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What is a "dofollow" Tag?

by Kathy Foust

Essentially, a "dofollow" tag or at least the lack of a "nofollow" tag is what makes the difference between worthy and unworthy links on your site. For instance, when you comment on a blog, you leave your name and maybe your URL. If comments are tagged as "nofollow" in the template that you left the information at, then you may get visitors from your link on the site that you commented on, but Google won't recognize those backlinks in any manner that will increase your ranking.

The sites that have a "dofollow" tag can have an impact on your Google ranking. This makes bloggers very happy and we all jump for joy as our families look at us in confusion and fear.

Naturally, this is a method that can be easily manipulated as people buy links  from "dofollow" sites. Google doesn't like that. Basically, when a backlink comes from a "dofollow" site, the owner of that site is saying that they consider that link to be a quality link. A quality site would be a site that provides useful information. When it comes to link farms, they use a "dofollow" tag to get people to come back to their site, but they may not have any relevant content.

Google is trying to come up with a way to identify unworthy sites so that they can avoid giving them Google juice that isn't warranted. People that review sites for pay must reveal that they are being rewarded in some way to review those sites. Google is developing a way to track paid backlinks by using the disclosure that bloggers must now provide. So, if you're backlinking to a site, you might want to make sure it has relevant content before you put your own Google juice at risk.

By the way, this site is actually a "dofollow" site, so any links you leave here in the comments will show as a quality backlink from my site (hint hint).

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Interview with Peter Straub

by Kathy Foust

I've always been interested in the psychology of people and the way that they draw on past experience in an effort to deal with their present lives. It has never failed to amaze me how just one experience can set the foundation for the life of any one individual. It's baffling to think that it's usually the things that make us wish the earth would stop turning that actually score the lines of the future that we are drawn to.

Peter Straub is a master at leading his readers down a path that lends reason to madness through character development in such a way as to leave readers wondering about their own perceptions and life paths. Fairy tales take on an entirely new meaning and characters develop a visual quality that presents their pain in a beautiful and profound manner. These are the elements that draw me to the works of Peter Straub.

I was first introduced to the fabulous characters that are the children of Mr. Straub's imagination through the literally "magical" children and seemingly blinded adults in Shadowland. I've been hooked ever since. After all, it isn't many people that can give freedom to a young boy through his imprisonment in a glass bird. How could I not interview him?

Mr. Straub, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I'm sure that many of your readers, as well as aspiring writers are anxious to get some insight into who you are and how the writer in you finds his way to print. On that note, let us not keep them in suspense any longer.

Kathy Foust (KF): How did you begin your writing career and at what age did you first learn that you were a writer?

Peter Straub (PS): I don't know if I ever learned that I was a writer. It feels like something I more or less always knew, although for a long time in a not-knowing kind of knowing, an ambiguous, doubtful, insecure, ignorant way of knowing. I always loved reading, and very early on in life I learned that it was very enjoyable to tell stories. Later, I fell in love with novels, and still happily remain in that condition. In the fourth grade, I wrote two grim, doom-haunted stories, and in high school I wrote a couple of more literary and ambitious stories, total failures of course. My real attempt at writing in a serious way began with poetry, when I was in my early twenties. Not long after, we moved to Dublin, and I began writing stories more professionally, trying to grope my way forward.

KF: Your works tend to offer a dark side of humanity along with a personable presence. Do you draw on past experience or actual people as a way to create and develop your characters?

PS: I don't use real people very much, hardly at all in fact. Past experience is a great treasure-house for all writers. My interest in the so-called dark side grew in part from my rage at the way almost everybody else refused to deal with or accept it. Yet violence, pain, grief, brutality, all of these elements were a great part of the fabric of actual life.

KF: Where do you most often get your ideas for the books you write?

PS: No one can answer this question. Sometimes the world offers up ideas, but more often they evolve out of the process of pacing here and there, jotting whatever comes up into a notebook. Sometimes other books give me a hint, a smell I can chase.

KF: I believe that's something that every artist, whether they be writers or not, can understand. Sometimes it can be a challenge to develop those ideas alone, let alone with another artist. You have successfully written with Stephen King. Can you describe the experience? Was it more difficult to write with someone than it is to write on your own?

