Blogging Skills

Blogging Skills

I’ve been dabbling in the blogging world for years now, and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously. I’ve learned to read and review the books that I want to review, not just the ones that are trendy. I’ve learned to be more well-rounded in my topics in order to keep me interested in writing. I’ve been thinking of the more tangible skills that I’ve learned, and also the things I really need to work on.

Things I’m Better At:

Using Pictures

While I might be the best at taking great pictures, I’m more aware of the pictures I take. I’m trying to use better backgrounds and occasionally use props (when appropriate). I’m also incorporating manipulated stock images in my posts (like the picture at the beginning). I think they make posts a little more interesting.

Writing Succinctly

My writing style has always been to the point, but I’m consciously doing it more in blog posts. Sometimes you don’t need the flowery stuff, you just need to get to the nitty gritty of it. And I think it works!

Things I Need to Work On:


Life gets in the way of a lot of things, blogging included. I would love to be able to create a schedule where I could post a couple times a week, but it’s hard when I work a full time job and I have a two year old son. He doesn’t let me go to the bathroom alone, let alone try to write!

Time Management

This goes hand in hand with scheduling. I tend to write what I can when I can. I need to use my time more wisely and create meaningful content.


What skills have you improved on recently?


Happy Birthday!

2017-09-29 13_46_26-Editor - PicMonkey Photo Editor and Graphic Design Maker

It’s my blogging anniversary today! I’ve been playing with this site for 8 years now. Can you believe it?! It’s certainly grown up along the way, and I think I have too.

I started this blog as What Fiction Means, and I intended it to be solely a book review blog. I got bored with that idea pretty quickly. Now it’s morphed into Meaning Beyond Words, a bookish lifestyle blog, and I’m really enjoying the feel of this more. I’m posting more consistently (although I’d like to do it even more), I’m putting more thought and care into my posts and pictures…I’m treating this like a real thing.

I think I’ve grown as a blogger over the years. I’m trying to be a bit more analytical with my book reviews. I still struggle with finding the balance between research paper and simple review, but I think I’m getting there. Adding more lifestyle posts breaks things up, and I hope you guys can connect to me more this way.

Happy 8th birthday blog! Here’s to many more!

Dam Witherston: Guest Post by Betty Jean Craige

Dam Witherston coverv.2

Dam Witherston is the third of my Witherston Murder Mysteries. The others are Fairfield’s Auction and Downstream. They are all set in a fictive town in the north Georgia mountains where everybody knows everybody else and few people are bad. However, even in this idyllic community of four thousand souls somebody is murdered every year or so, and Mev the police detective, Aunt Lottie the online columnist, and Mev and Paco’s teenage twin sons Jaime and Jorge and their friends collaborate to identify the murderer.

After Black Opal Books accepted Downstream for publication and took on the series I learned that I was writing “cozies.” A “cozy mystery” is a category of crime fiction in which the characters, often eccentric or comic, are well developed, their actions involve little violence or explicit sex, and the events take place in a closed environment. The author tacitly agrees to play fair with the reader by giving appropriate clues to the crime’s solution—not so many as to lead the reader to guess what happened early on, but enough to enable the reader to figure it out by the end of the novel if he or she thinks hard. And the reader must have fun participating in the detection.

In my mysteries I provide information about the events not just through the narration but also through an online newspaper called Witherston on the Web, locally known as “Webby Witherston,” to which Lottie, the boys, the police, and other folks in town contribute. Webby Witherston includes Breaking News, Announcements, Editorials, Lottie’s “North Georgia in History,” Cartoons, Letters to the Editor, Police Blotter, and the Weather.

Why do I enjoy writing cozies? Because I like creating a puzzle for readers to enjoy solving. It’s a game we play together. I only wish I could hear my readers laugh, or at least say, “Aha!”


BJ Craige and CosmoDr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. Her first non-academic book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010). After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled “Cosmo Talks” and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series includes Downstream (2014), Fairfield’s Auction (2016), and Dam Witherston (2017).

Buy links:

Dam Witherston


Fairfield’s Auction

On the Subject of Humorishness: A Guest Post by Gino Bardi


“Where do you get your jokes?”  This question came from a well-intentioned woman who had asked me to sign one of my books for her. The fact that someone just asked me to sign a book, screwed me up a little, so I had to think about it a few seconds.

“A joke is when a priest, a rabbi and a kangaroo go into a bar, and the bartender says… something which I can never remember,” I explained. “I don’t write jokes.”

“What do you write, then?”

“Humor.”  Surprisingly, this was not a satisfactory answer. I could tell this by the metamorphosis of her facial expression. Her bright, eager smile drooped like a candle in a microwave oven, which is exactly the wrong place to keep a candle.

“Is there a difference?” She said this in a tone that told me any answer I gave her would be the wrong one. I spent the rest of the day, and long past my 8 PM bedtime, pondering the question. ‘What, really, is humor?’ I asked myself. “Don’t ask me,” said myself. “Ask the ladies.”

So I brought my question to Cortana, Siri and Alexa. They know everything, after all. Hang on, this will only take a minute.

