Blog Post Checklist – get the Basics Right

To-do list with pen

If you’re a blogging beginner it’s good to get the basics right from the start. I didn’t, and I’m still tidying up ‘behind-the-scenes’ . How and what you write is up to you (that’s kind of the point). But if you’re looking for guidance on blog post fundamentals, here’s a handy check list. These simple tips will help make your blog posts easier to read for people and search engines.

  • Use pictures – photo based posts are popular as they’re easy to scan read. But any post can benefit from relevant images to break up text and add interest. I use the ‘Featured Image’ function on most of my posts to display a picture behind the heading.
  • Add titles and alt text to your pictures – search engine’s look at your whole post, including the pictures. Or rather they read the code that displays them. They’ll use everything, even the image title to help judge the quality of your post. So make sure you use a descriptive title. Alt text is used by screen readers and makes your blog posts more accessible for people who use them.
  • Include links to other posts – if someone’s read one of your posts, why not give them a reason to stay and read more? So add some related links in the copy or at the end of your posts. Search engines will look favourably on it too. But don’t add too many, make sure you keep it relevant to the post you’re writing.
  • Make a good URL – I did a recent check up on mine, I noticed were just numbers(!) Not good. Keep your URL simple but relevant and your readers and Google will like you better for it.
  • Share it – blogging platforms make this easy. Make sure you choose the feeds that you think will be best for your post. For example, I put how-to posts like this on LinkedIn, but keep more personal ones to other feeds.

What are the basics you always check off before you post?

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Notebook Collection – 8# The British Library


If you’re going to visit a library, why not start with top of the pile and go for the British Library in London. We visit pretty much every time we go to the capital and this particular notebook is from one of those visits.

You can probably guess why a self confessed ‘Wonderland’ obsessive like me found it irresistable! But the book contains quotes and sketches from a selection of novels making it a perfect souvenir of a library visit.

The British Library

The British Library building itself is not to everyone’s tastes and unfortunately it’s not exactly big enough for the ever growing collection it holds. wp-image-690615576jpg.jpgEvery single publication, magazine and newspaper published in the UK will send a copy here – and they all have to be stored somewhere!

I’d recommend a visit to any writer (or reader) or just if you fancy something a bit different. There are free exhibitions like the ‘Treasures of the British Library’, and there are temporary exhibitions you may have to pay for – but these are well worth it. dav

We went to one about the development of comics and graphic novels in 2014. And the ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ is going on my list for October 2017.

You can take a webinars and workshops, plus tour behind-the-scenes tours of the library and conservation areas.

In the Discworld books they have something L-space. The idea is that vast amounts of words and ideas held in on eplace can warp the fabric of time and space itself. Whenever I go somewhere like the British Library I can well imagine the weight of words collapsing reality in on itself. Ive nevr been in the stacks ( reserved for members) but id make sure to take a torch and guide if you do…

Have you ever been to the British Library? What did you think?

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Notebook Collection 7# – Google

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Words


Why your writing is important 

People often say that words aren’t dangerous. But writers know better than that. We understand the power that words have. When we wield them we are all aware how we’re casting lightening stolen from the Gods.

Events in the world prove just how fickle words are. Assaulted by ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’ a fiction writer gets concerned. People are using the words we love to spread fear not knowledge. Moreover, the seriousness of reality can make our whimsical tales feel unworthy of attention.

But fear not. Ursula Le Guin in her usual brilliant fashion, explained the difference between these ‘lies dressed as truth’ and actual fiction. You aren’t part of the distraction, you’re part of the fight against it.

Those words that you pull from your mind are not a distraction from current events. They are a mirror to it, deliberately or not. You have something to say. About life, love, truth. Your words will make people think and feel. By thinking people have power.And by feeling, people find truth. Research shows those who read fiction books are more empathetic to the world around them. They’ve been inside the minds and the stories of people who, though fictional, are not themeslves. Stories show us there’s a world of thoughts and feelings out there and though we are important, we are not only and we are not lonely.

Moreover these words you write – they’re important to you. They keep you going. They take what’s inside of you and give it somewhere to live. Your writing has extra meaning in these times. So keep broadening those horizons because we need it.

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Find yourself at Star Wars: Identities

Hands up all Star Wars fans? Those of you with hands down, this post won’t be for you. The rest, come join me on a tour around the Star Wars Identities exhibition currently on at the O2 in London. It was a fun (if somewhat pricey at £20 per ticket) attraction for the average Stare Wars fan. On arrival you’re given an earpiece connected to a device that goes around your neck. And you get a wristband that let’s you build your identity.


