Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum Blog Tour

Many of you that I love ghost stories and everything spooky. I am especially a big fan of Ghost Hunters on Syfy and all of those other paranormal investigation TV shows. So I was super excited to read Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum, by Stephen Prosapio and published by Otherworld Publications.

I have the pleasure of hosting his blog tour today, and so I took the opportunity to ask him some questions about his book and the world of ghost hunting:

Jay: Your book is titled Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum. Give us just a quick description of what this book is about:

Stephen: The one-sentence pitch you’d see in the TV guide:
Forced to work with a rival TV ghost hunting show, a paranormal researcher—who is himself possessed—investigates a 19th century asylum and uncovers as many dangerous secrets as he does spirits.

The back of the book reads:
Zach Kalusky, host of Sci-D TV's Xavier Paranormal Investigators, is ecstatic when he's given the opportunity to explore the most haunted site in Chicago for a Halloween Special: Rosewood Asylum, a place long made off-limits by the local government, plagued by decades of mysterious fires and unexplained events. It's Zach's dream investigation- but there's a catch: the network forces Xavier Paranormal Investigators to partner with the more dramatic-but less ethical-Demon Hunters. Now, Zach must fight for both his show's integrity and his team's loyalty while trying to protect his own secret: that he, himself, is possessed.

Without giving too much away, your book contains vengeful ghosts, demons, pyromania and other terrifying things. What the hell happened to you as a child? Just kidding. Why did you choose to write a horror story?

Like Stephen King says, “What makes you think I have a choice?”  LOL  Seriously though, writing tends to be a good form of therapy to work out some of our issues. I don’t know where half of this stuff comes from, I just try to pluck it from the either and jot it down.

Have you ever personally had a "paranormal experience" in your life?

Yes. I don’t share the details of it though because I use them in my stories and I don’t want to affect the way a reader enjoys the story. Between you and I, a slightly less dramatic version of what happened in the “Zachary’s Past – Age 3” chapter happened to me.

Everybody here knows that I'm a paranormal junkie, and that I have had the pleasure of speaking with several members of TAPS and the TV show Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. I'm amazed at how accurate your descriptions are of what it's like to film a paranormal investigation show. What kind of research did you do to write this book?

Thanks, Jay. I’m complimented often on the realism of the TV side of things, and oddly enough, I didn’t do too much dedicated research on that. I am a junkie when it comes to behind the scenes shows and DVD commentary tracks. I think my mind extrapolates the very limited experiences I’ve had involving TV shows. I expanded that into what I assumed it would be like (at least plausibly). I also have a friend who’d been involved in the production side of reality shows and answered some questions for me.

So what do YOU think of these paranormal shows (Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State)? Real? Fake? Or something in between?

To be honest, I think there are pluses and minuses with all of them. One of the things I really enjoyed trying to show in Ghosts was what incredible pressure there must be to “find” evidence of hauntings. Debunking only goes so far on TV, so I think that’s where all the “What was that?!?!?”’s come from.

Paranormal investigation teams are usually made of of people assigned different tasks: lead investigation, technical expert, intuitive, researcher, and if you grew up watching Scooby-Doo, you need bait. If you were to investigate, which role would you take?

Bait. That’s hilarious…and true. I’m probably best qualified to be bait right now. I’m somewhat intuitive but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. Investigator maybe. I’d enjoy that.

Paranormal themes are abundant in fiction these days. How is your book different from the rest?

I’d hope people find the multiple levels of conflict different than most of what we’re seeing today. Typically books seem lately to either establish the good guy and the bad guy and then we watch them fight. Or they give us a Hamlet-like character and there’s internal conflict galore but not much outside drama. I think books/shows and films that are able to portray both internal conflict as well as multiple layers of external conflict, captivate us.

In addition to Zach’s internal struggles, readers live through conflict between the teams, conflict with the mystery of Rosewood, conflict with the ghosts as well as conflict between the spirits themselves. There are side characters in conflict with each other. It helps propel the action of the novel forward.

How can we get a hold of your book?