(Talk amongst yourselves)

Okay, I’m back. Waste of time. Not to mention how much they sound suspiciously alike. Don’t ever ask the ladies anything unless you’re prepared for a lecture featuring lots of big words like cognitive and perspective and experiential. I had to figure it out myself. That’s okay. I’m a writer. I make stuff up all the time.

Here’s what I think: Humor is whatever is funny. And funny is everywhere and everything. Okay. Almost everywhere and everything. You only have think of a subject…then think just a bit harder, push just a little, and the mundane becomes funny. Or funnyISH, which is close to funny. And funnyish is way better than not funny.  Mel Brooks, a very funny man, puts it like this: You only have to exaggerate a little bit.

For example…let’s say you’ve decided that your next automobile will be a self-driving one (and while we’re imagining stuff, let’s for a moment pretend that someone has offered you, say, forty grand for the 2003 Saturn you’re currently driving, so you can afford to buy it.)  There are plenty of concerns and considerations you might have about self-driving cars. Big important life changing stuff that everyone is worried about.  But there is also a lot of stuff no one is thinking about.

You can pick the color of your new car, of course, but how about the sex? Would you want your car to be a man or a woman? What if you were sitting at a stoplight in your very macho Jeep Cherokee, and a cute hot pink Corvette pulled up alongside…would your car even notice when the light had changed? Or would it be flirting as hard as it could with the pink Corvette? Would the car behind you start honking it’s horn, embarrassing the owner?

And what about gasohol? How much gasohol can a self-driving car consume before you shouldn’t ride in it? Would you let a self-driving car fill up on gasohol and drive your daughter to the prom?  Would the owner get in trouble for buying gasohol for an under-aged car?  

Are you even worried about this kind of stuff? You should be. When you worry about this stuff all the time, and find yourself writing it down, then you can stop worrying about “what is humor?”  Or are you still wondering what the bartender said to the priest, the rabbi and the kangaroo?


Gino BardiGino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: “Bad decisions make good stories,” and Mel Brooks’ advice that “You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT.”

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015, followed by the Best Humor Novel of 2016, also from the Royal Palm Literary Awards.



LinkedIn:  Gino Bardi

Skype:  gino.bardi

Buy links:

Three on a Match

The Cow in the Doorway

The Kingdom of Oceana


Five centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic. 

When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to descroy their tropical paradise.

As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerors that threatns to erupt – just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano.

With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki’s spell.

Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge Disney fan. I try to go see every Disney movie that comes out in theaters. When I heard that the newest one was Moana, I knew I wanted to see it. Typical me, though…I haven’t. However, when I saw this book, I knew it would fill the Moana void. I don’t want you to think that this is a straight-out Moana story. The Kingdom of Oceana is a totally great story. Right after I finished the first chapter, I knew I needed to read this as fast as possible; I needed to know what happened to everyone!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a sibling story at its core. I like reading about siblings because I like to imagine what’s it like to have them. I feel like Mitchell Charles did a great job creating that relationship. Ailani is always trying to measure up to his older brother Nahoa, and Nahoa likes to remind Ailani that he is the little brother. I really enjoyed the character development throughout the story. I feel that Ailani grew up not only because of necessity, but because he was starting to see his potential.

As a new mom, I feel like I pay more attention to parent-child relationships in stories. As I was reading, I found that I most wanted to be like Father and definitely not like Mother. Father tries to do right by his family and his people, even if that means making decisions that he might not think are great. He always tries to teach boys lessons, not just about how to become the next leaders of their people, but also about being good people in general. I hated how Mother played favorites. If I ever have more than one child, I want to be able to love them equally.

When I was in college, I took a Mythology course. When I first signed up for it, I thought it would be only about Greco-Roman mythology. Boy, was I wrong! I was learning about Celtic, Chinese, Native American…and Hawaiian. As I was reading, I was recognizing some of the terms used throughout the book (just in case, Charles includes footnotes, which I think is an added bonus to the story). I was trying to think of why things sounded familiar, and I remembered back to my Mythology class. If anyone wants to check out my textbook, I highly recommend it!

Speaking of class, since The Kingdom of Oceana is geared toward younger readers (think middle school age), there are educational materials that go along with it! As a former ELA teacher and new mom, I think it’s awesome that there are pre-made materials that enhance the reading experience. I can’t wait ’til my son is a little older and I can teach him about this book. There is a glossary of Hawaiian words and two study guides focused on earth science and humanities. If there are any ELA teachers out there who read my blog, contact me and I might be able to hook you up!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a fast-paced, fun read that gets you interested right from the beginning. I’m really hoping Charles is working on a sequel, because I need to know what happens next!

Final Exam


The Society Agent series examines human society a few thousand years hence as people expand through our galaxy. In this future, there is no dystopian dictatorship, no cyber-menace overlord, and no inter-species warfare. Humanity faces its historic enemy, humankind, but under different skies. Even as civility and civilization advances through the millennia, greed, gangs and human malice remain as wolves chasing down the weak and vulnerable.

