Wednesday, July 31, 2013

10,000 hits

Climbing numbers

There has been an explosion in hits on this website. It started when I took out a Google Adwords campaign in June, 2011. I’d been averaging between four and five hundred hits a month; that June I hit 744 and was thrilled.

They’ve gone up each month since and I’ve watched the graph from Blogger go higher and higher. A year later, I’d reached 1000 visitors in a month’s time. In December I doubled my daily cost at Adwords – and the numbers went nuts: 2679 in January, 2703 in March, 3273 in April, 3674 in May, 6005 in June.

Now I did nothing special in June to create that increase. Cynthia Sax guest blogged and accounted for an uptick in hits that week, but nothing to account for a near doubling in hits. But July got busy and I just left things on autopilot while I went on vacation and then hid myself at our cabin to write my next book (which has a good start...I’m hoping to get more time there next week to write another chunk).

So you can imagine my surprise when the numbers started climbing all on their own. This month I crossed the 10,000-hit mark. Shelley Munro’s blog post brought in a significant number of visitors (over 300!), but again, nothing to account for the spike.

Where are the visitors from?

Until this month, the top two countries of my visitors have been the United States (number one every month) and Canada (number two every month). The UK and Germany trade places in third and fourth (every month).

THIS month, however, the US is NOT #1 – Pakistan is. The US is #2. Myanmar is #3, followed by Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Columbia. You’ll note my usual top countries didn’t even make the list.

Now, I would love to know I have readers in those countries. Because Amazon separates out royalties by country, I know I have had sales in Germany, Italy and the UK this month. So I have an international audience. I just don’t think there are 10,000 of them.

I also use StatCounter because it gives me some information Blogger doesn’t. Because I use the free version, it only holds two days worth of data. StatCounter confirms Blogger’s ranking.

I suspect a rat. A robotic one.

Visitor length

The stat that StatCounter gives me that I find most important, however, is the one called “Visitor Length.” This tells me how long people stay on the site.

According to this counter, 79% of those who come to my site stay less than five seconds. Another 5% stay less than thirty seconds. In short, 84% of the hits were from bots. These are sites that ping the site to see if there’s a way in to hack or leave a spam message. Thankfully Blogger is good at blocking them from doing their damage.

What that means is that only 16% of those who come to the site do so because they intended to. Because they want information or to participate in the latest workshop.

At first, that number depressed me. Sixteen percent? That sounds terribly low.

But then I did the math and realized that 16% of 10,000 is still 1600 people. Sixteen hundred people! That’s HUGE! That’s four times the number of people from two years ago. And if the same percentages were to hold true then as they do now...this site is doing quite well!

Reasons for rejoicing

  • The number of real people who visit the site because they want to has quadrupled in the past two years.
  • The Google Adwords campaign has brought people to the site. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing how many of those who are real are here because of that campaign and how many are bots.
  • Guest bloggers are also good for business. Shelley and Cynthia hold the top-ranked posts of all time.
  • My sales are up – my self-published book sales are double what they were last year. 
  • Blogger is a good site for keeping the bots at bay.

What’s next?

I might suspend the Adwords campaign for a couple of months just to see what happens to the stats. My suspicion is that they will go down. Will my sales sink as well? Only one way to find out.

Thank you!

I am truly grateful for all those who visit because they want to. You are a quite bunch. Only a few leave comments and to those few, a special thank you. The numbers mean I’m not alone in the world, but your conversation helps me feel less isolated.

If you’re new to the site, be sure to sign up for my newsletter (sign-up box is in the top right corner). Check out the tabs at the top – you’ll find more information about me, about the books, about writing, up there.

Let’s see how long it takes to get to 20,000!

Play safe,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scrapbooking and writing

Over a decade ago, when my daughter was in Girl Scouts, her troop held a scrapbooking party. Parents were invited to attend and we each were to bring a few photos. It was hosted by Creative Memories, one of the first companies to produce not only scrapbooking materials, but to hire artistic people to help you do something prettier with your pictures than slap them on a page and write the names of the people underneath.