PS: Working with Stephen King was an amazing experience. He is really smart, generous, tactful, bursting with ideas. Also, he works hard. The man is a draft horse, a Percheron, a marathon runner with muscles. Writing with him was probably easier than going it alone, because he did half the work and then some.

KF: It sounds like any writer would find pleasure in working with Stephen King. I imagine that the two of you together had no problems in coming up with the details of characters and plots. One can only imagine the energy of the creative levels in the room as your works came to life.

Many authors view their writing as their "children". As such, their "parenting methods" might change with each new creation. What are your favorite works that you have done as well as your least favorite? Why did you choose these?

PS: My favorite children are Koko, Mystery, The Throat, Mr. X, lost boy lost girl, A Dark Matter. If you think I'll insult any other book or books of mine by saying that I love them less, you're out of your mind. Well, actually, I have disowned the first two brats, Marriages and Under Venus, as the product of youthful unions and a bit deformed, a bit slow and "special."

KF: Your response is exactly reminiscent of a protective parent who finds pride in his children even if he can find fault with his parenting skills in the first few attempts. Perhaps writers are the original "stay at home" parents.

It's not unusual for writers to work at home and have specific things that they do in order to prepare themselves for the task at hand. How do you prepare yourself for a day of writing?

PS: Oh, I goof around for as long as possible, taking walks, reading the papers, reading more of the book I'm carrying with me throughout the day and doing things like this.

KF: I often wonder how many people realize that a fiction writer is constantly on duty, even when they seem to be "goofing around". The truth is that the imagination never "clocks out" (hopefully).Writing fiction takes a special ability to create worlds and characters that only exist in your mind's eye. It's very different from academic or nonfiction writing. What advice, if any, would you give to someone who is considering fiction as their next writing pursuit?

PS: "Considering fiction" sounds wrong to me. The question is, do you love stories, do you enjoy telling them? Have you read fiction like a demon, incessantly, since childhood? Do you kind of see things in a fictional way, ie, as if they have been framed in an ongoing story, or as if they might open out into some other, not-yet-determined story? If so, you're already a quarter of the way there, and you never had a choice anyhow. If not, stay away, you'd only end up miserable and bitter.

KF: I imagine that most fiction writers might feel similarly about writing and reading. In fact, it occurs to me that it's no wonder that you and Stephen King created so well together. He seems to reflect a similar attitude as he expresses that to write you must read in his book On Writing. The Internet seems to offer ample opportunity for just that, in a variety of ways. In fact, technology has probably given more opportunities to writers now than ever before. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the field of writing?

PS: I don't know, I really don't... How about, get into a half-way decent MFA program, so that you can have time to write and make interesting friends? The world at large is so hostile to younger, unproven writers, even to writers who have known a modest success, that the matter of publication has become more than difficult. Pragmatic souls might consider writing novels in which people are murdered, or are revealed to be supernatural beings. But if you choose to do that, you must write absolutely the best possible book that can be conceived. It must be tighter, tauter, more imaginative in every way deeper than your MFA novel about your wayward aunt, your old girlfriend, and the next-door neighbor.

KF: The world of writing seems to be taking a turn toward a variety of electronic formats. How do you see this as it applies to the future of authors? Would you yourself give up printed books to be replaced by an electronic format?

PS: I am mystified by all these changes, baffled, dumb-struck. No, if given a choice I would like always to be published in the beautiful old format of the book as well as in e-book format.

KF: Now, for the question that must be on the minds of all your fans; Are you currently working on a new book? If so, can you give us a peek into what this latest work is about?

PS: Sort of, kind of, yes, and things have progressed from the "aimless meandering" stage to that of writing sentences with a trusty Palomino pencil on the pages of a bound Boorum & Pease record book, in this case the handsome 21-150-R, 160-page model, a great spur to the old imagination, the Palomino, too. One should cherish one's tools.

Again, I'd like to thank Peter Straub for the opportunity to do this interview. As a note to his fans I would like to mention that during this interview Mr.Straub was extremely friendly and approachable. The interview itself was a joy to complete. I consider myself fortunate to have the ability to work in a field that allows me to come in contact with such articulate and creative writing professionals as Peter Straub.

(photo credit goes to Kyle Cassidy, courtesy of Peter Straub)

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