Final Exam begins the series, written in the classic sci-fi style of Asimov and Heinlein. The series protagonist, Shane O’Ryan, is an idealistic, rich kid, and a recent graduate of an elite college that trains special agents for the Society, a quasi-judicial galactic power. Shane and his secret fraternity investigate infractions of the colonization charter that protects vulnerable intelligent species and their planets. They risk their lives to make sure that the tragic aftermath of 1492 in the Americas never happens again anywhere humans go.

In Final Exam, Shane and his student partner visit a snowy vacation planet to solve a mystery—how could a sub-intelligent species leap 50,000 years in evolution in months to harness fire and develop a language. Their investigation leads them into deadly conflict with a sophisticated gang trying to gain control of the planet for its mineral riches. Shane’s instructor also challenged him to lose his virginity as soon as possible, leading to some awkward and comical moments.

It had been a pretty long time since I read something that was truly sci-fi. I think the closest might be The Lunar Chronicles series (which I still haven’t finished!), so when I read the description for Final Exam, I knew this would be a good change for me.

Shane O’Ryan is about to graduate from a secret special agent college. He has to complete one very important mission before he graduates: learn about the native population on a nearby moon and figure out why they’re evolving more quickly than they should. Oh, his side mission is to lose his virginity, but I’ll talk about that later.

Shane and his mission partner, the very pretty and exotic Alana, learn about the planet Goldilocks and its three moons: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. Shane and Alana are to go to Mama Bear and learn about the indigenous people. After the last survey fifty years prior, they’re close to cavemen; no real language or society. Now, they have a full language and learning skills they shouldn’t be yet. That seems kinda fishy to the government. Shane and Alana pose as a newlywed couple while discovering what’s really going on. There’s a lot of action and awkward humor (which is a good thing), and it was a fun read.

I couldn’t help but think that Final Exam is kinda similar to Ender’s Game. Kids going to school, learning fighting and espionage skills, going into an intense final battle…I don’t mind the similarities. I really enjoyed the pop culture humor (like Goldilocks); it was fun and unexpected.

What I didn’t like was the major push to have Shane lose his virginity. I feel that was really unnecessary. It also made me feel a touch uncomfortable (you’ll understand more at the end). I also didn’t like how short it was. I wasn’t expecting it to be a novella. The ending seemed rushed to me, and I wonder if McLaughlin would have made some changes if he decided to write a full novel.

Final Exam is the beginning of a series, and I’ll be on the lookout for the rest of it. If you’re into sci fi, definitely give this one a chance!

Breaking the Glass Slipper


Sex, love and happily ever after. This is one woman’s search for the fairy tale.

This is a true story.

I am a baby boomer raised to believe that love always won, sex and love were interchangeable, and sharing both lead to the much desired happily ever after. In my childhood, every prince claimed a princess, every femme fatale got her man, and every sexual encounter promised love.

I discovered how wrong I was before I left home and I went wild. Disillusioned, the next twenty-five years overflowed with misadventures, failed marriages, and sexual exploits. The lessons I learned were life altering, filled with disappointments, often with painfully funny results. I cut my life’s teeth on the shards of my shattered glass slipper dreams.

Until one day, my fairy godmother decided I’d suffered enough.

My life became an honest-to-goodness love story complete with a real glass slipper.

Happily ever after is possible. Take a lesson or two from me.

I’ll be honest with you: when I first saw this book and read the back blurb, I really thought this would be about a princess. I was hardcore hoping this would be a new take on a traditional princess story. While this book is not what I had originally thought, I still had fun reading it.

Breaking the Glass Slipper is marketed as a “fictional memoir”, although author Sherry Rentschler says the events are real. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to the narrator of the story as the main character.

Our main character is growing up in 1960’s and 1970’s America, and she’s heavily influenced by the music of her time. I really enjoyed trying to figure out all the song references (and I was especially proud of myself when I did figure it out). She’s going to school, making friends, and learning just how much she wants a boyfriend. She craves the fairy tale, femme fatale romances. As she goes through middle and high school, she’s not finding what she wants. She’s wanting to find her identity with any boy that will give her attention, and later that will become her downfall.

Fast forward to post-high school. She has a grown up job, she has a place of her own, and she’s engaged to her sweetheart. Things are looking up, right? Rentschler throws a wrench into the fairy tale when she introduces the boss’s son…who ALSO proposes to her! Talk about too much to handle! We follow the main character through her marriage, affairs, dates, romps, and learn that she really really really likes sex. 🙂

I was not very happy with her personality throughout the book. I thought she was somewhat shallow, not remorseful, and had her head in the clouds. Granted, I understand that having that background allows a character to grow and the metamorphosis has much more of an impact, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! In the end, she learns (albeit very late) to look towards herself to find what she really wants.

Overall, I didn’t hate the book. Is this something that I’m going to pick up and read again? Probably not. Will I read more of Rentschler’s books? Totally. I really liked her writing style and how she used pop culture of the time to add more meaning to the story. I’m curious to see if she does something like that in her other books.