Kate (my daughter) and I had so much fun we got hooked. I prefer regular-sized notebooks and plastic sleeves, however, not the larger scrapbooks that many choose to use. I document all the important events in our lives, clipping articles out of the newspaper (my husband is not only an artist, but also a theatre director, so his name is often in the paper), saving documents (awards, hospital wristbands, ticket stubs), as well as photos of places we've been and people we love.

With all this, comes journaling. Did you know "journal" has become a verb? It's the act of making a written record of each item. Of telling the story behind it. Sometimes its a line or two, other times its a full page story. This non-fiction writing is an important part of the scrapbooking concept. Not only the artistic placement of photos on a page (which I'm not very good at), but the telling of the story (which I can do quite well) is important. The two forms work together to give the complete picture because, let's face it, not all our pictures are worth a thousand words.

When telling these stories, it's important to keep the future in mind. Someday someone will pick up this scrapbook, open it and look at pictures of people who are strangers to them. They will wonder, "Why keep this piece of ribbon in this book? What is it's significance? Who would care about this?"

And your stories will answer that question. Through your words, you make those future viewers/readers understand you and your times. The details you add, the point of view that is uniquely yours, the style with which you write -- all these add up to give them insights into your life and times.

(The picture is of a page I did from out trip to Alaska. The trip took 13 days and the initial plan was for one 1.5" notebook for land and one for the sea portion of our trip. I'm still scrapbooking this trip; the first notebook was big enough for the first four days. Oops!)

Ready to give it a whirl?


Choose a small set of photos. If they're digital, think about printing them out, or you can use one of several online programs that allow you to keep them in the cloud (I'm old-fashioned. All my scrapbooks are hardcopy).

Mount the pictures - be artistic or not as you choose. Believe me, I'm not the one to teach photo placement or design of the page. That's my daughter's area (she now works at Michael's as a scrapbook consultant - see where that one-day workshop led?). Arrange them as you would illustrations of a story.

Then write that story. Remember, you still want to show the event, not tell it. Make the future viewers feel what you felt. Help them to smell the smells, hear the sounds -- they can see the sights in the pictures, so concentrate on the other senses.

Above all, have fun. This is your chance to write history!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Diana's Little Book of Poems

Yes, you read that right. Diana Hunter, writer of BDSM-kink erotic romances, has published a book of poems.

No, they're not THAT kind of poem. No kink. Just poems I've written over the years that I thought I'd like to share with you.

Check the Purchasing Info tab on the blog to buy or click here.

In the meantime, here's one just for fun:

My profile

I'm a writer, a weaver, a grower of children,
I'm a teacher, a gardener,  I sit in the sun.
I'm a book lover, a techie, a daughter and a wife,
I'm a baker and watcher, a lover of life.

To some I'm a wonder, to others a pester,
to some I'm a slacker, to others a jester.

Don't put me in a box with a lid and a label
I write sex and romance and the occasional fable.
But I also write history and epics and fantasy, too
And as you can see, bad poetry for you.

October 6, 2011

Once you've read the poems, please write a review on whatever site you bought it from. That'll move it up in the rankings so others can see it, too. 

Play safe!
Diana, the poetess

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In media res

In media res. Latin for “in the middle of.”

Shakespeare successfully used this technique of starting scenes in several of his plays, most notably, Othello. Check it out. In every single scene, two characters enter already engaged in conversation. As we “eavesdrop” we learn important bits of information. Characters are developed, actions are plotted and we are engaged right from the start.

It’s a great technique.

Often writers choose to start with a description (Tolkien, anyone?) or a digression (Victor Hugo has entire chapters of these). Both are good tactics. They are not, however, the only options.

Shake up your writing a little (pun intended) and try starting a chapter in the middle of the action. Hook your reader, get them intrigued, then let the information out. This will help them stay interested in the story you’re unfolding.

Remember, YOU might know what happened before the scene, but is it really necessary for the READER to know? Are you overloading with exposition? Are you giving so much backstory that they’re screaming at you to get on with it?

In media res. Three Latin words that will become your best friends.


Go to your bookshelf and choose ten fiction novels at random. Alternately, choose ten short stories at random. How many of them start in media res? What do you think came before? As an exercise, choose one and write the scene immediately before the scene in the book. What were the characters talking about? How did they get onto this subject or in this place?

