I Have Another Guest Post on “A Writer of History”

M.K. Tod offered me another opportunity last week to have a guest post on her blog, A Writer of History. I wrote about the lessons I’ve learned in the last ten years on writing a novel. These were the lessons I presented during my session at the Arrow Rock Writing Workshop in Arrow Rock, Missouri, last month.

Please take a moment to check out A Writer of History. It’s a great blog with interesting information for writers and lovers of history. If you browse through her posts, you’ll find lots of intriguing reading suggestions in the historical fiction genre.

My post can be found here.

Hope you are having some fun as you celebrate Labor Day this year.

Writing Milestones: Journaling and Blogging

I don’t want March to get away from me before I write about two milestones that occurred this month—the fifteenth anniversary of when I began keeping a journal, and the fifth anniversary of this blog.

My original journal. The picture at the top is my new journal cover, which I had to buy when the original leather cover became tattered.

I’ve written before about starting my journal. One of my early posts on this blog was titled “Take the Plunge—Start a Journal.” That’s what I did—I had bought myself a Christmas present of a pretty leather journal cover and three blank narrow-ruled notebooks to put in it. It sat in my drawer for a few months, until one day in March 2002, I took the plunge and started writing.

That month was a turning point in my life for many reasons, though I didn’t know it at the time. I suppose most fifteen-year periods in my life have been equally eventful, and some have been more stressful, but the last fifteen years—close to 25% of my life—have been challenging.

On the personal front, I’ve seen my children grow from teenagers to responsible adults. One child graduated from college, and has since had six jobs, more than six different addresses, and the same girlfriend for the past three years. The other child has graduated from high school, college, and law school, has lived in D.C. and two states, and has also had more addresses than jobs. In these fifteen years, I’ve also grieved the loss of a grandmother, both parents (one slowly, one fast), and a father-in-law.

On the career front, the last boss I chose to work for quit during March 2002—the month I started journaling. A new boss was appointed several weeks later. I was already wrestling with whether I should retire four years later in 2006 when I turned fifty. In those four years, I had two and a half different jobs (I worked on a special assignment for several months, hence, the half) and had three and a half different managers (same reason for the half manager). I dealt with corporate politics in ways I never had before.

I did retire at the end of 2006, and for the past decade I’ve been devoting my primary effort to becoming a novelist. So on the writing front, I mark March 2002 as the beginning of my career as a writer, because my journal started me on the path to writing, even if I didn’t take myself seriously at the time.

My journal has helped me stay grounded through all these changes. It has helped direct my life. I’ve debated a variety of courses of action in its pages, often repeatedly. When an issue keeps raising itself for discussion, it’s a sign I should change something. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t, and sometimes I continue to debate what to do.

I didn’t write daily in the first few years. But since I retired, I have written almost every day of every year. I’d bet there are only 10-20 days in the entire decade that I have missed. In fifteen years, I have filled fifty of those narrow-ruled notebooks—160+ pages each, about 300 words per page, or roughly 240,000 words. The equivalent of two to three novels.

And, oh, by the way, I’ve published three novels, am well into a fourth, and I’ve written many essays, short stories, and poems, some of which have won contests and been published.

And I’ve written this blog. I really began Story & History in January 2012, but I didn’t start posting weekly until March, so I consider that to be the anniversary of the blog. (I increased my posts to twice a week later that year—a schedule I’m amazed I’ve been able to continue for so long.) So in my mind, this is the month I have completed five years of blogging.

While my journal is my private musing, this blog is where I muse more publicly. As readers know, I muse about all sorts of things. Enough to have written well over posts. I write another blog under my pseudonym, which I’ve also kept up for about five and a half years. Between the two blogs, I estimate I’ve written about 375,000 words in the past five years. That’s another three or four novels’ worth.

I guess I have to say I’m a writer now. And take myself seriously. I often wonder if I should be spending my time journaling and blogging, or if I should focus on moving more novels from my head to the page. But as long as my journal directs me, and as long as blogging connects me to others, I will probably continue.

Does writing help direct your life? Have you tried it?

Guest Post on Wayne Turmel’s Blog

Last Friday, March 24, I was a guest on Wayne Turmel’s blog. He introduced his interview of me with the following comment:

“The opening of the American West is great fodder for writers of historical fiction. Huge vistas, dramatic action, and characters who lived just long enough ago that they don’t feel foreign to us.”

How true that is!

