consistent followers from BlogLovin, and authors/publishers/marketers from Book Bloggers. Now, instead of trying to post the same thing everywhere and keep them all UTD, I just post specific topics to my target audiences’ respective site. It’s easier for me and it doesn’t load their feeds.



I don’t have the most popular blog. But that isn’t my idea of “success”. What I do have is a pretty strong core of readers who follow, comment, and share posts with those who share interests – which is my idea of “success” – and it took a solid two years to this level. Don’t give up after your first week/month/6 months/year. Your blog will develop, perhaps slowly, but surely if you take into consideration these fundamental blogging points. 

Blog Talk: How much anonymity do you keep as a blogger?

Monday, May 11, 2015

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When I first tried my hand at blogging a few years ago, I was careful not to reveal a single detail about myself. The blog was just a rambling of whatever and I wanted my thoughts out there but I didn't want them to be associated with me. When I moved on to this site I started out in the same way, but I had a different reasoning behind remaining anonymous. Posting reviews for the world to see can be fun, but the world is full of unstable people and you never know what nerve your reviews will hit. I've read horror stories about authors and fans tracking down every life detail of a blogger because they disagreed with an opinion. I certainly did not want that. I've experienced some online backlash but luckily it was nothing that got carried away and broadcast to the world.

I didn't last very long with a pen name though. Maybe a couple of months.

This site is a lot more open and interactive than previous ones. I receive many emails and comments every day and there was something about writing a sincere reply while using a different name that I didn't like. Even though the person on the other end had no clue if I was a 16 year old girl or an 80 year old man, I felt like the personal connection was lost. I'm a mingler. While I'm not an extreme extrovert, drop me in a room full of people and I can usually make conversation with just about everyone if I had to. When I would use a different name I kind of felt like it was a Tuesday night at the local dive bar and I was handing a fake number on a napkin (...not that I've ever done that...).

I later evolved my anonymity stance into more of a professional courtesy point of view. If I had authors or marketers contact me then I'd reply with my personal information because 1. it was a hard habit to break 2. I usually only use my first name so who really knows what is real and what is not?

It wasn't long before I took that second point and made it a permanent way of thinking. It just made sense. Why try to hide something that doesn't really matter? I think my biggest hesitation was just owning up to the stuff I was writing or wanting real life friends to stumble upon this place of mine.



That is the only information that is available about me though -- my name. My co-bloggers, guest reviewers, and guest posters know a more about me but I've limited it to that select group. I do have a professional career and I try to keep those worlds as separate as possible for obvious reasons. One may think, what's the worse that could happen? Well, I'm not sure. But I read awful stories all the time about how the most random online event completely took over someone's life and I absolutely do not want that to happen. Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind about it in the future. I have contemplated it just because I'd like to connect with readers on a different interest level than just books.

So what about you? Are you completely anonymous online or do you let some information out? Or are you one of those brave souls who bares all to the world?




Book Spotlight: One Enchanted Evening is on Sale for 99 Cents

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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99 Cent Ebook Sale ends May14

Scroll to the bottom for a chance to win an autographed copy of One Enchanted Evening.

Enchanted clothing has a mind of its own.

Restlessness plagued Charlotte Becker. Unable to settle down, she moved from place to place searching for an elusive something to calm her turbulent spirit. A sudden invitation sends her across country to Lobster Cove, Maine. Anchors abound by the sea, but surely nothing would keep her rooted in place in a pokey resort town during the off-season.

Drawn into a consignment shop named One Enchanted Evening, Charlotte is confronted by a mysterious article of clothing requesting her help to stop a man in a wolf mask from killing women. Charlotte agrees to protect the citizens of Lobster Cove and find the hunter before an innocent is slain.

Luke Maddox’s hunting days are over. Wounded in action, he left the Marines to return to Lobster Cove. Hiding his disability, he accepts life will be nothing more than dull routine. Then he meets a singular young woman wearing an unusual cloak. She tells an incredible story of a wolf that walks on two legs.