You could order it at your local bookstore or online. It’s available both as a paperback and as an eBook at:

Barnes & Noble


To get your chance to win an ebook copy of Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum, all you gotta do is comment below in the next 24 hours. I'll randomly choose a winner this week.

Check out Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum's spooky trailer:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blog Tour Tomorrow

I'm hosting Steve Prosapio, author of Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum. Some come back here as we talk about how the paranormal and ghosts inspired this most excellent novel.

And we'll have a giveaway too!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Hunger Pains - A Review

Happy Friday people!

I am a big fan of The Hunger Games, and I'm pretty stoked about the movie coming out. But like anything that is hugely successful, it's open for ridicule and parodies. Check out my book review of Harvard Lampoon's latest book, The Hunger Pains that hits bookstores February 12th.

These are the same people that made fun of Twilight with their book, Nightlight. Oh, and then there's Bored of the Rings.

On the back, it even says that Abraham Lincoln loves The Hunger Pains so much, it makes him wish he had never been shot!

My review is at CultureBrats.com right now, and you can read it right HERE.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Miswritten Gun

Akimbo Style gone crazy
By now, I hope you all understand how much I love reading and writing about action. What can I say, I'm a boy and my brain needs stimulation. I've written about fight scenes HERE, and then I did an ode to sword fighting HERE.

So I'd like to talk to you about guns. Yes. GUNS. If you are going to have a cool gunfight or two (or twenty) in your story, here are a bunch of things to keep in mind. Hopefully you won't make the common mistakes many writers commit when writing a gunfight.

1) The duel wield (akimbo style). You've seen this in The Matrix, Tomb Raider, Young Guns, and a ton of other cool movies where a character is holding two guns at the same time and using them simultaneously. Great for cinema (or comic books), but if you're writing an action novel and want some realism, don't include the duel wield. Even in the Wild West, cowboys might hold two guns, but only shoot with their dominant hand and then switch guns after they've run out of bullets. Modern soldiers might use two guns at the same time, but not to kill anybody. They'll use it as suppression fire only. In real life, duel wielding is not very accurate.

2) Cartridge or bullet. I've seen this mistake in a couple spy novels, actually. A cartridge is not the same as a bullet. The cartridge (or round) includes the bullet, gunpowder, and primer all in one nice package. The bullet is what actually shoots out of the gun. When you see someone firing a machine gun, for example, what you see raining down are the spent cartridges. In a revolver, the shooter must empty the cylinder of the spent cartridges before reloading. Oh, and three is a difference between a clip and a magazine too. A clip is that piece of metal that holds bullets together, so you can put them into a magazine, which is the box that holds the clip (connected bullets)

3) Silencers. Oh man, where to begin! I blame all the James Bond movies for this one. Look, silencers don't really make guns silent. At all. That high pitched puffft you hear in the movies is nowhere near reality. If you have a character in your book using a silencer, the shots will not be silent at all. A silencer will get the gunshot down to about 120 decibels. That's louder than sandblasting or a power saw.

I will point my useless gun at you!
4) The dramatic shotgun pump. You've seen it before, the character with the shotgun encounters the enemy and pumps (racks) the shotgun as a warning. The problem is, pumping the gun ejects the spent shell. And I've watched movies where someone with fire, rack the gun, do all kinds of dramatic maneuvers until they come upon the enemy only to rack the gun again as some sort of warning. But since they already racked the gun after firing, they've ejected an unused shell. Doh!

5) Run for cover. Car doors make very poor shields if faced with machine gun fire. But every cop movie I've ever seen exemplifies this myth. Oh, and regular plaster walls are not exactly great cover as well. Bullets ricochet, bounce, and skip all over the place!

Yo, you ain't gonna hit shit
6) Sideways shooter. Oh man, this one is too funny. If gangstas really do hold their 9 mm sideways, it's no wonder they suck at hitting their targets. Damn you Menace II Society, you trained a bunch of wannabes on how to improperly bust a cap.

7) Empty! if your character is using an auto/semi-automatic weapon, it will be evident when the gun is out of bullets. So don't have them be surprised when they go to kill their enemy, and oops, out of bullets. The slide on the gun's action locks all the way back and the gun "opens" up for all to see that it's completely empty!