Wayne asked me some very interesting questions in the post, including one I hadn’t been asked before—what my favorite scenes were in Lead Me Home and Now I’m Found. Go read the post to find out my answer.

Wayne writes historical fiction centered on the Middle East. He has written two novels, The Count of the Sahara and the recently released Acre’s Bastard, as well as a number of nonfiction books. Like me, Wayne is a member of the Hometown Reads community, though he is based in Chicago and I am in Kansas City.

I hope you’ll take a look at my post on Wayne’s blog. And while you’re there, check out Wayne’s books also.

What era of history interests you the most? Why?

A Neophyte (Me) Develops a Website

My new website, http://www.TheresaHuppAuthor.com, has been live for a few weeks now. Regular readers might have noticed that I’m still tweaking things—the background, colors, etc. But I thought I would recap what I’ve learned as I developed this site.

My decision to develop my own website, rather than continue with my Story & History blog on WordPress.com, was only the first of many decisions. I knew I wanted a website built on WordPress.org (the WordPress platform for self-hosted sites), thinking that because I was familiar with WordPress.com, I could learn WordPress.org fairly easily. The decision to build my website on WordPress.org narrowed some other decisions, though the options were still legion.

I relied heavily on WPbeginner.com, which has many articles and videos that I found very helpful. Anyone wanting to build a website on WordPress.org should check this site out.

1. Which company will host my website?

There are countless hosting sites available these days. Some are free. Most cost a small amount each month—or more, if you want more options, such as backup service, greater online support, etc.

As I researched designing websites built on WordPress.org, I learned that WordPress recommends two hosting services—Bluehost and SiteGround. I was also familiar with GoDaddy through another organization I’m in. There are other comparable services, so do your own research and get recommendations from friends before you commit.

I compared the hosting services I knew of. In the end, I went with Bluehost, in part because they were offering a slight discount when I was ready to buy, and in part because they received excellent reviews for their customer service and support.

So far, I have had to consult the Bluehost technical support once. The Bluehost chat representative who helped me was reasonably prompt and quite courteous. I hope I don’t need them often, but I’m encouraged that my first experience was positive.

2. What theme will I use?

Once I set up my account through Bluehost and downloaded WordPress.org to my new site (yay! I have a website!), the next step was to select a theme that would aid in designing my site. Strictly speaking, this step is not necessary, and I could have designed everything from the ground up in WordPress. But, as the title of this post says, I am a neophyte. I wanted the comfort of a template to get me going.

I had researched many themes before I started, reading lists of “best themes for authors” and “best themes for small businesses” and the like. I had probably looked at demos on about thirty different themes. I decided I wanted a theme that supported both a static home page and a blog page. Most themes do, but I also wanted support for e-commerce and portfolio displays. I’m not planning to sell my books through my website now, but someday I might choose to. And I like the look of portfolio sites and thought I might showcase my book covers that way (though so far I have not used that option).

In the end, I elected to use the Vantage theme by SiteOrigin. My primary motivation was that SiteOrigin also developed the PageBuilder plug-in that WPBeginner said was the best free page design tool for WordPress.org.

So I downloaded the Vantage theme and PageBuilder, and blithely began to design my website. Vantage has a free version, and that’s what I’m using now. I might upgrade to the premium version in the future, but at the moment I am overwhelmed enough.

3. What pages do I want on my site?

I had given this some thought prior to actually building the site. I knew most of the pages I wanted, and I knew what content I wanted on each page, though I had not written the text yet. I wanted a welcome message on my home page, a blog page where I would import my posts from Story & History and continue writing new posts, a page for each of my novels, a bio, a contact page, and a few extras for readers and writers. I’d looked at many author websites, and those seemed to be the standard features.

So then I started designing. My ideas changed a bit as I worked. I came up with some new ideas. But having an overview in mind before I started was a big help.

4. How the heck do you use PageBuilder anyway?

I finally got the slider on my News & Events page to work!

PageBuilder was not as intuitive as I had expected. It operates with modules, and offers a wide variety of modules, including text blocks, image blocks, sliders (for slide shows), contact pages, social media links, action buttons, and others. But which modules work best for which purposes?

I spent a couple of weeks experimenting. And countless minutes during those weeks going back and forth between one menu and the next trying to find what I wanted.

I never did get the masthead built the way I envisioned, and ended up creating the image I wanted in Canva, then loading it into a header widget. (If that last sentence doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it.)