And the hunt begins…


In One Enchanted Evening fantasy, humor, and romance are wrapped up in the cheeky retelling of a fairy tale. You will never look at a clothing from a consignment shop the same way again.

Except:
Swallowing back her unease, Charlotte rolled up the window and got out. Except for her car, Main Street was empty. She pushed through the scrubby overgrown yard. Clearly illuminated on the door was the By Appointment Only sign. Somebody must be inside and she wasn’t going anywhere without a tow truck. Butterflies fluttered about her stomach as she scampered up the steps and knocked on the door.

“Excuse me,” she called out. “I don’t have an appointment, but my car and phone died and I need a tow—”

The door swung open. Charlotte drew in a breath and set a hesitant foot over the threshold. The interior lights activated, sending her heart pounding.

“Nothing to worry about,” she muttered. “Motion sensors or something. Hello?” she called louder. “Anyone home?”

Charlotte stepped inside. With the interior illuminated, more than a few armoires were visible. The old front parlor was crammed with trunks and bureaus. Battered chests stacked on top of each other lined the walls. Had all this stuff been here before? The size of the building was deceptively small from the outside.

“Great places to stuff a body,” she muttered.

“That’s true,” said a voice.

Charlotte made a leaping half spin around. Her heart shouldered her esophagus out of the way to race up her throat. She swallowed hard to force it back down. The elderly woman with the peasant blouse and purple bandana stood right behind her.

“However, I don’t recommend it,” she said cheerfully, “as you’ll never get rid of the smell.”

Buy Links:







Book Talk: How often do you update Goodreads?

Monday, May 4, 2015

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I've never done a good job keeping up my Goodreads account. Even when I was a new blogger, fresh out of the gate, full of excitement, and a special twinkle in my eye. I just don't like the site that much -- which is weird because it's really the only big book community that has a ton of discussions and events to be a part of. I think people get to whiny on there and it's a turnoff. I post on Amazon as well, and while that has its fair share of trolls and henchmen that come after reviewers, Goodreads seems to be the breeding ground. I followed (author) from (site) and I think you (blah) about this book. 

The other thing that drives me nuts about Goodreads is if an author is expecting a review from you, they sometimes use that as a tracking system. You're only 20% through a book I gave you a month ago??




Gah. I won't get into that whole ordeal.

Anyways, back to the point. I find myself updating Goodreads about every 4-6 months. I just go back through my blog and repost the full reviews and list the read date as either the date I'm posting to Goodreads (because it's easier than selecting a date and I get lazy) or as the date posted to my blog.

I recently logged on for the first time in about 6 months and found hundreds of inbox messages, notifications from groups, and friend requests. It's a bit overwhelming because I'm one of those people that cannot leave notifications so I go through and delete everything...which in turn makes me not want to return for another 6 months. A viscous cycle.

What about you? Do you keep up on Goodreads? Do you feel obligated to keep up because of author expectations? Am I the laziest book blogger? (Hah, but seriously...)

A penny for your thoughts #19 (quote by Vince Lombardi)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

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Words touch us all in different ways. Sometimes the original intent of a quote resonates so profoundly with us that it is hard to believe that another wrote it. Other times it is a single word, peculiar phrasing, or an alternative meaning regarding an event in our lives that resonates the most. I believe in the power of starting the the week off with a positive or provoking thought -- and so was created A Penny For Your Thoughts. This is a weekly blog hop that will feature quotes of all kinds; classics, character, book-movie, personal, etc. The themes will range from funny to serious, but really it all depends on how you interpret it! How does this work?

  1. Every Sunday a quote will be posted
  2. Enter the giveaway by posting your thoughts on a post of your own or the comment section below
  3. Collect the pennies! Every week there will be a new penny to collect and include with your post, if you choose.
  4. RAFFLE ENTRY: Your site or comment needs to be submitted to this form as well so that your name can be uploaded to a raffle generator.
  5. Those with posts can join up on the Linky
  6. On the last Saturday of every month the entries from the form above will be entered in a drawing. Winner will be notified on Sunday. You get as many entries as you have pennies for the month. Prizes will include books, gift cards, site promotion, and other bookish winnings!
  7. Have fun! This is a fun way to start some discussion, discover blogs, and get to know more people. Please re-post these steps so that followers understand the process.