The exhibition is a novel mix of the usual props and costumes you get at these type of exhibitions, alongside interactive screens and some interesting ‘sciencey’ stuff about how our own.’identities’ are built. Liberally illustrated with a bunch of clips from the movies.


I was mostly going for the film memorabilia, but it was also quite fun to build my Star Wars character. Anyway, I’m not going to blather on about my love for Star Wars. Much better to just share some pictures from the experience with you.

Boba Fett

Spaceship models ‘in flight’

An early version of Yoda

And the one we know and love

But ‘did you get a notebook?’ I pretend to hear you cry. Of course I did!

Anyone else been to the exhibition?  What did you think?

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Read books,

cereal boxes, warning signs, gravestones, instructions (ignore those), menus and timetables.


Listen to storytellers,

tapes, records, liars, truth-tellers (maybe), gifs, voicemail messages and sports commentary.


Understand that with each nugget of someone else’s world you uncover
you will stretch in all sides
and you will understand that

this is a person

and that is a person

and that is a person

And you won’t be able to say there is only one or a group of ones but that there all ones.

And twos and threes and fours and fives

You get the idea right?

You get it.

Now get to it.


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Stuck for a Writing Idea? Time to Start Digging

You stare at the blank screen. You hover your pen over the page. You wonder if you close your eyes and wait a bit you’ll start automatically writing a masterpiece. We’ve all been there.

Popular culture would have you believe that inspiration just hits you when you’re out walking or buying a loaf of bread. And sometimes a spark will appear like Harry Potter wandering down a train aisle and into JK Rowlings head. But usually finding an idea to write about involves just that – ‘finding’. Fortunately, you might not have to look very far.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, I’ve no doubt you’ll have collected a bunch of exercise books, scraps of paper, notepads, computer disks and hard drives filled with notes. You may well think they’re well, a bit crap. And they may well be, but they could also be the spark that you need.

I’ve been churning out bits and bobs since I was old enough to hold a pencil and much my early work is typical of what kids and teenagers write and it’s pretty hideous. But when I decided my next book would be an anthology of short stories, into my cave of wonders I went. There I found enough diamonds in the rough to make up a good chunk of the book with a few new ones rustled up for good measure. I’ve had to do some serious re-writes, often completely but the kernal of the idea or even just a character survived for me to work with.

So if you need an idea, start with what you’ve already got first. Oh and be careful what you throw away!

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Notebook Collection – 7# Google

Image of collected notebooks

What would be a good historical reference for a company as defining as Google? The East India Company? Ford? It’s hard to think of an equivalent. And love or loathe them, anyone would be interested in what actually goes on behind the doors. I was given the chance to visit one of their offices through my work.

This notebook was given to us as part of the visit, which was probably more exciting for me than anything else! It came to light recently when I had to raid my collection for a new work notepad and it’s well suited given what I do (online copy-writing).

When I opened it, I realised I’d made notes about my trip to the office. Most were about the tour they took us on, where we experienced all those work perks we’d heard about. Free food and drink were a big thing, with snacks and hot and cold drink always being on tap. Plus free breakfast and lunch (and dinner for engineers). Oh and a massage room with free massage on your birthday.

Of course the whole set up is designed to keep people in the office, they can be working at the drop of a hat. But it’s corporate intervention I could get on board with because…well did I mention the free food? Which actually has some relevance to working on your writing. Prep yourself for writing by having food and drink available. Take breaks and have something to do in your breaks so you keep yourself ‘in the zone’.

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Symbolism and Status – An Enlightening Tour of Highgate Cemetery West

Highgate Cemetery stands on Highgate hill, with a commanding a view over London. Because of that, it became the place to be buried in Victorian times.

Image of Highgate Cemetery WestHighgate is one of seven cemeteries opened in the 1800s to relieve pressure on the horrendously overcrowded inner city church graveyards. They’d been overwhelmed by new inhabitants brought into the capital by the industrial revolution. But the Victorians weren’t high on Government interference. So the new cemeteries were all run by private companies and needed to make a profit.

Grave monument in Highgate Cemetery West

A couple of years ago I visited Highgates’ East Cemetery, so it was only a matter of time before I also made my way to the West. I love a good cemetery. It sounds morbid and part of the appeal is the Gothic nature of them. But I also like history and of course, the hidden story behind each resident. If you’re a writer, they’re good places to find inspiration.

Unlike the Highgate East, where you can wander as you wish, visits to the West are by tour only.

