Monthly Archives: November 2011

Guest Post by Natalie Hartford

It is because our special guest loves all things pink that I have decided to declare this day an “International Day of Pink” throughout the entire blogosphere! In the Pink means to be the very pinnacle of something, and that something would be none other than Natalie Harford.

Natalie, back away from the Bedazzler! I said back away! Whew, okay, now where was I?

Natalie comes to us from the beautiful province of New Brunswick, Canada where she lives with “the Hubby”, an 18 year old step-son “the Dude”, her furry baby, a 10 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named “Tess” and lots of snow.

No, I said no glitter, remember Natalie? Now put it down. Thank you.

Writing and journaling have been an essential part of Natalie’s life from just about as long as she can remember. She has since embarked upon her first novel, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and at her day job she moonlights as a communications specialist.

No surprise there! Hee, hee! Oops, I’m sorry Natalie. I didn’t think you were paying attention.

Natalie is a previous graduate of Kristen Lamb’s “Blogging to Build a Brand” workshop. She has been blogging for just over a year and is here today to share some of that Urban Redneck inspiration that she’s so famous for, along with tried and tested “What to do and what Not to do” recommendations for blogging.

So without further ado, may I please introduce to you, the always uberlicious Natalie Hartford!

Thank you Karen! I am delighted to be here.

I was super pumped and honored when Karen invited me to do a guest post on her blog! But then the anxiety set in. What would I write about? Should I write about something funny, maybe a little urban word fun or a post on a ridiculous gadget? Or maybe her readers would be interested in something poignant about my greatest inspiration; my Mom? Yikes! It’s a lot of pressure to “guest post” and this is only my second time, so I feel…well…like a newbie!

So what did I settle on?

Five pieces of Intimidating Blog Advice I Somewhat Ignored and Made My Own 

Tip 1) Determine what your blog will be about. It is important to have a solid idea. Try to be as specific as possible. This can make your blog distinctive and stand out from the rest in that category. Also, the blog subject should be something that you are interested in. If you can’t produce content regularly on that subject, it is a good idea to think of something else.

Yikes! Talk about pressure. I have to have one solid idea that is specific, distinctive and will stand out from the rest while still being a subject I am interested in and can produce regular, great content on. Good lord. Do they know how many blogs are out there? Honestly, I’m not sure it’s possible. The elusive totally unique, never-been-done blog?!?!

This will be difficult. Not to mention, I really don’t have any specific interests that are totally unique and different from everyone else that I can blog about and really “wow” people with. I’m just an urban redneck with a serious addiction to anything pink and sparkly. I like to write about typical things in life and add my own humorous spin. I like to think I am funny (actually hilarious…I am surprised no one has scooped me up to be a standup comic yet?!?! Weird!).

In the end, I took Kristen Lamb’s advice and made ME the topic! Definitely distinct. Certainly specific. And I think I am totally a stand out! Voila!

Tip 2) Start planning. Determine the number of pages you will have and what will go on them. Generally, the home page will be where you’re recent blog posts go. A page should be made for what the blog is about. The rest is up to you. Be creative, but remember to stick to your subject. Don’t stray too far.

Ahhhh shikes! I messed this one up as well! Dang it! My plan—to write a blog. BAM. That was it. I figured inspiration would hit constantly. I mean, when I’m with friends and family you can’t shut me up. Surely to God I’ll have something uberliciously amazing to say every single day and the readers will FLOCK to me, right?

I started with my Main Blog page and About Me page. Then a few months later I saw someone had a Contact page so I got me one of those. Then a few months after THAT, I added my Disclaimer page – everyone’s gotta that to protect their fab content. My last two pages were added recently; one on Impaired Driving and one for ROW80.

Tip 3) Produce a good foundation of content. It is a good idea to do this first before creating the blog. If you have a lot of content, you can make your blog substantial before it’s even launched. Try to have at least 5 to 10 blog entries written before the launch.