8) Safety first. Revolvers don't have safeties. Not many semiautomatics do either.

9) Cordite. I've read many spy novels where the author describes the "cordite stench" or "cordite fog" after a gun battle. Well, cordite was used in guns back in the 19th century, and only for the briefest of periods. On an episode of CSI, a tech talked about the smell of cordite after a gun battle. Um, no. Probably not (unless the use of an antique gun is part of the plot).

10) Peter Pan. If someone gets hit with a bullet, they won't be violently hurled backwards into the air as if struck by a SAM missile. Once again, cinematic mythology. Even MythBusters shows that a 50mm bullet can't do it!

11) Bullet proof vests are not totally bullet proof. Nor will you be thrown backwards if you're wearing one and struck by a bullet. If you're hit from close range by AK-47s (i.e. Back to the Future), you will end shredded wheat even if wearing Kevlar.

Crocket kills the Big Wheel
12) Stance #1. Experienced gunfighters don't stick their arms straight out with their gun in hand in close quarters. If your character is doing target practice, sure. But in real life, experts hold their sidearms close to their bodies with arms bent. This stance is called the Center Axis Relock. (This is for more modern gunfighting)

13) Stance #2. 21 Jump Street and Miami Vice might say otherwise, but experienced pistoleers don't point their guns down at the ground with straight arms either, unless they want to kill ants or shoot off their own feet.

14) Kaboom! Shooting a fuel tank or any kind of pressured tank (with fuel, propane, oxygen, etc.) will NOT make it explode. Jaws, The Matrix, James Bond, The Bourne Identity - they're all wrong. It would take some sort of big spark, or better yet, fire to make that happen. Mythbusters busted this myth as well!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Samurai Facts

My current WIP is a steampunk novel, but also involves pirates, ninjas, and samurais. A few months ago, I posted about ninjas, giving you just the very basics of this mysterious group of warriors. You can check that out HERE. But it's always interesting separating fact from myth (i.e. ninjas wearing black, when they actually wore navy blue or dressed to blend in with the crowd).

So I decided to write about the samurai. I've always been so mystified about this Eastern version of knighthood and nobility. Here's a quick history lesson on the samurai:

1) This elite Japanese group became more prevalent around the 11th century. They served as warriors and protectors of their feudal lord (their daimyos). But when Japan entered the Imperial Age, the rule of the samurai had ended during the 19th century.

2) Many people know of the samurai seppuku (ritual and voluntary suicide). Samurai warriors would rather die with honor than fall prisoner to enemy hands, and other times, the daimyo would order a samurai to commit seppuku if he failed miserably or brought dishonor to his clan. BUT, seppuku was really very rare.

3) With Hollywood's help, most of us think of the sword when it comes to the samurai. Yes, the sword was a vital weapon - and symbolically, the katana sword is synonymous with the samurai's sword. But on the battlefield, samurai warriors employed all kinds of weapons - the spear was very popular, especially on horseback. The bow and arrow too, and samurai became experts and launching arrows while riding. And finally guns. YES, guns. Samurai used lots of guns. In fact, they were designing and building much better guns than Europeans were at the time.

4) Bushido - code of honor. The samurai did indeed have their own code of honor: loyalty, devotion, strict adherence to doing the right thing. These were simply ideals, and the daimyos manipulated this code to keep their samurai in line. The reality is, the samurai often did stab each other in the back. Treachery was commonplace.

5) Ninjas! I always come back to ninjas, don't I. Most ninjas were just samurai warriors used for assassinations and spying missions. Many were also disgraced samurai.

6) The shogun was one of the highest positions of power in feudal Japan. The shogun was appointed by the emperor. The emperor was more of symbolic ruler, but the shogun held most of the political/military power. In more modern times, the shogun is equivalent to a 5 star general.

7) The Last Samurai (with Tom Cruise) has to be one of the most historically inaccurate movies I've ever seen. Despite the film's portrayal, Japan DID have artillery, going back to the 16th century in fact. The military did not need the help of an American on how to use guns, although they did seek out help from France and Prussia. And finally, the whole treaty built on trading American weapons for the opportunity to open trade was complete fiction.

