Poptart the hamster joined our family

Two months ago, I wrote about Lexie wanting a hamster. For weeks, she had been on her best behavior and been demonstrating how responsible she could be. But while we wanted her to be responsible for her potential pet that wasn’t our main concern or maybe I should we had three concerns – their names are Nikki, Spooky and Tails. Ok, so Tails isn’t much of a hunter, but the other two cats certainly are.

Hamsters and cats don’t mix.

We had told Lexie this, but it didn’t deter her. And with all her hard work, we couldn’t keep saying no. So, within a few days of my post on maybe getting a hamster, we did it. We let Lexie get one.

We bought her the cage from Amazon. She bounced all the way to the pet store to pick out her hamster – a Chinese Dwarf hamster – she named Poptart. She even paid for her own hamster though I bought the bedding, food and other supplies.

 

Lexie couldn’t wait to get her home and have her run around in her hamster ball. Even Jase was fascinated with Poptart.

But not everyone was thrilled. Nikki, Lexie’s cat, was definitely unhappy to be booted from Lexie’s room. She was used to sleeping with Lexie at night and lounging on her bed during the day. That all changed. Ever since the little hamster joined the family, Nikki has been banned from Lexie’s room. Oh, she has made it in a few times, but we have been there and as soon as she shows any interest in the hamster, she is booted from the room.

I am happy to say that Poptart is still alive 8 weeks later.

As for the newfound responsibility Lexie showed, it stayed for a few weeks and then began to wane. (See my post on the morning rush.) But she has been very good about helping clean Poptart’s cage and feeding her – especially Poptart’s favorite carrots.

Overall, I have to say that I’m glad we allowed Lexie to get a hamster. Poptart seems to be a good addition to the family. But this is it. No more animals. Three cats, two dogs and a hamster is quite enough.

Choosing between an Author Website or Blog

This post is the sixty-third post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

My last two post have been covered author bios and your Amazon Author page. These allow readers to know more about you the author. Another way to connect with your readers is to have a website or a blog. Really into today’s tech savvy world, it is surprising when a company – or in this case an author – doesn’t have some sort of web presence.

So, which should you have – a blog or a website? (And before anyone says anything – yes, a blog is technically a website. The difference is that a blog is typically update more often than a traditional static website.)

Blog

Blog is short for web log and is a frequently updated website consisting of blog posts arranged in reverse chronological order. When readers come to your site, they see your most recent post first.

A blog can include static pages in addition to the current posts. (I have 2 static pages on my blog – “About Me” and “My Books.”)

Positives:  Blogs are typically updated regularly (daily or weekly – it is up to you) which give readers a reason to return. Blogs also provide an opportunity for interaction between authors and readers through comments on posts.

Setting up a blog is easy. You don’t need any computer or programming expertise. You will simply use blogging software such as Blogger or WordPress. If you are on a tight budget, a blog can be established for free.

Negatives: You need to update it regularly (or lose readership of your blog) which can take time away from your writing. You will also need a topic to write about unless you plan to just update readers about your exciting life as an author, which is not something I recommend unless you have a very exciting life or can make it extremely interesting.

Website

A website is a static group of pages containing text, images and videos accessed from the same domain name.

Positives: Easy if you want to put up information that won’t require updating on a regular basis.

Negatives: Unless you have the knowledge, you may have to hire someone to maintain and update your website. You will have to pay for your domain name as well as a site to host your webpage.

Website offer only one-way communication. While you can inform your readers, they cannot comment which means no reader/author interaction.

Website with a blog

The lines between a blog and a website are blurring. You can easily design a website that incorporates a blog. I designed a WordPress-based site for my husband’s law firm that has a static front page as well as three other static pages. It also includes a blog regarding recent court decisions. His website was done through WordPress.org verses WordPress.com where I have my blog. (The difference is .com is hosted on WordPress’s website and includes WordPress in the address while when using WordPress.org you need your own domain name and web hosting site.)

WordPress.org actually offers a comprehensive content management system that allows people to build sites with their software even if they don’t want a blog. Quite a few companies or groups have done their website through WordPress – The Rolling Stones, Carleton University, BBC America, and Best Buy Mobile – to name a few. The benefit of using WordPress is you can publish content such as text, audio and video and have it done in minutes. If you had a traditional static website, it could take hours to build a page and hours to update which can cost you time (or money) each time.

Here are some tips for those of you who choose to set up an author website.

