Category Archives: Articles

Guest Post: 5 Mistakes Writer Make on Their Author Websites (And the Easy Fixes)

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

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Did you know that every website needs regular care and housekeeping? So unless you have a fairy godmother or can sing well enough to inspire woodland creatures to assist you with your chores, you should keep a virtual broom and wrench handy. Even the most meticulous author website design may experience issues that arise over time: Links break, information becomes obsolete, plugins stop working, etc. Thankfully, the most common mistakes writers make on their author websites have easy fixes!

Check out these website blunders and Web Design Relief’s tips on how to fix them without IT support intervention.

5 Easy-To-Fix Common Website Mistakes

Broken images: Uh-oh, has your beautiful photo been replaced by a sad face or what looks like a torn piece of paper? This means that the file containing the image may have been corrupted. But this can be fixed simply by re-uploading your photo to your author website or installing a handy plugin to solve the problem for you!

Typos: Some of the most damaging mistakes on an author website are typos, grammar mishaps, and incorrect punctuation. After all, you’re a writer—you’re held to a higher standard of web content than your online neighbors. Typos and grammar gaffes on your website may cause visitors to question your writing skills in general.

And you can’t count on website building elements to alert you to typos; they don’t feature spellcheck like word processing programs do. Thorough, expert proofreading is the solution to this common mistake and can ensure that your author website is up to professional standards.

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Dead Links: Is there anything more frustrating than a link that leads nowhere? If the hyperlinks you have included on your website are no longer active, your site will look abandoned and poorly maintained. Worst-case scenario—improper use of links can even get your site banned.

Fortunately, reviving dead links is easy! If a website has a new web address, simply update your link with the new URL. If the site you are linking to no longer exists, remove the link altogether or find another source. And remember to check your hyperlinks often to make sure you aren’t letting dead links lurk on your website!

Slow Response Times: Does your website take a long time to load? Having too many elements running can cause lagging. Download time is an overlooked issue on many author websites. And if your website is taking too long to load, visitors will bounce off your site.

To fix a lagging website, reevaluate what you really need on your web pages and what is simply clogging up response times. For example: There is no need to have images larger than 1500px, so you may want to resize large photos so that they do not take up so much space. However, don’t lose the resolution—make sure your photos have at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). Another tip: Instead of uploading videos directly to your website, upload them to an external website like YouTube and then embed them on your site to save space!

Design Is Not Mobile-Friendly: Your author website may look perfect on your desktop computer, but nowadays more and more people visit sites using their cell phones and tablets. So it’s important that your website looks great on mobile devices too! The key is sizing. Make certain that your buttons are big enough to be seen on smaller screens, but that your photos and graphics aren’t so big that they are cut off.

Our pro tip: Test, test, test! View your author website on as many devices as possible and adjust your design elements accordingly.

Check out these 7 tips for a more mobile-friendly author website!

BONUS TIP: While most mistakes on your author website can be easily fixed, there will be glitches that require more complicated intervention. But don’t panic! Regular website backups can still save you lots of grief. Backing up your website frequently gives you the option to revert back to an earlier version (before the error kicked in!).

 

QUESTION: What are some overlooked mistakes you’ve found on websites you’ve visited?

Wordy Wednesday: Good News

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the tie came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,”Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:1-20 NIV).

My Favorite Photos of 2019

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I had opportunities to take a couple thousand pictures this year, so it was hard to pick just 10. Most of these favorites  I’ve posted previously, but some have never been seen by anybody before. I admit some are flawed, but I like them anyway, sometimes because of their quirkiness.

I did a lot of hiking this year in desert parks. I just love the look and feel of wilderness. This picture was taken at Boyce Thompson Arboretum:

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A blooming cactus at North Mountain Park:

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A tree covered with blossoms on the grounds of the Arizona Renaissance Festival:

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Every February, wildflowers blanket a yard in my town:

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This is an icon in a Greek Orthodox monastery chapel. I purposely took this photo at a wonky angle, because of the candle holder hanging in front of the painting. I wanted to get a good shot of the mother’s sweet face, but it caused the Baby to look distorted:

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This was taken in South Mountain Park:

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A perfect red rose at the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College:

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These wildflowers in my yard grew from an unsolicited packet of seeds sent through the mail from the Sierra Club:

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I shot these cactus flowers in my neighborhood on my morning walk:

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My daughter Katie on the footbridge at Boyce Thompson Arboretum:

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I’d Rather Be Dancing Greek Folk Dances

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Opa! I love the wonderful, joyful, vibrant dances of the Greeks. And to me, Syrtaki is the quintessential Greek dance, with the traditional instrumentation and the tempo changes.

Hasapiko is a very popular Greek dance. The basic hasapiko step finds its way into many Greek dances, including the one above.

My hands-down favorite Greek folk dance is Oniero Demeno, characterized by the hasapiko step (the basic step in the video above):

Another sweet dance that features the hasapiko step is Little Miss Greece. These dancers are some of my friends from Phoenix International Folk Dancers.

There are many Greek dances called Tsamikos. This is different from the Tsamikos PIFD does, but I especially like this video because the male dancers wear the traditional Greek men’s costume.