Oh, and I find how Tom Cruise's character manages to dodge 1,364,204 bullets from a Gatling gun while all the other samurai crumple all around him absolutely laughable. But that's Hollywood.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's Summer in Australia

It's that time of year once again, while I'm freezing my butt off in cold January weather, it's actually summer on the other side of the world and below the Equator. In the wonderful city of Melbourne, Australia is the site of the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, the Australian Open. And it starts tonight! (Which is actually tomorrow in Australia).

I love tennis. I played it growing up. Played varsity all four years in high school, and even played collegiate tennis at the Division I level. I was one of the few players that played with a true one-handed backhand, since most of my peers went to two hands. I was a baseliner, grinding and pounding - I could kick a topspin serve right over my opponents' heads.

But that was twenty years ago. YIKES. Although I still play today, it's more for fun.

I enjoy the Australian Open, although the broadcast times make it tough to watch on TV here in the States. During the course of the tournament, it gets SO freaking hot, I remember seeing the players' shoes literally melting on the court one year. The main arena court at Melbourne Park, named after Australian great Rod Laver, has a state-of-the art retractable roof. And if the weather dictates, play can continue.

Recently, the Australian Open has been touting itself as the tennis Grand Slam of Asia. And I think that's awesome. With the other three Slams being played in the Western world (Wimbledon, French Open, and US Open), it's great that Asia/Pacific can tout its own main event.

Asian tennis has been getting better, particularly the Chinese women. Li Na, for example, lost in the finals of the Australian Open last year. She was the first Asian in a Grand Slam Final. (I don't count Michael Chang, because he is an American). And then she won the French Open last year, being the first Asian Grand Slam Champion.

My picks for the final 4 for this year's Australian Open:

Men: Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray.

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Women: Serena Williams, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova

Winner: Petra Kvitova

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5th Anniversary of Shawn Hornbeck's Rescue

Hard to believe that five years have gone by since then-15 year old Shawn Hornbeck was rescued from the clutches of a madman. Shawn had been missing for over four years, abducted while riding his bike. It made national news, and a couple VERY well known soothsayers even made bold predictions about Shawn's "death" - even giving clues as to where to find his body.

Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh are jackasses, and both should be beaten with the bags of money morons give them to give fake predictions.

Despite that, what made this day in history even more incredible was that along with Shawn, they also found another boy more recently abducted just four days prior!

Below is my blog post from January 12, 2007:

* * * *
13 year-old Ben Ownby, missing since this Monday, has been found Alive! It's a miracle...but just one of two miracles to happen on this dreary, rainy late afternoon in St. Louis. Along with Ben, Shawn Hornbeck, missing since October of 2002 was found in the same apartment alive and well. Now do you believe in miracles? (Famous psychics Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh were absoultely wrong about Shawn Hornbeck, as they assured his family that he was dead. More about that below).

Ben Ownby was seen walking home from his bus stop on January 8th when a white Nissan truck drove up next to him and abducted him a mere 500 feet from his home. The abduction activated the Amber Alert system, and hundreds of people searched and scoured all of Franklin County looking for him. Federal agents descended on the town of Union, Missouri in an effort to find Ben as quickly as possible. Vigils were held at Union Middle School, where Ben was known to be a model student, and his friends and fellow students prayed for his safe return. Two Kirkwood police officers went to an apartment complex in Kirkwood, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb) Thursday evening to serve a warrant, and neighbor Geoff Hadler, who had noticed a white Nissan pick-up truck in the apartment complex, pointed out the vehicle to the cops.

Police followed up late this afternoon, where authorities found Ben Ownby inside of the apartment of Michael J. Devlin - a man with only traffic violations on his record.

Inside, police found a 15 year-old boy who identified himself as Shawn Hornbeck of Richwoods, Missouri of Washington County....missing since October of 2002. Shawn was only 11 years old at the time, and was last seen riding his bike towards a friend's house. He never made it there. 