The £12.50 cost is reasonable, especially as the money goes towards the upkeep of the site. It does mean you can’t track down the graves of people you might be interested in, but you do get a boatload of intriguing information from an enthusiastic guide.

The main thing I learnt about is the amount of symbolism in Victorian graves. Urns represent the soul, wreaths mean victory over death, Pelicans are a symbol of piety – nothing on a Victorian burial monument is there just to look pretty. It all means something.

George Wombwell's Lion
George Wombwell’s lion

Our guide also introduced us to some of the cemeteries more interesting inhabitants.

Tomb of Tom Sayers, Highgate Cemetery
Bare-knuckle boxer Tom Sayers and dog, Lion

George Wombwell, a successful menagerist and his sleepy lion, and Tom Sayers, a successful bare-knuckle boxer and his faithful dog, Lion.

And as far as writers go, we did get a glimpse of the tomb of Radclyffe Hall, author of early lesbian novel ‘The Well of Loneliness’.

Radclyffe Hall's Tomb, Highgate
Radclyffe Hall’s tomb

The West side of the cemetery was always the poshest , positioned right at the top of the hill. There were places for the poorest yes, but these were simply a pit you shared with many others and had no gravestone. At the other end of the scale is the most expensive tomb in the place built by Julius Beer for his daughter Ada, at a cost of thousands.

Image of Ada Beer's Tomb

The cemetery still has cache to it. When we visited, there was much ado about where George Micheal would be buried (his mother is interred in a private location in the cemetery). But there’s no mistaking that years of neglect have taken their toll.

Image of Highgate cemetery West

Image of Circle of Lebanon, Highgate Cemetery West
The Circle of Lebanon

Highgate has been restored in parts but it’s still very overgrown. One of the titbits given by our guide was that the graves are leased not owned. Technically it’s the responsibility of the deceaseds relatives to maintain them. If this isn’t done, the grave would be forfit. But this isn’t enforced at the moment and , as you can imagine, many have been forgotten. It does make you wonder if one of your own relatives might be nestled around there somewhere!

Image of the Egyptian Avenue, Highgate Cemetery, West
The Egyptian Avenue

For me and many others though, the decrepit nature of the place just adds to the atmosphere. If you’re into Victorian history, graveyards, architecture, London or just after a fascinating tour this could be for you. Quick tip – if you go at the weekends, you don’t have to book but the tours are popular. We went on a cold Sunday morning in February and the tour filled up quickly.

Have you ever visited Highgate? Or another cemetery that’s captured your imagination?

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Review of the Year or What the Hell was That?

I think it’s safe to say most of the reviews this year will be asking ‘WTF?’ Political and world events seemed to just be one cataclysmic event after the other. And on a personal level, I’ve had a couple of ‘WTF’ moments too. I won’t miss this year one bit.

But for me, there have been good moments too. The biggest thing was, of course, the publication of my first e-book. After writing stories for twenty-six odd years, I finally have a full-length piece of my work out there for people to read. No matter what happens next year, I did it and now I have, I intend to keep going. I’m currently editing a bunch of short stories for the next book whilst planning the one after that, another full-length novel. I’m working to finally establish that I am a writer – in my mind if nothing else.

Thanks to everyone I know and everyone who follows this blog or my social media accounts. Thanks for being there, for helping me, for encouraging me when I needed it and for reading my book!

To my fellow writers wherever you are in life or career, keep going. Keep sending those words out. Keep speaking even if you feel silenced. Stories are the lifeblood of us all, whether we’re reading them on the page or being part of them via Virtual Reality goggles.

We are all stories. See you on the flip side.


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The Princess who Loved Words: Farewell Carrie Fisher

When Terry Pratchett died, it affected me because he shaped the person I am today. The same is true of Carrie Fisher, albeit in a different way.

To women of a certain age, especially those in love with fantasy, she was an icon. There weren’t a great deal of notable female characters in the genre at the time, so Princess Leia in Star Wars was a revelation. She was determined, brave, funny and caring. An excellent shot, a true friend and a rebel leader even after her entire family and planet were destroyed(. And she got Han Solo. No question, I wanted to be Leia. Many of the first stories I wrote included Princess Leia type heroines, fighting and shooting with the best of them.

When I got older, I began to appreciate her for the woman she was too. A brilliant writer and script doctor, she was outspoken and bitingly funny. She discussed her addictions and mental illness without shame. Ultimately, she loved words – and that’s my kind of Princess.

I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know. It was something I always did.

Carrie Fisher