Winning isn't everything -- but wanting to win is.
- Vince Lombardi



Feature and Follow #25 (Reading slumps)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

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What is Feature and Follow?

F&F is a weekly blog hop that consists of book bloggers. It is hosted byAlison Can Read and Parajunkee. The rules of involvement are simple:

1.) Link up on the blog hop Linky gadget below this post, 2.) follow the hosts via their network of choice, 3.) follow the weekly featured blog(s) via their network of choice (listed as "featured" in the blog list below), and lastly, 4) check out the rest of the blogs on the hop! If you become a new follower of a blog, let them know and they will follow you back.

The F&F is a great way to network, meet other book bloggers, and gain new followers. Even more so, it's a great way to drive fun discussion on a weekly topic.



This Week's FF: 

How do you cure a book hangover/blogging slump/reading slump?


I'm a binge reader. The worst thing that can happen to me around work crunch times in my life is stumbling across a series read. I'll read one book in a day and a half and roll right into the next one after about a 2 minute break -- the amount of time it takes me to get back on Amazon and click the shopping cart. There are worse addictions in life. The problem is that I'll burn myself out. This happened over Christmas when I had an ENTIRE week off from work for family and travel and whatever my heart desired. What did I do? I stumbled across Melissa Landers and Jennifer L. Armentrout. NO regrets. But I did burn myself out on Scify and YA romances. Actually, I read so many books in a couple of weeks that I kind of burned out on reading all together. Weird, I know. But it happened.  Life started back up and I was distracted from reading for a while, but the next time I did pick up a leisure book (a good month) it was completely different from my norms. It was a gritty crime novel -- a genre I've never been drawn to -- and I loved it! This is usually how I get out of a reading/genre slump. I stumble across something completely different from what I normally read and I start a reading binge in that area...






Join in on this week's Penny For Your Thoughts... blog hop!


A Penny For Your Thoughts... hosted by The Book Cove
A hop where you leave a comment or create a blog post about a given quote and
are entered to win a monthly prize.




Other Posts Of Interest:


Remember to check your follow links regularly - by Jessi - November 22nd, 2014
5 easy tips for making your blog more user friendly for blog hops - By Jessi - December 27th, 2013
CAPTCHA challenge presented by The Book Wheel and The Relentless Reader - By Jessi - August 16th, 2013


Book Talk: Book Faults that Drive me Bug Nuts. Trust Me, it's a Short Hop

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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On Monday, Jessi did a great post on things in books that drive her nuts. I agree with everything she said and here are some of my own...


Illogical situations
When you get down to the nitty gritty all fiction is just making crap up. Whether the author is writing realistically or not, the world is still fake. That’s okay as long as the fake world is believable and functions in a logical manner. Harry Potter’s world is fake. So is the world of Shakespeare’s King Richard, although he is based on a historical character. The actions in both are understandable within the context of human nature. The reader understands why Harry went right and Richard so horribly wrong.

The biggest offenders are the latest glut of dystopian novels. The authors have no understanding of basic human psychology or motivation. Characters act irrationally. The worlds they inhabit make no damn sense; politically, psychologically, economically or otherwise. Settings are idiotic as well as impractical and could never function. On the other hand if magic existed, Harry Potter’s world could, too. It’s fake, but feels real.

Apostrophes & Unpronounceable words
D’Chtulk, g’g’duba of the Mmor’a’c’z’anits, wielded his mighty blorknog. “Fraaaanaka,” he screamed.
Tolkien invented a whole new language. There are no Tolkien's out there writing now. If an author has to add a pronunciation guide, the story is bad. Vowels are free. Add a few. Apostrophes feel no pain. Kill them with a blorknog. While we’re on the subject, what exactly is a blorknog? A sword. The hero’s pet name for his genitalia? I don’t know. I don’t care. Neither does anyone with a dash of sense.