Oops. Well it’s not my fault. I didn’t read this tip until just now and I launched over a year ago so?!?! But I mean really—who does that? I launched my blog with my hello world post, an About Me page, and not much else in the Hopper. Then I waited for inspiration to strike.

Ok. So that didn’t work out so well. This is actually a good piece of advice. Inconsistency is something I have learned (by my stats) that readers do NOT like. For nearly a year I posted sporadically at best. And it led to a dismal downward spiral in readership. When I started writing consistently, numbers went up. So now I have drafts for each day in the Hopper for those weeks when I get busy. Not posting on my scheduled days is not an option.

Tip 4) When writing your blog entries, remember who you’re writing for. Write for your target audience, not for you.

DANG. Can I do anything right? Seriously? Write for my target audience and not me? I’m not sure I can do that since if I don’t enjoy the writing, I doubt I’ll keep up with it. Ok. Wait. Let’s see—who would be my target audience?

I’d say anyone with a pulse and a sense of humor. Hmmmm…not very “targeted,” eh!? Well, I guess I could go further to say its likely people like me: primarily women, ages 30 to 65, urban or rural, single or hooked up, and with a good sense of humor. There. Voila. I will write for me and in that way, I AM writing to my target audience. How convenient!

Tip 5) Update your blog daily. It is acceptable to update once a day, but aim for more. Blogs that update four to six times a day are the ones that become popular. If you are struggling to come up with content every day, take the weekend to plan out your blog entry schedule.

Seriously? Every day but more like four to six times A DAY!?! Give me a break. Who ARE these successful bloggers? Do they have a life? Who writes this advice? I think they’re on crack! When I started out, I blogged on average of twice a week. Now I am blogging five days a week and I can tell ya, that’s my maximum.

I will say I learned from Kristen’s course to create themes for each post day and that’s helped me immensely in creating content and staying consistent (in blog post frequency and style). My overall tone is funny and quirky.

As with any advice I dispense, I think it’s important to take what’s useful for you and ditch what isn’t. Besides, I know I’ll be a famous blogger someday regardless. I just know it! I mean…have you SEEN my blog…its inevitable!

Thank you everyone! It was an uberdelight to be here and I hope y’all enjoyed the post!

Thank you sooo much for having me Karen!

Visit me at:
Talk to me at:
Follow me on: @NatalieHartford

No, thank you sooo much for coming Natalie!

This was an awesome post full of helpful advice for everyone! Whether you are just starting to blog or have blogged for several years, we can never learn enough. And to have the benefit to learn from someone else’s mistakes and successes is a real gift! No, thank you Natalie Hartford for your most kind, ubergenerous post!

What about you? What fahhhbulous blogging advice have you taken, made your own, or totally ignored? What tips or mistakes have you made along the way that you can you share with others?

If you’ve enjoyed this post, feel free to follow by email. And thank you all for your many kind thoughts and salutations!

A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new WANA classmates and friends. And to all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post, take care and make it a great day!

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Trains, Rails and Puppy Dog Tales

I am sooo cute! But you won’t believe what happened to me.

Imagine this:

You are sitting in a car with your family at a red light as you watch a slow train passing by. Then suddenly, out the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of something familiar, yet completely out of place.

At first it appears to be a pile of garbage on top of one the many double-stacked train cars. But as you look closer you realize that it isn’t a mound of garbage, but actually something that resembles a puppy.

You do a double take and look again—it is a puppy!

The train had departed from a Pennsylvania railway station and was in route on its way to Atlanta. While making its journey through a small South Carolina town, a woman called 911 and reported that she had just seen a puppy riding on top of a Norfolk Southern train.

Now typically one might expect to see a vagabond, a free-loader riding the rails from time-to-time, but a puppy? “Yes,” the woman had said to reassure the powers that be, that indeed it was a puppy and not a mound of garbage because they had seen it move.

The woman and her family continued to follow the train for six more miles in their efforts to help rescue this sweet little three month old chocolate Labrador retriever. And by the time authorities had shown up on the scene, the train was traveling at a steady speed of 50 mph.