Shawn's abduction had made national news years prior when his story was featured on America's Most Wanted. His family also taped episodes on the Montell William's Show when Syliva Browne was on, and they also were on a segment for the TV show "Beyond" with another well-known psychic, James Van Praagh. Both "acclaimed" psychics said Shawn was dead. No doubt about it. Yeah right, you b-yotches. Fuck you both. Goddamn charlatans.

In the first "Beyond" show, Van Praagh, who also claims he talks to the dead, said he was getting the impression Shawn was in a rural area along I-55 where there are three silos. When the Akers Family returned, authorities searched along I-55 in Missouri and Illinois, but didn't find a thing.

Van Praagh then came to Missouri to film the second segment for his show. This time, he said he believed Shawn's body was in a railroad freight car or near some sort of railroad car facility. Then Van Praagh said he believed a guy that worked at this railcar facility was involved in Shawn's disappearance. (By the way, Michael Devlin worked at Imo's Pizza).

Authorities took that information and matched it to a railroad yard at De Soto, Missouri - only about 10 miles from Richwoods - where the old Missouri Pacific Railroad shops were located. They found nothing. Craig Akers, Shawn's father said, "We have put in many miles and hours since then with nothing to back up any of the information provided."

  On the Montell Williams show, hoarse-voiced Sylvia Browne said that Shawn was "not with us" anymore and said his body was 20 miles Southwest of Richwoods, Missouri. Her visions indicated that Shawn was abuducted by a "dark-skinned man, he wasn't black, more like Hispanic." Sylvia Browne said the abductor had long, black hair that he wore in dreadlocks and was "really tall." That's the only hit Sylvia Browne had - that he was tall. Michael Devlin is very very white with short brown hair.

Despite all of these famous and very wealthy psychics using their mighty powers to do nothing but put the family through wild goose chases and also lead them to believe that their son was dead, it took good police work to bring Shawn home.

But now it's over. Now, Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck are safe. Believe in miracles, my friends.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Dialog Do-Overs

I am in revision hell right now with my WIP. But the good news is that my publisher has pushed my deadline back, as I've got all kinds of crap going on with my other professional life that will probably involve relocation far away.

I'm also helping a few others with their own work. And a few years ago, I taught creative writing to eager and enthusiastic young writers. When reflecting on some of the things I've come across while wearing my editor's hat, I came up with just a short list of common mistakes writers make when creating dialog. Dialog to me is key to a good book, and even the most season writers make the following mistakes:

Long Winded. Are you a people watcher? I am. I'm also an eavesdropper. I love listening to people talk. Have you noticed that 99% of the time, people speak in three-four sentence blocks per turn? I've come across rough drafts where characters will go on and on. And it's easy for a writer to do. Unless your character is giving a speech or something, stick to shorter blocks of dialog.

And if you find yourself making your characters speak in Emancipation Proclamation type of dialog blocks, you're probably doing the next big dialog no-no...

P.S. Don't write dialog that imitates EXACTLY  how people talk. Fill your dialog with short hand slang and  um and uh all over the placeyour reader will stumble. Keep the more natural "filler" humans use down to a minimum.

Information Overload. Dialog is supposed to have purpose. Move the story. Propel it. And that's why it's easy to put too much information in your dialog. Readers are smart. No need to spell everything out. No spoon feeding. It's condescending to your reader and a HUGE turn off. Let dialog build suspense, reveal motives, and show conflict.

If you're going to use dialog to introduce major elements or describe a missing scene, please make sure it's natural and flows. Don't pull a Shakespearean aside and have a character spell stuff out to the reader (a la Ferris Bueller). Not only does it show laziness, but it also looks very amateurish. Make your book an information dump-free zone.

Name Calling. I see this a lot in beginning writers' work. When you watch TV or movies, you'll notice characters are constantly calling each other by name when they speak. This makes sense, as it helps the viewer figure out who is who. But we don't do that in real life. Could you imagine:

"Hey John, what are you doing?"
"None of your business, Jim."
"You shouldn't be doing that, John. It's dangerous."
"Jim, keep your mouth shut."

Not only does this dialog sound really stupid, it's the mark of an amateur. I would say you should have no more than a handful of instances where characters call each other by name when they speak. Writers use tags to help readers figure out who's speaking. Speaking of tags...

