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Backstage at the Blog: Q is for Quote

April 19, 2014

Q © A Scenic RouteI’ve always considered it good manners to be very clear when the words I’m posting belong to someone else–even when the words are my own, but belong in a story …

That’s where the quote box comes in handy. Block Quote

My theme determines what the quote box will look like, and mine happens to be a beautiful shade of sepia that looks especially enticing when set off with feathers.

How about something Muse-worthy?

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee @stock.xchng“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation…We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

 

How do you credit someone’s words on your blog? Do you have any favorite quotes to share?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Feather image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee @stock.xchng

Backstage at the Blog: P is for Poll

April 18, 2014

P © A Scenic RouteActually, I’ve always wanted to do a poll, so how about I take the leap today? Let’s talk about the A to Z Challenge. Tell me what you think:

That was easy! All I did was click on the ‘Add Poll’  button at the top of the post:

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 9.37.38 PM

From there, I got a menu where I could fill out my questions and answers. I could even select one of twenty different PollDaddy style templates. I chose an island theme of course!Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 9.56.07 PM

Have you ever done a poll on your blog? Do you agree with the results of my A-Z Challenge poll?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @stock.xchng

Backstage at the Blog: O is for Options

April 17, 2014

O © A Scenic RouteAt first glance, backstage at a WordPress blog can look pretty intimidating.

Blue and grey buttons are everywhere. A big black bar hangs ominously overhead. A sidebar with little grey icons climbing up its length nudges at the words on the screen.

How is a writer supposed to think with all this junk on the desktop?

Fortunately, you have options!

There are a multitude of ways the dashboard can be configured when composing posts to eliminate the clutter and give a clearer view of the words and pictures.

Distraction Free WritingThe first of these is the Distraction Free Writing mode accessed by clicking this button with four arrows on the toolbar.

Suddenly, whoosh!Distraction Free Screen

The screen becomes a nice white field and your words can march across it like ants through a marshmallow factory. When you’re done composing your post, hovering at the top of the screen reveals a toolbar. Just click Exit fullscreen and the magic portal will take you back to the regular dashboard.

Toolbar ToggleAnother feature that I only recently discovered is the toolbar toggle button. Clicking on it hides or reveals what used to be called the kitchen sink, where you’ll find functions like the undo, text color and special character features.

For those of you who like to show off your html skillz, WordPress has an option just for you. Merely click the ‘text’ tab, and instead of the WYSIWYG interface, you’ll be presented with something that looks like this:Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 1.29.21 PM

Yikes!

That’s just a few of the screen options I’ve encountered in my WordPress adventures. How about you? What kind of options do you use in your blogging endeavors?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: N is for Notifications

April 16, 2014

N © A Scenic RouteWant to know when your peeps stop by the blog? Then it’s time to set up your notifications.

You’ll find that option and more in the WordPress discussion settings, where you can fine tune exactly how much interaction happens between the blog and your email.

Do you want visitors to leave a name and email before commenting? Do you want the comments left open for an extended length of time? And how deep do you want those discussions to go? Is seven levels just too much conversation?

Comments, likes, reblogs and new followers can all be set up land to in your Inbox unless you disable these functions. And, if you’re out and about, you can even reply to a comment via email. Now there’s really no excuse for not replying to your comments!

Here’s a shot of what my settings look like:

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 9.10.42 PM

I have everything pretty much wide open. Maybe I’m just insecure, but it still makes my day when someone stops by and likes or follows something I’ve written!

How about you? Do you hang on every visitor, hoping for some blog-lovin’? Or do you prefer to wait until you’re back in front of your blog to see who stopped by?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: M is for Muse

April 15, 2014

M © A Scenic RouteI sat down to write my letter M post about margins– or media–or menus …

Umm, no.

The letter M is well represented around here by the Muse, so I guess I should just relent and talk about him!

His name is  Morpheus, as in Prince of Dreams, although I often simply refer to him as ‘M’. He looks a bit like Neil Gaiman‘s ‘Dream‘ character in The Sandman and usually comes stomping across my pages wearing his black rock and roll boots, smelling of rain, wildflowers and weed, all the while chuckling at my stubborn determination to get some writing done.

He’s got unruly black hair, a pierced tongue, and wears too much eyeliner. And he’s got wings.

Sometimes he rearranges things while I’m away from my stories, and when I come back, it all fits together better than I had imagined. How do I know he was there, and that it wasn’t just me in a flurry of inspiration?Roman Malyshev/Big Stock

I find feathers.

If you stick around here, you’re bound to catch him giving me a hard time and helping me come to terms with this stuff they call fiction writing.

Do you have a muse? If so, does your muse talk to you? Or am I just nuts?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: L is for Link

April 14, 2014

L © A Scenic RouteLinks are the impulse purchase of the blogging world. Want to know more about that highlighted name, concept, or post? Just click the link and the worldwide web will whisk you there in seconds. Not only are links convenient for the reader, but I’ve only recently learned they improve the SEO ranking of the blog that sports them.

The drawback? In my opinion, too many links dilute the impact of the post itself, drawing the reader’s attention this way and that, until he gives up in frustration of ever getting to the point. It’s like going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk and being assaulted by displays for chocolate covered strawberries and fresh pizza by the slice at every turn.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @stock.xchng

Yum! Let’s stop and have a bite to eat, shall we?

