Monday, January 31, 2011

License Plate Trivia

It's been way too long since I did one of these. So for those who haven't played before, guess the Make, Model, and Color of the car with the following license plate:


First person to guess correctly can choose between their favorite candy bar or a mystery prize (which may or may not be as good as the candy bar *insert evil laugh here*).

P.S. If you haven't weighed in on the last This vs. That post, please do! I hate to beg, but I'd love more opinions . . .  it's a TOUGH decision. ;)

P.P.S. Garrett, I still owe you . . . I've been searching for that Cadbury Egg, I may have to go with your back-up. Just didn't want you to think I'd forgotten!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Find the Google Searches That Led to You

After Monday's post, I had a few people ask how to find the Google searches I was referring to. I thought a how-to post would be relevant.

However, I am no expert, and I only know Blogger. So for my readers who know more or use other blogging sites, I would love it if you would share your tips and suggestions in the comments.

And here we go: 

1. Starting from your Dashboard: Look for the heading "Stats" on the far right from "New Post." I've highlighted in the picture below.

 2. On the Stats Page: Click on "More" next to the heading "Traffic Sources" on the middle right. I've highlighted it in the image below.

3. On the Traffic Sources Page: Look toward the bottom at "Search Keywords" and voila! There you are. Again, I've highlighted it in the image below.

There you are, nice and easy. And while you're there, spend some time and take a look around. The information under the "Stats" tab is pretty interesting!

And there are other ways to do this, too. If you load a free stats counter through sites such as, they will also list keyword searches that led someone to your blog. Just follow their instructions for loading the counter.

Hopefully that was helpful for you. And if you know of other ways to do this, please share!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smart Advertising

Flipping through the local grocery ads, I couldn't helping laughing at (and to a certain extent, admiring) the creativity of this promotion:

Now that's what I call thinking outside the box.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Google Hits

A favorite amusement of mine is looking at the Google Searches that led to my blog. Surely I'm not the only one who does this. Right? Anyway, some of the hits make total sense.

For example, I get a surprising number of hits for "patience vs. waiting" (surprising that so many people look that up). With a blog post titled "Waiting vs. Patience" I come up as the first hit. That makes sense. Every now and then I get a hit for "double-jointed thumbs." Okay, I've touted mine enough that I can see the connection. And "what are the two squiggly lines on my license plate." Yup, with my license plate fetish, no questions there. And just so you know, I have no idea about the squiggly lines. Sorry to the next guy (or girl) who ends up here.

But how in the heck did my blog come up after this query: "where do you look at Christmas lights in Sumner"? . . . Oh wait. "SumNer" instead of "SumMer." Still, I can't repeat the results. They must have been on page 20 of the results or something.

And another: "things said that make you laugh." While I'm flattered that would lead someone to my blog (he he), I can't duplicate that either.

Another hit came from a search for "hilary mckay." Yeah, I'm baffled, too.

How about "too many compliments sound fake." So what is that saying? That I sound fake? I can't believe Google would have the audacity to connect me to that! ;) Oh yeah, this may just mean a future post on this very subject. Maybe.

Do you do this? And if so, what are the craziest search words that led to your blog?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Conquering Clichés, Part 3: Why We are Cautioned Against Them

So now we know what clichés are. We can recognize them in their various forms. We also know that we shouldn't use them.

But why? If they say exactly what we want to say, why not use them?

Here is what I came up with:

1. Clichés are boring.

By definition, clichés are overused. We've seen them before (WAY too many times). And frankly, we, as readers, are just plain tired of reading them. This applies especially to plot clichés (see part 2). After the first time, you can only take so many mistreated orphans who suddenly discover they have magical abilities, and thus thwart their evil relatives. And if you need a laugh and aren't sure what other plot clichés might exist, check out this site.

Furthermore, when a character's heart is pounding all the time (another of my weaknesses), you start to wonder if they're going to have a heart attack.

2. Clichés suggest laziness.

I have done the stare-at-the-computer-trying-to-come-up-with-the-perfect-description thing. It stinks. A lot. It's so much easier to use a pre-fabbed phrase that really does say what you want. But it's never as effective. Likely it's not even your voice. Really, it's just lazy. (Note: I TOTALLY allow myself to use clichés on a first draft . . . just don't let them stay. . . unless they should.)

3. Clichés can be a red flag for that agent or editor you're hoping to impress.

Okay, I'm no agent or editor, but if I saw as many projects as they do on a daily basis, I might just be looking for a  reason to reject a few. You know, those pesky typos, queries addressed to Mr. instead of Ms., an abundance of clichés in the writing . . . You read enough, and I bet those clichés stand out like sore thumbs. ;)

4. Clichés are often word padding.

Sometimes, we're trying to dress up our writing and unawares, those clichés sneak in. They add to our wordiness without adding to the meaning.