Alternate activity

If you already have a work in progress, go to the start of a chapter and determine the point where the most important information is revealed. What if you started there instead? How much of what came previous is actually necessary for the story?

Remember, digressions aren’t necessarily bad, but be aware of what choices you’re making. If you choose to start a chapter with description or a digression, both of which are legitimate techniques, choose to do it on purpose. Likewise if you start in media res.

Alternate alternate activity

If you’re staring a new piece, start smack-dab in the middle of a conversation between two of the characters (protagonist and his/her best friend, antagonist plotting to take over the get the picture). Have fun and see where it takes you!

(You can also do this as a writing exercise just for fun. You never know when an exercise just might hit a home run and turn into a novel) :)

Play safe...and remember the tip!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eight Tips for Naming Your Characters

 We're welcoming Shelley Munro today as our second guest blogger. She's got some great ideas, so read on!

Choosing the right name for a child can take weeks or sometimes months. Some parents pick out names for their future children when they’re mere children themselves. There are all sorts of things to consider when naming a child, and many of the same rules apply to authors when they name their characters.

When it comes to my stories I need to find the perfect names for my hero and heroine before I write a single word. Some authors call their characters A & B and slot names in later or change their character’s names at the editing stage, but I can’t. I think it’s because the names make the characters real to me – they become bona fide people with characteristics I can identify with. A person’s name has power.

Some of us have family names handed down from generation to generation while others are named after movie stars, pop stars or sports heroes. My name “Shelley” came from a book my father was reading. My parents were going to call me Michelle but decided that since the name would be shortened to Shelley, they’d call me that from the start.

When I search for character names I check baby naming books and online sites. Sometimes I’ll look at specific meanings of names and fit them to the character I have in mind. In my historical THE SPURNED VISCOUNTESS I chose names that were common during the Georgian period, while in FALLEN IDOL I wanted a plain name because my performer hero wanted to forget his famous background and embrace normal. I called him Bob.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a character name:
1. Will the name be shortened to a nickname? i.e. Samantha to Sam.
2. Do the initials spell anything? My grandmother’s initials spelled RAT and who wants their name turned into a furry creature?
3. Do the hero and heroine’s names start with the same letter or sound similar? Do the secondary characters’ names begin with the same letter too? You don’t want to confuse your readers with similar sounding names.
4. Check the number of syllables in the names. When you’re naming a hero and heroine vary the syllables so the names are very different. i.e. Michael Jones and Rose Williamson.
5. Make sure the Christian name and surname sound good together.
6. Are the names easily pronounced or can they be sounded out easily? Nothing jerks a reader out of a book more than a name that they can’t pronounce.
7. Google the names you’ve chosen for your characters. While lots of people have the same names, it pays to check them out anyway.
8. Choose names that work with your genre. i.e. if you’re writing historical romances, make sure you don’t choose a name that was first used in the 20th century.

Suggestions for Name Sources:
1. Baby naming books. My favorite one is BABY NAMES FOR NEW ZEALANDERS by Anne Matthews. I like this one because I set many of my stories in my home country and like to give my characters a NZ-flavored name.
2. Online baby naming sites. Just do a Google search and you’ll come up with dozens.
3. The telephone book – especially good for surnames.
4. SPAM – yes, those annoying spam emails. Before you hit delete check out some of the names in the From field.
5. The closing credits on television shows and movies.
Conclusion: Naming a character is just as difficult as naming a child and authors must put a lot of thought into the matter so their “babies” aren’t teased or ridiculed.

(Diana's note: your activity is below Shelley's bio)

~ * ~
Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.
Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her very own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at


If you already have a work in progress, write a journal entry as to why you chose the names you did for your characters. Do some research on the names (use Shelley's ideas above for information); does the research support your choice? How does that change/support your story?

If you're just starting a piece, use Shelley's step-by-step above to help you make your decisions. Once you've made them, write a journal entry that records the steps you took. Use this record to help keep you on track as you write your story.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Horsefly bites

Two days ago I got bit by a horsefly. It wasn’t the first time (that was last summer), but this bite is on my left ankle by the Achilles tendon and is making it difficult to walk. When you’re about to embark on a vacation, this is a complication neither looked for nor wanted.