In any case, adding the links to a post is easy. Simply highlight the word or phrase that you want to connect to the new site, and a grey chain link will activate in the tool bar.

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Screen shot Link Button

Clicking the chain icon will pull up a link window.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 11.58.57 AM

The words to be linked are highlighted in blue.

 

 

 

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.Click on the chain link to bring up the Link window then enter the destination site, along with a title you’d like the reader to see upon hovering above the link before committing to clicking over.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 12.00.02 PMSee how easy that is?

How about you? Do you sprinkle your posts with lots of links? Or do you find an overabundance of them annoying?

(And … here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Pizza image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @stock.xchng

Backstage at the Blog: K is for Karma

April 12, 2014

K © A Scenic RouteToday, for lack of a technical term that goes with the letter K, I wanted to talk a little about what makes the blogging world a happy place to be … what I call karma.

I’ll come clean though. I had written a few things about what I believe good blogging karma is, but then I wasn’t sure anymore.

I’m pretty sure it’s good karma to check out bloggers who comment on my blog, and leave a comment if so inspired.

But, even though I think it’s important to respond to every comment on my blog, I don’t feel slighted if busy blog doesn’t respond to my comment. Thanks to the A-Z Challenge, I know how time-consuming it can be to reply to every single visitor!

I also think it’s good karma to thank another blogger who inspired a post and to link back to their blog. If I learn something interesting, and it causes me to post on a similar topic, I’m happy to link my readers up with some further information.

What about blog awards? Is it horribly bad etiquette not to accept every award that comes one’s way? I’ve accepted a few, but sometimes, if it doesn’t fit my schedule, I’ve had to hang my head in shame and leave the award unclaimed. I know that I’m not upset if someone doesn’t accept mine!

So, I’m curious. How about you? Do you do your best to visit everyone who stops by your blog? What do you consider good blogging karma?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

 

Backstage at the Blog: J is for JPEG

April 11, 2014

J © A Scenic RouteAfter yesterday’s illuminating discussion about images, I thought it might be interesting to look at the format of the image files I use at A Scenic Route.

The format I end up using the most is the JPEG which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the committee that created this and other still picture coding standards.

This format is considered optimal for photographic images with rich/high colors, and since that’s what I’m going for, it’s become my favorite format.

One thing to remember when posting images is to decrease the size, not only to save space in the media gallery, but to decrease the load time of the blog page. Keeping the images crisp and bright while allowing the page load quickly is an art form all its own, and is known as JPEG optimization. I’m still working on that part!

What kind of image formats do you use on your blog? Have you ever given up on a blog page because it takes too long to load? (Hopefully not mine!)

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Backstage at the Blog: I is for Image

April 10, 2014

I © A Scenic Route-GreyCan you tell I’m excited about this post?!

Images are one of the funnest parts of blogging for me. My favorite posts are ones where the images that accompany the words have their own story to tell. Feathers flutter into an inkwell. Footprints trail over my thoughts. Eyes stare back at me as I contemplate my characters.Image courtesy of 'Widiwidi' @ Stock.xchng

That’s why I’ve amassed a selection of stock image sites, both free and those with a nominal charge, to feed my image posting fancy. I’ll list some of my favorites here:

Stock.xchng is usually my first stop in an image search. The images are free, supported by ads for iStock images that appear alongside your image search. The quality of the free images is usually quite high. I credit all the contributors of the images I use, even though it’s not always required.

MorgueFile, named after the files illustrators keep as reference material, is the second source I turn to. The images are good, and attribution is usually optional. I give it anyway, both to credit the contributor, and to remove any doubt about the source of the image.Image courtesy of Ingrid Müller @ Stock.xchng

Other free sources I rely on are Free Digital Photos, Free Range Stock Photos, and of course Wikimedia.

Sometimes I need something really special and that’s when I turn to professional sites like Big Stock. There, I can purchase images for credits, starting at 99 cents per credit. The amount of credits needed to purchase the image goes up depending on the size of the image, but if you want a lot of larger images it’s usually more cost-effective to go with a subscription plan for a month or two. Image courtesy of Gregorius GP Buir @ Big Stock

Recently I’ve also found some nice images at Stockfresh, and the prices are a bit cheaper than Big Stock.

I’ve got a bunch more sites, but my word count is getting out of hand, so I’ll direct you to my blogroll, where I list all the image sites I’ve collected over the years.

How about you? How do you use images on your blog? Got any cool image sites to share with me?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)

Kiss image courtesy of ‘Widiwidi’, eyes image courtesy of Ingrid Müller, both @ Stock.xchng, swan image courtesy of Gregorius GP Buir @ Big Stock

Backstage at the Blog: H is for Header

April 9, 2014

H2 © A Scenic RouteI couldn’t decide what kind of header would best represent the all the amazing places my writing journey takes me.

So I chose a theme that allowed me to randomize my header! The Vigilance theme allows me a virtually unlimited selection of headers which, as you can see from this screenshot of my header page, I take full advantage of:

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 8.42.47 AMI’ve never actually been to any of the places on featured at the top of my page, but that’s exactly why I’ve chosen such exotic images: My words can take me anywhere! I’ve even thought about including a fantasy style picture to greet visitors along my scenic route.

And where do I find all these lovely pictures? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, the fabulous letter ‘I’!

What’s on your blog’s header? How did you decide on the perfect header image? Should I incorporate a fantasy image on my header?

(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)