For example: Michael improved by leaps and bounds.

Do we really need it? No. Michael improved. Period.

5. Clichés don't always mean what you think they mean.

This is particularly in reference to those proverb and idiom clichés (see part 2). These phrases are so common, and such a part of our culture, we don't stop to question the meaning (which may not be the same for everyone).

In the Cliché Dictionary (Ammer, Christine, The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2001.), the phrase "eat one's heart out" is defined as "worrying excessively." Another definition that she cites almost as an afterthought is "doesn't that make you jealous." Uh, what? I had never heard that first definition. I've always seen it as the second. Maybe I've been misunderstanding people for years!

And I had to have a friend explain "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." That never made sense to me. Because if you have your cake, why can't you eat it? It's there for the taking right? (Definitely a duh moment.)

The point is, the definitions attached to these things aren't necessarily the same for everyone. You may think you are expressing your ideas perfectly, while your reader is all kinds of confused.

Again, I don't think all clichés should be banned. But consider these reasons for cutting them from your writing. Are they really pulling their weight? Are they doing what you intend for them to do? Are they improving your work or making it boring? Is the meaning clear?

In Part 4, I'll talk about when cliche's work, and how you can fix them when they don't. And if you missed the first 2 parts, feel free to follow the links:

Conquering Clichés, Part 1: Introduction
Conquering Clichés, Part 2: Ways to be Cliché
Conquering Clichés, Part 3: Why We are Cautioned Against Them
Conquering Clichés, Part 4: Using Them . . . or Not

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Character's Personalized Plates

I saw this license plate the other day, and I was disgusted. Disgusted that anyone would not only THINK it, but that they would pronounce it to the world by putting it on their license plate. (And oh yeah, I'm leaving you in suspense.)

But it did get me to thinking . . . what would my characters put on their license plates (if, you know, they had cars)?

My bad guy: BRNSRPWR [Brains are power]

Prince Bob: CHRMSBRO [Charming's Brother]
 or maybe LILBRO [Little Brother]

Prince Charming: PERFECT (Okay, so maybe this is what Bob would put on Charming's personalized plates.)

Yeah, my efforts are a little weak, but working with only 8 letters is hard! I may have to come back to this.

But how about you? What would your characters put on their personalized plates?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy Pre-Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

One of the perks of having your children in school is that you get to re-learn a bunch of stuff you forgot, except now you actually APPRECIATE learning it.

And I've been appreciating the peaceful methods of Martin Luther King Jr. to make changes in a government that didn't want to change. Hate and violence surrounded him, but he didn't take the bait and retaliate. He didn't give up because it was hard. He moved forward with a dream, and I think we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

So I want to wish you all a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, since I will be enjoying my children on his holiday.

And just a quick reminder to weigh in on my latest This vs. That post if you haven't had a chance!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Conquering Clichés, Part 2: Ways to be Cliché

I only intended one post on clichés, but in writing it, there was so much information I had to break it up:

Conquering Clichés, Part 1: Introduction
Conquering Clichés, Part 2: Ways to be Cliché
Conquering Clichés, Part 3: Why We are Cautioned Against Them
Conquering Clichés, Part 4: Using Them . . . or Not

The whole idea of clichés fascinates me! Basically, someone expressed an idea in such a unique, amazing, succinct way that everyone jumped on the bandwagon to use it. And *POOF*, suddenly it's not so unique. Just another overused expression that may or may not mean what you think it means.

I found a cliché dictionary1 at the library that claims over 3,500 clichés! While I'd never heard some of them before, there were more that I knew. Perhaps I was influenced by my mom who had a saying for every situation, but I think part of why clichés sneak so easily into our writing is because we all naturally use them in speech without even realizing we're doing it.

Learning to recognize clichés is the first step to conquering them---meaning, using them to your advantage rather than vice versa. In this post, I simply want to lay out a few examples of clichés.

Betty Kirkpatrick, in her book on clichés2 attempts to categorize them, which I find extremely useful. Here are some of her categories with my attempt to explain them: 

Simile Clichés: All those overused comparisons (often using 'like' or 'as')
  • Cold as ice
  • Like two peas in a pod
Proverb Clichés: Commonly known/used sayings or expressions, often giving advice
  • The early bird catches the worm
  • What goes around, comes around
Idiom Clichés: (Akin to proverb clichés.) Overused expressions where the meaning does not equal the sum of the parts (i.e. the meaning is figurative instead of literal).
  • When pigs fly
  • Climbing on the bandwagon 
Allusion Clichés: An overused phrase that alludes/refers to an idea or story
    • He's a good Samaritan
    • The Green-eyed monster
    Doublet Clichés: Two words joined by 'and' WAY too often
    • Leaps and bounds
    • Thick and thin
    Euphemism Clichés: Overused phrases that refer to "unmentionables"
    • That time of the month
    • The little girls room
    And I wanted to add a few categories that seem to flood my life: 