But it has gotten me thinking about my stories.

In writing we tend to make life easy for our characters. They never have to go to the bathroom (or if they do, there’s always one close by). Their worlds are filled with easy-to-get to places, what they want is always on the shelf – or already in the pantry or cellar.

And they never, ever, get bit by horseflies.

Or deer ticks. Or mosquitoes, for that matter.

Why? Because it would complicate the story. It would pull us away from the main plot – we would digress. And that leads us to three options: either digress,  make it part of the plot, or don’t let the bug bite happen in the first place.

Let’s take them one at a time.


I love Ray Bradbury’s comment about digressions in Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag (the protagonist) is discussing the purpose of books with Faber (a momentary sidekick). Faber says, “Digressions is the soul of wit. Take the philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Hamlet’s father’s ghost and what stays is dry bones.”

While this is a direct play on words with Shakespeare, and Hamlet, no less (Brevity, thy soul is wit!), Bradbury’s words are well-spoken. When well-done, digressions can be the meat on the bones of the plot. They keep us interested – and keep us reading. 

Part of the Plot

Remember, as the writer, you are a god. And gods giveth, and they taketh away. How would a bite affect the character bitten? Peter Parker’s radioactive spider turns his life around. But your character’s bite might make him or her late for a very important date, might cripple her at an important juncture in her life, or might make him seem less attractive (who wants to date a guy who keeps itching his ass?).

Ignore it

You could, of course, write a scene where your pro- or an-tagonist gets bitten by something nasty (reptiles work as well as insects) and then choose not to include it into your story. You could also just not write it to begin with. But where’s the fun in that?


Choose either a current work in progress or start something new. Give one of your characters a particularly nasty bite (trust me, horsefly bites HURT!). Decide where the bite is and what kind of bite it is. Then ask yourself the following questions: How does he/she react to it? How do the people around them? Does it get infected? Is it a minor nuisance or a major event? What does that do to all the character's carefully laid plans?

Play with this and have some fun. And remember, inspiration can come from anywhere – even horrible bug bites.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Writing resolutions - update

At the start of January this year I wrote a post about my writing goals for the year and encouraged you to make some of your own. Mine are (in no particular order):

1) to write at least 250,000 words, both fiction and non-fiction
2) to publish something
3) to "sharpen the saw"
4) to read - a lot!
5) to enjoy my family and friends.

We're now halfway through the year, so this is a good time to take stock and see how you're doing. Pull out your goals and write a little about each have you worked on accomplishing them?

As far as my word count goal, up until this month I've been very faithful in recording my word count at the end of each day. This month I was so subsumed in all the work involved in my day job, I didn't record a single word. It was easy to recreate, however, since most of the writing I did was non-fiction for this blog and several others. All told, from January 1st to June 30th, I've written 165,134 words -- well past the half-way mark. I'm thinking maybe I set my goal too low!

I've published only one new work so far this year, a title under my nom de plume: Mystic Shade. Under His Spell has done quite well. I've also re-released to a wider audience, Over My Enslaved Body, the first in the Jack Kariola slave series. The book has a new cover and is now available in the Kindle store as well as the Nook store and on Smashwords. Traitor Slave, book two of that series, will be re-released by the end of the month with a new cover and additional material in it (it was a novella and will be a longer novella or novel after a healthy re-write).

Stephen Covey's admonition to "sharpen the saw" is one I take seriously.  This year I took a yoga class for the first time and found the positions and relaxation techniques to be wonderful in clearing the mind. In a few days, my husband and I are taking our first vacation without the kids in 22 years, and that will definitely be a new experience. We're not going far, but will be together for six days all by ourselves. How wonderful!

Reading? My glory, have I been reading. I haven't blogged about every book I've read, but if you want my reading list, check this post and this one!

And the last item on the list is the one I unashamedly enjoy the most. Both my kids are back living at home as they pay off student loans and, while I moan about the lack of an empty nest, I really love having them here. They'll be gone all too fast, off leading their own lives, so I'm actually very grateful to get a few more years in with them before that happens.

And that's my update! Now go write yours :)

Play safe,