It took awhile, but only then when the train had stopped was a fireman able to climb up a twenty-four foot extension ladder to rescue the puppy. The poor thing was scared to death and had licked her way to a happy deliverance.

To this day no one has any idea where her outing began or how long a ride she had taken. Thankfully this story had a happy ending, for the woman and her family chose to adopt this lovable puppy and decided to name her Boxcar Hunter or Boxey for short.

When it comes to puppies, one of the first words that might pop into our minds is “adorable”. Their innocent eyes stare into our own and give us something back that doesn’t always occur with our fellow human beings—unconditional love.

And maybe that is why we love our animals so much. Not that they ever would take the place of our family and friends. Oh they can be stubborn of course and are totally depended upon us much like our own children. But when it comes to receiving their warm affection and true blue loyalty, there’s nothing like it in the world.

So whether they’re riding on trains or rails, we will always love Puppy Dog tales.


So please tell me, what do you think? Do you love animals? Would you have called the authorities, then raced after a train in the attempt to save a puppy’s life? What kind of animal do you have? And to what lengths would you go or have gone to save an animal’s life?

If you’ve enjoyed this post, feel free to follow by email. And thank you all for your many kind thoughts and salutations!


A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new #WANA classmates and friends. And a warm welcome to all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!

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Reality Bites!

That’s what Bobby Gumm, not to be confused with Bubba Gump, must’ve thought when a large great white shark took a huge chunk out of his surfboard off the northern Oregon coast while he sat there terrified.

Bobby Gumm is a chef in the quaint coastal town of Newport and was roughly 600 feet off South beach when an estimated sixteen foot shark tried to take him for his next meal. On its first approach it had brushed against his leg, then took a ferocious bite and ripped off the front of his board lifting him out of the water.

Observers were quoted as saying that it looked like a bunch of piranha were churning up the sea, when all of a sudden a dorsal fin was spotted at least two feet high, then watched as Mr. Gumm was shot up in the air like Old Faithful out of the water. Cowabunga dude!

Gumm is a native of Hawaii so surfing is in his blood, but he was counting his blessings that day, all five of them—his children as he arrived back safely into shore. And when he got home, he kissed each and every one of them. Yes, he was grateful and he credits his survival to a morning prayer he says everyday before surfing.

So even though white sharks are commonly known to hang out off the Northern California coast in fall, they can on occasion be spotted off the coastline of Oregon. They prey on elephant seals and sea lions. Really? That’s interesting. It seems this particular shark had apparently mistaken Mr. Gumm’s silhouette as one of the many pinnipeds. Oh, that makes me feel so much better. It was mistaken identity. Right.

Okay, if that’s the case, then what accounts for the deaths of three more people who have died recently off the southwest coast of Australia, a renowned aquatic playground from a rogue man-eating predator? This area of the world has been better known for dolphin and whale watching cruises, white sandy beaches, world-class surf breaks and the peppery Shiraz of its Margaret River wineries than for shark attacks.

A 32 year old Florida man who had moved to the area six months ago was diving solo off a boat by Rottnest Island, a few miles away from the city of Perth. Again, just like Bobby Gumm, he was attacked last week. But this time someone died. This episode pushed Australian authorities to take emergency legal action, then set up tuna-bait hooks as a deterrent to protect the area’s many inhabitants for the first time in history since the great white was named a protected specie.

Mistaken identity?

Since I live off the southern coastline of California, a well known surfing mecca, it made me think. At any given moment, one of hundreds of surfers who ride the waves, come off the lip or shoot the pier could end up the same way. Yet, just as these other individuals, they all must recognize the potential danger involved before they take the risk, right?

How many of us think about the risk we take in our everyday lives? We may feel there are days when we are swimming amongst the sharks and that at any turn we could come under attack. Then there are others who have already been assaulted, undergone surgery and are now going through therapy licking their wounds.