  • Don’t put a blog on your website if you are never (or rarely) going to update it. If you want to blog about something other than the books that you have written or are working on, you might consider setting up a separate blog.
  • Make it easy to buy your book. Readers should not have to hunt around your website to find out what books you have written or how to purchase them. If you don’t have a shopping cart/purchase program on your site, be sure to provide direct buy links to your books at other internet retailers.
  • Make sure to name the site after your author name and not your book or series. This way you can focus on a site that incorporates all your books in one location.
  • Make sure you incorporate social media buttons (widgets) so readers can find you on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads and any other group you are involved in.
  • Make sure you have a place for readers to submit questions or comments. You do after all want to connect with your readers.
  • Do not use too many images – simple is better. A lot of images will increase load time. But then again you don’t want to go overboard with text. You want to find a balance.
  • Make sure you update your site! And this means not just with your information and latest book but to occasionally change the layout or design colors/style.

Your main goal with an author website is to provide information to not just fans but potential readers. Make it exciting, interesting and some place that will want to visit again.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

#55 – Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

#56 – Selling your book through book ads

#57 – Using a Book Trailer to promote your novel

#58 – Offering your novels or short stories as a box set

#59 – Deciding whether to offer your book as an audio book

#60 – Taking your book on a virtual book tour

#61 – Writing your Author Bio and selecting an Author Photo

#62 – Setting up your Amazon Author Page and International Amazon pages

Twelve Holiday Recipes

‘Tis the holiday season for baking…This month I am featuring some holiday delights perfect for any holiday party or dinner. Let’s start out with one of my favorite things…Apple Pie.

 

French Apple Pie – A nice twist on pie crust. This one has a nutty pat-in-the-pan-crust.

Swedish Apple PieWith no bottom crust and a pour-type topping, this one is more of a cobbler than a pie but still oh, so yummy.

Caramel Apple Pecan PieI love this one as it includes one of my favorite nuts – pecans!

Caramel Apple Slab Pie A good pie that serves 25!

And for some other pies and another favorite – cheesecakes…

Oreo Pie This is one of my kids’ favorites! (And so easy to make!)

Oreo Cheesecake – I love cheesecake and Oreo cookies so what could be better than combining the two?

Pumpkin Cheesecake – A good combination – this recipe is a copy of the Cheesecake Factory’s one.

And this last group covers cookies and other goodies….

Pumpkin Crunch – A kind of pumpkin pie with a crunchy topping….

Oreo Truffles These are so good!

Bacon Maple Fudge – Everything is better with bacon!

Candy Cane CrinklesCombining a cookie with a candy cane makes for a good treat.

The Best Cutout Sugar Cookies – A Christmas tradition from my childhood is decorating sugar cookies. My kids and I started using this recipe a few years ago.

My animal-loving daughter takes death of animals – even in the movies – to heart

I’m raising some animal loving kids. Both kids are very compassionate about animals. I guess this is to be expected as we have three cats, two dogs and a hamster.

Lexie in particular loves dogs and wants to be a dog rescuer when she grows up. If I let her, she would start now. She always concerned when she sees a loose dog on the street or a sign advertising a lost pet.

While dogs are clearly her favorite, she does love all animals. And this love has been clearly shown in her reaction to two movies that we have watched in the past few months.

When we went to the theater to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Lexie was particularly troubled by the scene where the brachiosaurus dies in the fire. It was by far a sad scene for everyone in the theater, but it bothered Lexie quite a bit. Beyond just the tears during the scene, for days afterward she would suddenly wail out about the injustice of it all and why did it have to die?

For that matter, in the first Jurassic World, she was quite upset when the Indominus Rex goes on a killing spree of the other dinosaurs on the island. She had very little concern for the people who died but the dinos were another story.

Last week, we watched Alpha. We almost didn’t make it past the opening scene where the warriors chase the buffalo over the cliff.

It doesn’t matter to Lexie that this is just a made-up story or that these creatures weren’t real. She feels for the innocent creatures. In fact, she always seems more upset about the death of animals than she does about the human characters. Maybe it is because humans are flawed or simply because she doesn’t think the animals deserve to die. It doesn’t even matter if the death is so others can survive such as in Alpha when the boy Keda has to kill a rabbit to feed himself and the wolf Alpha.

Guess this means Lexie will never be a hunter. And I guess this means we need to really monitor what scenes Lexie sees in the movies, on TV or YouTube. Because as we all know not everyone out there loves animals. Not everyone sees them as creatures with feeling. There are lots of bad people out in the world who mistreat animals and these people are portrayed in movies and on TV. It was sometime over the summer that Lexie was devastated about a cartoon on YouTube in which someone threw a puppy against the wall. For the longest time while she was crying about this, I thought she saw a video of a real dog being killed. Ugh.