Sex instead of chemistry
Sex is not romance. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading right now and get counseling immediately. In erotica, sex matters. In romance, sex doesn’t. You can have it, or not have it. With good writing, the lack or addition won’t affect the story. Sex never makes a bad story better. The only importance is the chemistry between the hero and heroine. If they don’t have an emotional and intellectual connection along with the physical attraction, the sex in the story comes across as either sad, creepy, or exploitive.

Character Confusion
Men are different than women. Seriously people, they are. Not so, according to many authors who write supposedly tough female characters. Yeah, these gals fight like the men. They talk like the men. They walk like the men. Hell, they are men, only with boobs. It drives me crazy when there is no discernible difference between the sexes. Just because a female character wields a weapon and curses, doesn’t make her either tough or memorable. I find her annoying.

Confusion can also occur because there are too many characters. I once read a good one hundred page novelette that would have been a great novelette if it weren’t for that fact that it had over thirty characters. I kept having to flick back and forth trying to remember who all was whom.

Which leads me to the last item...

Unrealistic Dialog
A physical description shouldn’t be required to tell the difference between every man, women, or child in a story. Dialog should do that alone. Each character needs to be a unique voice on the page. You should get a good sense of gender, age, economic status, and other variables. Characters that sound alike have no separate personality or identity. If dialog can be switched around between two individuals in a story and not sound weird, I’m ready to pitch the book across the room. 



I have plenty more, but a good rant is exhausting and I feel the need to lie down.

L. A. Kelley writes adventures with fantasy, humor, romance, and a touch of sass. You can find her at http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com

Book Review: Wallbanger (Cocktail #1) by Alice Clayton

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(Blurb): The first night after Caroline moves into her fantastic new San Francisco apartment, she realizes she's gaining an intimate knowledge of her new neighbor's nocturnal adventures. Thanks to paper-thin walls and the guy's athletic prowess, she can hear not just his bed banging against the wall but the ecstatic response of what seems (as loud night after loud night goes by) like an endless parade of women. And since Caroline is currently on a self-imposed dating hiatus, and her neighbor is clearly lethally attractive to women, she finds her fantasies keep her awake even longer than the noise. So when the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts Simon Parker, her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. The tension between them is as thick as the walls are thin, and the results just as mixed. Suddenly, Caroline is finding she may have discovered a whole new definition of neighborly...






Book Information:


Publisher: Omnific Publishing, November 2012
Age group: New Adult/Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 384 p



Review:

This is not a gratuitous sex book. Upon reading the synopsis I wasn't quite sure that this would be a book that I was in the mood for at the moment. But I took some time to read the most helpful reviews and thought that I would really like it. I didn't just like it - I LOVED it!

The first thing that stuck out from page one was the humor. This is very much a book that relies on its secondary characters as much as its main characters, and Alice Clayton can write internal dialogue and group conversations very naturally; giving each character its own...well, character. Sometimes group conversations in a book can be a turn off because they get monotonous, confusing, and contain unnecessary or repetitive information, Not in Wallbanger. I actually looked forward to the times when Caroline and Simon were with their four friends because it brought out a hilarious and informative background on everyone. A couple of times the internal dialogue was done in a That 70's Show fashion where you felt like you were spinning from one character to the next and they each had one thought to describe a peculiar situation. It had me laughing out loud many times.

The build up between Caroline and Simon is perfect in an off the beaten path way. Too many times these types of stories play out the same; someone plays hard to get, the other is damaged goods, and in one picture perfect climax (of whichever kind...) something perfectly clicks and you have the fairy tale romance. Not in Wallbanger. There's a love-hate neighborly acquaintance, that turns to friendship. And Simon and Caroline both have their issues, but they're not deeply-rooted, traumatic issues. They're pretty superficial issues, but they're realistic and understandable. It's all a nice change of pace in the New Adult/Adult Contemporary Romance department.

Overall, Alice Clayton has a beautiful set of tools that she pulls out to approach different situations with various writing styles and it pulls together beautifully. If your looking for a RomCom, with some Dram, and yes, there is some devastatingly hot sex (but in due time), then Wallbanger is the book for you.