Some of us lately have been going through real challenges in our lives. Some have been dealing with sickness, death, unemployment, family issues, and the list goes on. Although we try not to make this our main concern, sometimes it’s all we can do to get through the day. Just know that you are not alone.

Yes, there are times when we all need to put things into perspective, but sometimes there is really nothing we can do. Sometimes—reality bites!


So please let me, what do you think? Do you or have you ever surfed? Do you enjoy snorkeling along the shore? Do you feel safe? And how many of you feel like you’ve been attacked lately by one of life’s many unexpected challenges? Because it seems like we are all going through one thing or another and we could use a little encouragement.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, feel free to follow by email. And thank you all for your many kind thoughts and salutations!


A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new classmates in my #WANA1011 class and all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!

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Guest Post by Colin Falconer

It is my pleasure to introduce to you a person who has eagerly accepted my invitation to guest post today! Many of you may already know Colin or have read one of his many books, yet I thought this might be a wonderful way to get to know the intellect of this most interesting man.

Though he now resides in the land down under, his roots actually stem from jolly old England, north London to be more specific. Colin has done many things in his life. He has worked in TV and radio and free-lanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. But what he’s most proud of is being the father of his two beautiful full grown daughters. Although I thought I remembered spotting him with a gorgeous blonde at his side!

It seems that Colin is quite the daredevil and is willing to risk life and limb when it comes to doing research for each of his novels. He’s been known to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma, and has been seen cage-shark diving off the coast of South Africa. Our man Colin really knows how to get around!

But since he is such a well seasoned author, writing more than twenty books spanning over the last twenty years, I thought this would be great opportunity to get some incite as to what prompted Colin to immerse himself into the historical fiction genre that he is most widely known for.

So without further ado, may I please introduce to you, Colin Falconer!


Thank you Karen.

I thought I would write a little history lesson about my love/hate relationship with history and how I came to be an author of historical fiction. I hope you all will enjoy it.


I hated history at school. All I remember of my last year is that the teacher’s name was Sheldrake, so his nickname was Bomb-duck. History was first thing on a Monday morning so the class was an excuse to sleep off the weekend. I still made pass grades. All you had to do was memorize the dates and some names and I could do that with a bit of cramming the night before the examination.

So if someone had told me back then that I was going to become an historical novelist I think I would jumped under a train. I couldn’t have imagined anything worse. I wanted to play for Manchester United.

The one lesson I loved was English, which is surprising, because we were reading Shakespeare and most sixteen year olds find Shakespeare hard work. Not us. Our English teacher, with the more normal-sounding name of Mr. Briggs, was a revelation.

He didn’t just make us read Hamlet; he described the stage for us (this was long before Sam Wannamaker rebuilt The Globe); he explained about the hawkers moving through the crowd selling pies and nuts while the play was going on; he gossiped about Marlowe getting murdered; he explained all of Shakespeare’s dirty jokes – and there are plenty, because Shakespeare was a filthy, filthy writer. (He had to play to the whole crowd, from the blue bloods to the hoi polloi in the pit.)

He told us that Shakespeare was bald, had an affair with a woman in Oxford, and built a fancy house in Stratford on the proceeds of his career. He explained how he made up words or used words that no one in London had heard of. (Like there’s a word in old Warwick dialect that describes the shadow made by the round of earth thrown up by a plough at the end of a furrow. As if the Anonymous Edward de Vere would know that!)

In other words, he made Shakespeare sound like one of the boys. What I didn’t realize was that Mister Briggs was teaching us history as well as Hamlet.

Still, when I started my career as a novelist I was not moved to write history. I wrote thrillers and then did a couple of crime novels that did reasonably well. But it was when I wrote Harem that my London agent rang me out of the blue and said: you have to do this. I sold around 180,000 copies of that novel in Germany alone.

Harem was the book that taught me how to research; for instance, if you are going to write about eunuchs you better know about castration, and all the different ways it can be done, no matter how excruciating it is. I also had to learn about the Ottoman system of government, which was worse than one of Bomb-duck’s history lessons. But as a novelist, it is essential that you know these things and then slip them into the narrative when it’s needed in a very un-Bomb-duck-like manner.