    Plot Clichés: Overused plot devices
    • A villain monologuing before he kills the hero
    • A spy operative going on "one last mission" 
    Character Clichés: Those characters who show up all too often
    • The bully jock
    • The friendly uncle who turns out to be the bad guy
    • The coach who's a recoving alcoholic trying to make a comeback 
    Parent Clichés: All those things your parents said that you swore you would never say to your own kids
    • Don't make me come up there!
    • I don't care who started it, I'm going to finish it!
    Personal Clichés: Here you have to dig deep in your own life. What is that favorite expression (or four) you keep using? For writing, critique partners can help ferret them out. For life, a close friend probably knows best.
    • She turned to look (I have to cut this phrase more often than I care to admit!)
    •  I'm just sayin' (Yeah, I'm sure I'm not alone on this one! But since I'm not trying to sell my daily speech, I think it's okay.)
    Hopefully this gives you a good idea of the types of clichés that exist, and the various places they can sneak into. While I'll say more on this in Part 4, I don't think we should learn about clichés to ban them from our speech and writing.

    Rather, by understanding them and recognizing them, we are in control of the meaning of our words. We need to know what clichés are to use (or not use) them in an effective manner.

    And as G.I. Joe would say (in a now extremely clichéd expression), "and knowing is half the battle!"

    1. Ammer, Christine, The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2001.

    2. Kirkpatrick, Betty, Clichés: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained, n.p.: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

    P.S. So there were 16 clichés in my first post, which no one guessed exactly, but being the magnanimous person I am ;) R. Garrett Wilson, was the closest with 14 as his official guess, but 15 suspected clichés. So I hereby declare him to be the winner of a candy bar of his choice. Congrats Garrett!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Results: Real vs. Artificial

    Yes, yes. Way past Christmas, but the results are still relevant, right? (And no worries, Conquering Clichés, Part 2 is on for Wed.). So there were some passionate comments mixed in there on the subject. Don't hate me because I love real trees! So on to the results . . .

    Total votes: 20

    Real Tree: 10 votes; 50%
    Artificial Tree: 10 votes; 50%

    Seriously. I swear I did not meddle with the numbers [unless you count the fact that I had to interpret one or two responses. . . . Still, pretty amazing. ;)]. So apparently we are split down the middle. What would really be interesting would be to repeat this poll over the next ten years (Will you all still be following me 10 years from now?!) and see how the numbers change . . . IF they change. Hmmm . . .

    Anyhoo, I did think that Joanna from Whole Latte Life gave the most compelling reason to go artificial. A nest of spiders would definitely make me think twice!

    So on to the next debate. President's Day approaches:

    George Washington 


    Abraham Lincoln

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Conquering Clichés, Part 1

    It was a dark and stormy night. My heart pounded as I prepared to write this post. I got butterflies in my stomach, and suddenly I felt cold as ice. . . .

    Clichés: Ever-lurking. Ready to spring themselves into your manuscript. Sneaking in with those fiery-tempered red-heads and ditzy cheerleaders. All those overused ideas and expressions that we roll our eyes at in others' work, but fail to see in our own. (Okay, I may be speaking for myself here).

    The first time I saw "cliché" marked on my manuscript by one of my critique partners, I was chilled to the bone. "What?! My work is original! I wrote it with my own hand!" Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with it.

    Since then, my eyes have been opened, and I've improved by leaps and bounds. Trust me, the grass IS greener on the other side. It's worth the effort to conquer the cliché (and that doesn't always mean you can't use them). ;)

    So the thing about clichés is that there are multitudes of them. In fact, there are so many ways to be cliché, they've had to categorize them. Furthermore, there's even a cliché dictionary! I bet you didn't know that.

    I know I'm leaving your hanging, just when it started to get interesting, but I am a woman of few words, and this post is getting long.

    So to close (with the promise to continue this discussion next time), what is your favorite/most detested cliché?

    P.S. Can you find all the clichés in this post? I'll mail a candybar to whoever gets it right first (on their first guess). :D

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Deep Thoughts by Janet Johnson

    I know most of us are pondering our New Year's Resolutions and setting goals right around now. I'll get to that, perhaps on a future post.

    But for today's Welcome-Back-from-the-Holidays post I just have a simple question: 

    Why is it that when Batman is caught by the bad guys, they never unmask him?

    I would love to hear your theories, because I watch these episodes with my boys all the time, and this simply perplexes me.

    And I'm quite certain there's a writing lesson in there somewhere. Perhaps something about logic in our plot lines? What do you think?