In the end, Lexie did like both Fallen Kingdom and Alpha. Heck, she even watched A Dog’s Purpose which is about a dog’s spirit who gets reincarnated as several different dogs throughout its life. The first death was the hardest but with each one it got a little easier and she loved the end of the movie. By the way, we warned her not to watch this movie but she insisted because it was about a dog.

I know we can’t protect her forever from these images and stories, but I do think we have to remember how sensitive she is to the lives of animals and while my husband and I understand the scenes in these movies, Lexie might not. At the very least, we can warn her about anything that will leave her in tears.

 

 

 

Setting up your Amazon Author Page and International Amazon pages

This post is the sixty-second post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about your author bio and author photo. One place you should definitely list this bio is on your Amazon Author page. Don’t miss out on this free option to let your readers know more about you.

I’m always amazed at the number of authors who do not set up this free page. Here readers can find out more about you and can easily see all your books as well as feeds from your blog or posts on Facebook. There is no excuse not to have an Amazon Author page.

Setting up your Amazon Author Page

Go to Amazon’s Author Central and log in.

The Welcome screen invites you to update your author page. This is more than just listing your author bio (which of course should be on the page). You can add photos, blog feeds, videos and even includes your latest Tweets or Facebook posts.

Click to view your list of books to ensure that Amazon is showing all the books you have written. If any books are missing, simply click the “Add more books” button, which will bring up a search screen for you to locate your other books.

Clicking on any book in your book list will bring up details about that book. Here you can edit the product description, add snippets from professional reviews, add notes from the author, inside flap or back cover information as well as your author bio. Whatever is entered in these sections will appear on this book’s Amazon page.

At the top of the page, you will see Sales Info. Here you can look at your Author Rank or your Sales Rank. Author Rank can be viewed in various increments from 2 weeks to 2 years or all available which will how your rank since you began publishing on Amazon. This information can help you evaluate how well any marketing endeavors have fared.

For Sales Rank, the main screen shows the rank of all your books (actually 5 books per page). Clicking on one book will let you see the sales rank over 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months or all available. It shows both your paid and free book sales. This is updated hourly.

The last tab at the top of the screen is Customer Reviews. Here you can see every review any of your books have received.

International Amazon Author Pages

When you published your book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, you probably went ahead and selected the Worldwide rights option which allows customers from around the world to purchase your title on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom), Amazon.de (Germany/Switzerland), Amazon.fr (France/Belgium and Monaco), Amazon.es (Spain), Amazon.it (Italy), Amazon.co.jp (Japan), Amazon.com.br (Brazil), Amazon.com.mx (Mexico), Amazon.com.au (Australia), Amazon.ca (Canada), Amazon.nl (Netherlands), and Amazon.in (India).

Updating your U.S. Amazon Author page will only have this information showing on the United States and the UK sites.

In order to create author profiles for a few of the other Amazon websites, you will need to set up Amazon Author Central profiles on those respective sites. Right now, you can only do this on the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan sites. India brings up your US Author picture but will not allow you to input an author bio or any blog or website links.

Here is a list of the Amazon Author Central sites that you should set up with profiles. (My German one is shown above.)

USA – https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/landing?

UK – https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/landing?

Germany – https://authorcentral.amazon.de/gp/landing?

France – https://authorcentral.amazon.fr/gp/landing?

Japan – https://authorcentral.amazon.co.jp/gp/landing?

When you go to the German, France and Japan sites, you will probably either need to have your English version of Author Central open or use a translation page (Google has one, or they are easy to find by a quick Internet search.) I found it easier to have my U.S. page open and since the format is the same, it was easy to answer the questions and get my books and bio listed with very little use of a translator.

You will have to decide if you want to translate your bio into the language of that site or leave it in English. I have seen authors giving reasons for both scenarios. However, since my books are in English, and I am only expecting those who speak English to buy them, I left my bio in English too.

You may be thinking why do I need to set up all these author profiles. People in these countries speak a different language. Does it matter if I have an author profile?

Yes, it matters. English is the most popular second language in the world. Even if English isn’t the primary language of some of these locations, many people still speak it, read it or are trying to learn it. And when these readers find one of your books, they will want to know more about you and what else you have written. Your author profile page is an excellent way to get readers interested in you as an author and to form a connection with your readers.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

#55 – Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

#56 – Selling your book through book ads

#57 – Using a Book Trailer to promote your novel

#58 – Offering your novels or short stories as a box set

#59 – Deciding whether to offer your book as an audio book

#60 – Taking your book on a virtual book tour

#61 – Writing your Author Bio and selecting an Author Photo