But most of all I never forgot what Mr. Briggs taught us; the play’s the thing. History is the background; the story is the star. And more than any other genre I believe historical fiction has the canvas to paint a big, beautiful story. It always has, from literature long past (War and Peace, The Red Badge of Courage, Ivanhoe) until more recent times (Shogun, Doctor Zhivago.) The movies I love are Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Gladiator. These are the kinds of stories that I want to write, and there are not enough of them out there for me as a reader.

So in the end, Mister Sheldrake, I have to admit that I have come to love history. That sixteen year old never knew what he was missing. But still – at least he remembered the dates.

Oh, and by the way. I got a B minus.

Thank you everyone,

Colin Falconer

No, thank you Colin Falconer!

A ‘B’ minus? Well that’s not bad Colin Falconer. Not bad at all. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Colin. You may now go to the head of the class!

So tell me, what do you think? How many of you have jumped into something head first only to find out that you’ve just stumbled upon the right thing? You hadn’t planned on it, but by pure happenstance you fell into what you were meant to do! They say that if we do what we love, success will follow. Are we willing to follow our dreams?

Be sure to hit the follow button for future posts! And thank you so much for your thoughts and salutations.

Karen McFarland


A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new classmates in my #WANA1011 class and all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!

Click to "Follow Me" and receive new posts by email

Gorillas In The Midst


Though many will remember the astounding works of Diane Fossey through her published book, most of us learned about this world renowned primatologist from the above named movie starring Sigourney Weaver in which she received an Oscar nomination for her remarkable performance.

Diane Fossey was the first person to record the social structure of mountain gorillas, interact with them and developed strong personal bonds with each individually. It was her personal quest to protect these primates that made her well known throughout the world. In fact, one could say that if it wasn’t for her bold determination to protect her gorillas at all cost, they would be extinct today.

The picture above was taken at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Alberta was a 32 year old western gorilla who died recently. Her death had come as a surprise, yet the cause of her death is unknown. She is survived by her mate Winston and three offspring. One of them, Ndjole, a male, is on loan to a zoo in Oklahoma. (Loan a son out? Why didn’t I think of that?)

There are arguments that fly back and forth as to whether we are or are not related to these fine animals, yet as we gaze at Alberta’s face, can we deny the look of endearment and tenderness, the characteristics of a sweet sensitive unique being? If we look closely, we can see traces of happiness in her eyes and an expression of keen observation. Hers is a story of warm domesticity, a caring attachment between familial appendages. It is a story of community that evokes communication and caring between the species and how we can connect with others.

Like the gorilla, this may be no easy task as it involves courage on our part, an act of bravery to cultivate a relationship with one another, but well worth the risk. Then, when an element of trust is developed, it can give us a reason to live or a cause to fight and protect.

Hey, we may not be far off from these beautiful creatures, although one could only hope for a better hair stylist.

As our perception of community widens, especially through new acquaintances and friendships we develop socially on Facebook, Twitter and on our blogs, we feel resilient and gain a better sense of ourselves, for we all may be unique, but we are not secluded.

It saddens me a little to think of Alberta the gorilla and the family that she left behind. I’m quite sure she will be missed by all of those whom she came in contact with. But in turn, I must say we should feel encouraged to know that we are all surrounded by great people who want to see us succeed, people who want to be part of a thriving community, a collective gathering of growth and support. And as we bravely reach out, we just need to remember one simple fact: We can all be “Gorillas in the Mist”.


So please let me know what you think? Are you reaching out to other individuals, giving them support as they embark on a new path in their careers? Are you interactive in a community of friends via the web or in person?  What have you learned that will help others so that  they may not make the same mistakes you made along the way?

Thank you for your many thoughts and salutations. If you’ve enjoyed this post, don’t forget to follow!

Karen McFarland


A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new classmates in my #WANA1011 class and all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!

Click to "Follow Me" and receive new posts by email