Stupid Tags. Tags help - but don't try too get to fancy with your tags. From the reader's perspective, the word said is nearly invisible. It flows. It works. Don't crack open that thesaurus to find new tags unless it's incredibly important and necessary. Other good tags are: replied, asked, questioned, answered.

Bad tags: cajoled, seethed, ejaculated, hissed, sneered, snort, gasp, and moan. There's more, but I just drew a blank. But you get the picture. Example: it is physically impossible to hiss, gasp, or snort actual words. Ask any speech therapist. And yes, I did read one manuscript from a college student that used ejaculated as a dialog tag.

Go do a SEARCH for the word hiss in your current WIP. Unless you're writing about a snake, chances are you need to get rid of it. And if it's being used in dialog tag, most certainly it must be EXTERMINATED (in my best Dalek voice).

Use alternative tags sparingly!  But get rid of dialog tags that are either lazy and/or redundant. Examples: admitted, confessed, taunted, noted, examined, concluded...There are so many! These tags can be sprinkled here and there - but many writers use these when they're just being plain lazy asses. If the reader can't figure out that a character is taunting without the use of that tag, then you're not doing your job as a writer.

Adverbial Tags. While we're on the subject of dialog tags, get rid of adverbs. No seriously (ha). Get RID OF 95% OF YOUR DAMN ADVERBS. The suck. They show laziness. And putting them in your dialog tags sucks atomic donkey balls.

"You need to stop doing that," Jim hissed accusingly.

Okay, get rid of hissed, because it is physically impossible to hiss those words. And get rid of accusingly. If you need that to explain to the reader what's happening, you're assuming your reader is a moron. Lose all adverbs. Zap them, kill them. Hang 'em up, and then burn them. You want be be descriptive? Add a little action.

"You need to stop doing that," Jim said as he snatched the remote control from John's grasp.

*Caveat: There are a few instances where you might need an adverb, but any adverb should still be a red flag.

"Thanks a lot," she said bitterly.

Okay, bitterly is fine there. Because from her spoken words, you can't tell that she's bitter. But like I said, keep adverbs to an absolute minimum. Don't be lazy. Do a SEARCH for ly in your word processing document and kill those unnecessary adverbs (A.K.A. vermin).

Movie Scripts. One of the worst things a writer can do is create dialog as if it's a transcription of a conversation. In addition to tags, add a little bit of action - give the reader a clear idea of not just what is being said, but what is happening. You can also use a little bit of action instead of a tag:

Jim ripped the remote control from John's grasp. "You need to stop doing that."

If you have one line of pure dialog after another, unless it's a very quick exchange, readers get bored. Break up dialog with tags AND action. You're not writing a movie script.

Local Color. Okay, this one is very tough. And even NY Times Bestsellers have to work hard on this. If you have a character that speaks with a foreign accent or some type of dialect (regional or otherwise), you need to still convey that, yet not have it be such an obstacle that the reader needs a Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring to figure out just what the hell is being said.

"Wen back in de day, dey said dere wasn't no way de kin 'kep 'em comin'," said Wilbur.

I get it. The old man is from the South. But this is such a jumbled mess. Try this instead:

"When back in the day, they said there wasn't no way they could keep 'em coming," said Wilbur.

Again, less is more. In my current WIP, my main character speaks without using contractions. There are some cool things you can do to make dialog a great part of characterization. And infusing local color is one way. Just don't abuse it, okay? This ain't no Hooked on Phonics!

* * * *

* I hope I could be of some help. I know I have to keep this stuff in mind with my own work, as I'm just as guilty of these transgressions as anyone else. But like everything in life, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you have a character that speaks only in adverbs, if your character is verbose and won't shut up, or if you have a pair of characters that call each other by name when they argue - all of these cases call for the dialog rules to be broken (or bent).

But I still think if you really look hard at your manuscript and those alarms go off in your head, hopefully you're just one step away from creating a better product.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Evolution of the BLOG

It's a new year, and now is a great time to take a step back and really look at just what the hell we're all doing here on the blogosphere. After taking two years off of blogging, I was amazed to see how everything had changed so drastically in such a short amount of time upon my return.