What that slider looks like in PageBuilder

Over those two weeks, I felt I learned PageBuilder pretty well. I learned to design my rows, put in spacers where I wanted them, add the text and image widgets I wanted, and move the widgets around until the pages looked close to what I wanted.

5. How do I import my blog?

I found instructions for how to move a WordPress.com blog to WordPress.org, and I followed the instructions. But nothing happened.

I tried again. Again, nothing happened.

Then I found instructions for how to make sure that my WordPress.org taxonomy (how posts are named) matched the post names on my WordPress.com blog. I changed my taxonomy, and tried again. About twenty of my 500 posts transferred. I tried again. About twenty more transferred.

And so on. Finally, I had all my posts on the new website.

I asked the WPBeginner people if this was common, and I was told that if the blog is big and has lots of photos or other attachments, then, yes, it can take a long time to import everything

6. Will I keep my subscribers?

I think the answer to this is yes, but I can’t honestly be sure. All the old subscribers show up in my WordPress statistics, but I can’t be sure what readers are seeing. My regular readers seem to have found the new site, but some people who used to comment on the WordPress.com blog do not seem to have followed me.

In addition, the new site no longer ranks as high on Google searches as my old blog did. I think Google must give priority in their rankings to WordPress.com—a priority my humble domain TheresaHuppAuthor.com doesn’t receive. I’ve noticed that some of my posts linked to Google+ do show up on the first page of search results, and clicking on those does get me to the new website.

I’m still linking to social media sites, so over time, I hope people will find me and that this issue becomes minimal.

7. How do I upload new posts?

I launched the website on a Wednesday. I had until Monday to write and upload my next scheduled post. I draft my posts in Scrivener, then copy and paste to the site.

I’ve found that blogging on WordPress.org is a lot like blogging on WordPress.com was five years ago when I started. I’m familiar with how it works, but WordPress.com is much more intuitive now, and I’ve had to remember my old checklists and where things are located, to make sure I get a post ready for publication—categorizing the post, adding tags, scheduling the post for the right day and time, etc.

And I wasn’t sure how to use featured images. I’d never bothered with those in on my blog—I’d just let WordPress.com decide what image to feature. But I didn’t want my website masthead showing up as the featured image all the time, so I now have to specify another image. Which puts that image at the top of the post. Which means that readers will be seeing a lot more large images at the top of my posts in the future.

8. What don’t I know?

There are things I know I don’t know, and there are things I don’t know I don’t know. In the former category, are the following:

  • Everything to do with the hosting service—cPanel and FTP and PHP—acronyms that I can’t even translate.
  • Whether and how to use email on the server or continue to link with my Gmail account.
  • What ongoing maintenance I will need to do.
  • What the best way to back up the site is—I am backing it up regularly, but is it worth it to pay for a backup service?
  • What additional functionality should I add with plug-ins and widgets?
  • What could I do with e-commerce that would be as easy and profitable as Amazon’s online fulfillment and royalty payments?

In the latter category—what I don’t know I don’t know—you’ll have to tell me.

This has not been an easy process, and I’m not totally satisfied with the result at this point. I’m open to suggestions.

Readers, what changes to my website would you like to see? Please leave a comment or contact me. Nothing is too small to suggest—fonts, layout, whatever you’d like to see me do differently.

Jumping Off! I’m Launching a Website — Theresa Hupp, Author

When the pioneers to Oregon left the settled territories for the West, they said they were “jumping off.” Communities like Independence and St. Joseph, Missouri, were known as “jumping off places.” It was from these last bastions of civilization that the emigrants headed into the unknown, into a land of both promise and hardship.I feel like I’m jumping off as I launch this new website after blogging at Story & History on WordPress.com for five years. For the last year or so, I have wanted to provide readers with more information on my life, my writing, and my books than what I have included on my blog, and so I set as one of my 2017 goals to launch my own website.

So I am proud to announce the launch of this self-hosted website, Theresa Hupp, Author — https://theresahuppauthor.com

It has been a blessing to me to make connections with friends and readers on Story & History, and I hope subscribers to that blog will take a look at this new site and continue to follow me. I want to continue to post about “One writer’s journey through life and time”—the tagline for my blog, and my continuing mission for the website.

All my earlier posts have been moved here from Story & History. I will be working with WordPress to migrate subscribers from Story & History on WordPress.com to this site, which should happen over the next few days. I hope the transition will be seamless to you (except for the look of the new site), but I’ve never done this before, so I cannot guarantee perfection.