This version of Gerakina is a little different than our group does it, but it’s a very nice student performance. The lyrics of the song tell a traditional Greek story. Gerakina is a beautiful young woman who is a sought-after potential bride. Death was jealous of her and was determined to claim her. One day Gerafina went to the well for water, but lost her balance and fell in, her bracelets jingling on the way down. She cried for help, and a young man jumped in to save her, but their lifeless bodies had to be extracted by the villagers.

Tik is danced very close.

Thiakos alternates between two different patterns with distinct meters.

There are many Greek dances called Syrtos. Here is a basic one.

Syrtos Kitrinou has a hauntingly beautiful melody. The dance consists of a basic step and two variations.

In Search of Autumn Leaves

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In Search of Autumn Leaves

When you live just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, you don’t see a lot of fall leaves. So last Friday my daughter Katie and I traveled an hour to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, one of our favorite spots for hiking and for picture taking, to see if we could find some. The Arboretum officially celebrates its Fall Foliage Finale on Thanksgiving weekend, but we purposely waited a week to avoid the crowds. We took the High Trail into the wilder part of the Arboretum to get a nice workout.

Even before we reached the trail, we were rewarded with orange and yellow hues, but most of the trees were green. I don’t know if most of the trees in the Arboretum just don’t change, or if our night temperatures in the 40s just aren’t cool enough to trigger death.

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

 

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As you can see, our skies were cloudy, which doesn’t often happen here. In fact, we’ve had very few rainy days this year until recently. (As I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, hail is failing outside my window and lightning and thunder are making their presence known.)

Here’s Katie crossing a stream. (Last time we were at the Arboretum, the stream was dry.)

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Just beyond the stream was a magnificent example of autumn color.

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The views on the high trail were gorgeous.

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Crossing the stream on an extension footbridge:

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Katie on the bridge.

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On the other side of the bridge, the trails are more civilized.

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Look at the blazing colors on this tree:

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Katie:

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And me, with trekking pole:

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

A little stone cottage:

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A pomegranate:

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Look at the gnarly trunk of this tree:

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And look at this crazy curlicue branch:

 

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This little boy and his donkey are sculptures:

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My daughter took this photo with her phone. Doesn’t she have a great eye?

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

This was our third trip to the Arboretum together. You can see pictures of our other trips here and here.

Unless stated otherwise, photographs in this article are by ARHuelsenbeck.

Why Writers Should Review Books

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Why Writers Should Review Books

If you are a reader, you should write book reviews.

  1. It will help you remember the books you’ve read, and whether they’re worth rereading.
  2. Your feedback helps other readers decide whether they should invest time and money to read a particular book. (I confess I read one-star reviews to find out what other readers found objectionable. Admittedly, some people are just hard to please; but often, when I read an unfavorable review, I recognize I wouldn’t like the book either.)
  3. Your comments help the authors know how you felt about their books, and what they might improve upon in the future.

If you are a writer, you have a responsibility to write reviews. Other authors are not your competitors; they are your colleagues, your community. You benefit from interacting with them. Your insights about their work help them. You know how exacting the writing life is; you’re in the trenches. Your response is even more revealing than what non-writing readers give.

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Here are some things you can include in a book review:

  • Tell what the book is about, without revealing the entire plot (or in the case of nonfiction, all the conclusions) or spoiling pivotal twists.
  • Tell what the author did well. If you like the book, mention all aspects that made it a winner for you. Even if you didn’t like the book, share at least one thing that was good—an intriguing title, a diverse cast of characters, the brevity of the chapters.
  • If you were disappointed, explain why. What were you expecting that the author didn’t deliver? Was the ending unsatisfying? Were there typos or factual errors that distracted you? Were the characters undeveloped? Be specific.
  • Make whatever recommendation you can. Maybe the book wasn’t your cup of tea, but fans of chick-lit would love it—say so. Or maybe give an age range: “I feel the subject matter was too intense for 6-year-olds, but teenagers could handle it.”
  • Compare it to other books, either other ones the author has written, or others about the same topic, or books in other genres. “It’s like Gone Girl, but in a parallel universe.”
  • You may want to take notes as you read, or write the review immediately after reading the book. I can’t tell you how many times I need to do a quick reread while reviewing, because I’ve forgotten key events or names of characters in the book a week later.

When you’ve written your review, send it out into the world.

  • Submit it to publications that carry book reviews. This is a tricky market to break into, but if you do, you can get steady work.
  • If you have your own blog, publish it there (I post my book reviews on my Books Read page)—or offer it as a guest post on a review blog.
  • Publish it on your social media—you may have to pare it down to fit a specified number of characters.
  • Post it as a customer review on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com, and/or on Goodreads.

Now it’s your turn. If you are an author, do you read your reviews? Do you appreciate a review written following the tips above? What other advice would you offer to reviewers? Please share in the comments below.

 

St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 3: The Gardens

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 3: The Gardens

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is located in the desert outside Florence, Arizona. The monastery’s water comes from three wells, each a quarter-mile deep, which turn the grounds into an oasis.

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I’ve never seen bougainvillea this color.

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Adding to the beauty of the plants are the many outdoor structures and decorative brickwork.

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And the fountains.

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And the statuary.

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The monks also grow several kinds of citrus, and olives.

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For more pictures of St. Anthony’s Monastery, check out these articles about the doors, the architecture, and the icons.