Book Talk: What are book flaws that you absolutely cannot ignore?

Monday, April 27, 2015

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Every reader has different tastes. Shocking revelation. Reviewing is a bit of a different beast in that a good reviewer tries to keep personal feelings separate from the critique of quality of  writing. It's hard though, not to let your personal style preferences interfere with the evaluation of characters, plot, and sentence formation. I've explained before that this is part of the reason I use ratings. My rating shows book quality but may or may not strongly reflect my personal views on the book. For the most part, they do line up because I'm not too picky about style. If I can make it through the book and can comprehend what is going on, then I generally enjoy the read and feel that the quality was decent. Everyone has there own list of what is okay to let slide in a book and what is not. And as much as we try not to, sometimes there is the smallest detail or quirk that sets us off.

  1. The moment I notice the incorrect use of a word - we all make mistakes. But I think that if your book has passed through at least two hands before being published, then a lot of the simple mistakes should have been caught. If this happens towards the middle or end of a book it doesn't bother me so much. But if it is on the first page or within the first chapter -- where interest is being built -- then that's where you lose me.
  2. Comma splices - I'm guilty of it too. The difference is that I write a blog and not a piece of work I'm expecting money for. A few misplaced commas will not make or break the book. But if someone had a rampant pointer finger that editor(s) didn't notice, then that is a problem. 
  3. Those are my biggest grammar peeves. As far as general writing style goes, whining characters is at the top of my list - If you're going to give your MC a hard knock life, then give them some pride, or a backbone, or a brain. SOMETHING. I don't want to read about how much an MC hates their life and how much everyone hates them and how much everything sucks. Not saying that a character can't have downer moments. That's expected. But when 75% of a book is dealing with an MC refusing to believe that they're the MC it is a bit deflating.
  4. When major events are solved with "Meh." - I think we've all read that book. The one where an epic moment is building and everything is about to come to a head. You have these theories running through your head and your wondering how the character is going to react because you know that if it was you, shit would be hitting the fan. And then it's suddenly over. The MC and the villainized character interact and they never say what they want to say and just shrug it off. I notice this especially in stories with darker themes (e.g., self harm, rape, abuse). It's like the author never fully thought out how to approach it and chickened out at the end and just lets the MC fall off. Sometimes the victim gets back with their abuser, immediately forgives them, or suddenly declares their love for them. These are often the stories that are accused of taking a horrible real life situation and making light of it. While I don't necessarily think the author thinks light of it, I believe that if you can't do it some justice then you shouldn't be writing about it. Or if you do, then expect some backlash.
These are the main things that make me want to throw a book across the room. Usually within the first chapter but not always. What are yours?



A penny for your thoughts #18 (quote by Louis Zamperini)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

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Words touch us all in different ways. Sometimes the original intent of a quote resonates so profoundly with us that it is hard to believe that another wrote it. Other times it is a single word, peculiar phrasing, or an alternative meaning regarding an event in our lives that resonates the most. I believe in the power of starting the the week off with a positive or provoking thought -- and so was created A Penny For Your Thoughts. This is a weekly blog hop that will feature quotes of all kinds; classics, character, book-movie, personal, etc. The themes will range from funny to serious, but really it all depends on how you interpret it! How does this work?

  1. Every Sunday a quote will be posted
  2. Enter the giveaway by posting your thoughts on a post of your own or the comment section below
  3. Collect the pennies! Every week there will be a new penny to collect and include with your post, if you choose.
  4. RAFFLE ENTRY: Your site or comment needs to be submitted to this form as well so that your name can be uploaded to a raffle generator.
  5. Those with posts can join up on the Linky
  6. On the last Saturday of every month the entries from the form above will be entered in a drawing. Winner will be notified on Sunday. You get as many entries as you have pennies for the month. Prizes will include books, gift cards, site promotion, and other bookish winnings!
  7. Have fun! This is a fun way to start some discussion, discover blogs, and get to know more people. Please re-post these steps so that followers understand the process.


To live, a man needs food, water, and a sharp mind.
- Louis Zamperini



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