For those of you who started blogging around 2009 or 2010, that makes little sense. But to those bloggers that have been around longer, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Anyone here remember BlogExplosion? Or how about BlogMad? If you signed up for either one of these blog exchanges, you're probably waxing nostalgic right along with me. These were pretty awesome - and it was a great way to get traffic to your blog, although there was no money to be made in the end by these companies, and they both went the way of the 8-Track. Now, people "Follow" other blogs, creating an organic and ever-growing network.

Remember podcasting? I know, some of you still listen to them. Fewer yet actually still do it - if so, you are a rare thing indeed. Podcasting peaked around 2005-2006. I had my own podcast and was actually syndicated by a real podcasting/internet radio company around that time. But traditional podcasting is dead. Just go to iTunes and start browsing titles. What you'll find are many "dead" and abandoned podcasts. Video blogs (vlogs) have pretty much pushed podcasting back to the fringes of the blogging world.

New podcasting is not dead, but just completely different now. The word "podcast" is actually a bad word these days. Many people are creating "audio shows" and just placing them on their blogs or linking from social networking sites. But the days of using a "podcast aggregator" (other than iTunes) are gone.

And finally, what about blogging in general? It has evolved so quickly in such a short amount of time, it really makes my head spin. When I first started blogging in 2004-2005, the blogosphere was dominated by personal blogs. Think Doogie Howser typing about his life into his computer. A blog was simply an online diary. MySpace was just another format for blogging, along with Blogger (which had just been purchased by Google), TypePad, and WordPress.

Vox was another blogging platform that came to life in 2006, only to be dead by the Fall of 2010. But it played a huge part in what was to come - namely the combination of blogging and social networking.

Later, Facebook was born, but it was pretty much just college kids at the time. As blogging and social media began to converge, anonymity also began to disappear. People didn't have a separate online identity anymore. Your online presence was simply an extension of you.

Then social media and micro-blogging exploded onto the landscape, even converging. And those young people with blogs and short attention spans started Tweeting more and using Tumblr. Combine online chatting and social media and BAM, you got Twitter. Tumblr is a mix of traditional blogging and social media. Blogs weren't necessarily hurt by the transformation, but the nature of blogs and who read them changed. Take a look:

* The percentage of young people between 12-17 blogging dropped by HALF between 2006-2010.
* The percentage of adults between 18-33 blogging dropped by only 2% in that same time span
* The percentage of adults between 34-50 that blogged INCREASED by 6%

I have always written "longer" posts. And I'm pretty sure a lot of younger people don't want to take the time to read something longer than 120 words these days, but there is a place for thoughtful and longer content. So the younger folks turned to microblogging to share their lives and embraced social networking to hook up.

The older folks turned to blogging to write mostly about their interests (writing, technology, music, art). But then turned to social networks to do practical things like find a job, reconnect with old classmates, post pics of their dogs or kids on Halloween. And yes, in some cases, hook up.

So what is happening now and in the near future???

Instead of lines being drawn between micro-blogging, vlogging, blogging, podcasting...we now combine ALL of these mediums and call it Personal Publishing. That's really what's happening here. People are doing two of the three or maybe even all of the above, in all kinds of fun combinations to get their messages out to an audience.

Yes, there will always be a need for niche media: people are still using the blog as an online diary. And people still make podcasts, and amazingly, people still listen to them. And yeah, many people ONLY use social networking to stay in contact with friends.

Blogs have become mainstream, and many subject matter experts who put their work on their blogs have legitimized blogs as a source of information. Dan Rather got his ass kicked by bloggers. Occupy Wall St. was fueled by blogging. And everyday we do research on the internet, and we're finding accurate and reliable information on blogs more and more. Hell, I have a post from my own blog that is part of the curriculum in a college geology class. How cool is that???

In the end, content is king. The methods in which you utilize to get that message transmitted over the blogosphere has diversified yet converged at the same time. If what you speak and write is of value, people will seek you out. And you will always have an audience.