Of course, if you do not wish to continue on this site, feel free to unsubscribe.

When you do look through the pages on Theresa Hupp, Author, if you notice any links that aren’t working or other errors, please let me know through the “Contact Me” page. And if there is information you would like me to include on the site, please let me know that also. I want what I post to be helpful to readers, as well as a place to hang out with friends.

I have loved getting to know people through blogging. Readers of Story & History have been a kind and generous community, and I hope my connections with you continue to grow.

My thanks to those of you who have followed me on WordPress.com for the past five years . . .

And I hope you will jump off with me to Theresa Hupp, Author!

Where Am I on Social Media? And Where Are You?

stocksnap_3czq87f245-computer-womanUsing social media takes a lot of time. Some of it is wasted time, some of it is productive—at least in terms of learning what our friends are doing and thinking. Now that the election is over, I can read most people’s posts without my blood pressure rising.

Authors are told to be active on social media, though most marketing gurus now say you don’t have to be everywhere—choose a couple of platforms where your audience is, and emphasize those. I’ve tried to focus my attention to a few sites, using passive links to provide content to the rest.

So where am I on social media?

I post most of my “new” content on this blog. I write about my life and my writing and share it with readers on Monday and Wednesday each week. For the most direct connection with me, you should subscribe to this blog.

I link most of my blog posts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. I almost always link to my Facebook author page, and I post some new content about writing there also.

If I think my posts are of interest to my “real” friends, I post to my personal Facebook page as well. I also put passive links to my blog posts on my Amazon Author Page and on my Goodreads Author Page, but I rarely update those pages directly.

I’m fairly active on Facebook, so if you want to start a conversation with me and don’t want to comment on a post here on WordPress, my Facebook author page is the best place to find me. I have made several new friends this way and also reconnected with old friends and acquaintances—which is one of the prime benefits of social media.

I’m on Twitter, but I don’t do much with my personal handle (@MTHupp). I joined Twitter to follow my son, though I admit I have more followers than close friends and family now.

My son moved on to Instagram, so I created an Instagram account, but I don’t do much with it. Other than to look at pictures of my son’s dog and my niece’s kids. It’s the best way I’ve found to stay connected with them.

I wonder what the next new thing will be? I’ll have to follow where the younger generation leads me.

I have a Pinterest page, and I’ve linked some of my blog posts to my Pinterest boards (check out my Story & History board, and I also have Oregon Trail and California Gold Rush boards). Unfortunately, I find Pinterest even more addictive than Facebook, so I don’t go there very frequently—if I did, I would waste hours.

WBT Impact ArchI’m also active as part of the Write Brain Trust group for self-published authors. We maintain a public presence on Facebook and Twitter. I curate many of the posts on those sites. What I try to do is to post the best of what I read about writing and publishing on the Write Brain Trust sites for the benefit of other writers.

RLKC profile picThrough Write Brain Trust, we’ve also launched a Facebook page for readers, Read Local Kansas City. A group of Kansas City authors finds people of interest to Kansas City area readers to spotlight each week, and we also post information about literary events and library happenings in the region. We’d love to add more Kansas City area readers—so please like this page, if you’re interested. Read Local Kansas City is also present on Twitter (@ReadLocalKC).

Take a moment to explore all the links in this post. Writers want their work to be accessible to readers, wherever readers are. I hope each of you will follow me wherever you like to hang out. And I’m always open to feedback.

Readers, what social media platform is your favorite? Why? Or do you avoid it all?

My 500th Post

post-milestone-500-2xBy WordPress’s calculations, this is my 500th post. I’ve been blogging on this site for just under five years.

I really don’t know whether I thought this blog would last five years. It’s seen me through a lot. My mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s and move into assisted living. A daughter’s broken leg and surgery. My parents’ deaths. The launch of a really helpful critique group. Publication of a short anthology and three novels (one under a pseudonym, but the labor pains were just as great as for the books published under my own name). My husband’s retirement.

I’ve written about many of these topics, and about much more as well. Writing the posts is time-consuming and takes away from the time I can spend writing novels. But I like reflecting on where I’ve been in life and where I’m going. I don’t know how long I’ll keep blogging. Will it be another 500 posts? It will depend on where life takes me in the next approximately five years.

As the tag line to the blog says, this is one writer’s journey through life and time.

Thank you for making the journey with me.

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