Friday, April 8, 2011

Three New Books in Best Sellers Top 10

This week's update of my Fiction Best Seller lens on shows at least two of the new books in last week's top 10 of The New York Times best sellers list for Combined E-book and Print Fiction were one-week wonders. One of the new ones fell completely off the 35-book list.

New in the top 10 are Jean M. Auel's sixth and last "Earth's Children" book, The Land of the Painted Caves; J. R. Ward's vampire novel Lover Unleashed; and Jonathan Kellerman's 26th Alex Delaware novel, Mystery.

It seems to be a requirement of vampire novels that a bare-chested and very buff guy is featured on the cover. Ward's cover is a bit more restrained than some of the vampire novel covers below the top 10. One is left to assume that the main audience for vamp lit is not male, or at least not straight males.

While Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, Stephanie McAfee's self-published e-book only spent two weeks on the combined list, it's on the e-book-only list for a fourth week and this week went up to 16 from last week's 23. is offering a free excerpt of the book this week, and that's where the link will take you.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hop - Start of a New Niche?

I've decided to start doing lenses about movies, mostly ones that are about to open. I was looking at one lensmaster's lenses. She's got a lot of lenses about movie soundtracks and they appear to be doing very well. And that's just for the soundtracks. When I started looking for lenses on the movies, however, I wasn't finding much, which surprised me. It was a pleasant surprise, though, because that meant I wouldn't be competing with other lensmasters if I started making lenses about new movies.

I probably still need to refine where I'll be going with this, but I think I'll start by doing lenses about movies that I think will both be popular, and also ones I might like. Of course, I don't actually have the money to see all the movies, but there's a lot of information out about them, so I should be able to put together some useful information.

I started with one that's opening Friday, April 1: Hop, and since I expect to be doing more lenses I called it 2011 Movies: Hop.

Hop is a live action/animated film which gives a whole new take on the Easter bunny legend. Santa Claus has the North Pole for his magical workshop. The Easter bunny has, where else, Easter Island, where all those giant brooding heads stare out to sea. Of course, you've probably never heard anything about it, but that's because the magical workshop is underground - and besides, it's magical.

Of course there was plenty of information at the official website (part of the URL address is "iwantcandy"). There were several movie trailers available, but I only used one. There were nearly a dozen movie tie-in products, with several books for very young readers or books to read to those too young to read. There were news feeds and Twitter feeds and interviews with several of the stars.

The movie stars the voice of Russell Brand, an English comic who strikes me as England's answer to Robin Williams, at least back when Williams was Brand's age. He's the voice of E. B., the teenage rabbit on the verge of becoming the Easter bunny when he decides to take off for Hollywood to become a famous rock drummer. Starring as Fred O'Hare (great last name for a movie where the main character is a rabbit, naturally) is James Marsden, who played Cyclops in X-Men: The Last Stand. Kayley Cuoco, known to most as Penny in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, plays Fred's sister Sam.

The movie opens tomorrow, and I got so interested I just might go see it. A good reason to go is that I can write a review after I get back.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sarah Vowell at the Bagdad Theater

Sarah Vowell, subject of one of my Squidoo lenses, first became known to the American public through her appearances on the National Public Radio program This American Life. She has a voice that's instantly recognizable, one that was carried to many non-NPR listeners in the animated movie The Incredibles where she did the voice of the teenage Violet.

Tonight, Tuesday, March 29, she appeared at the Bagdad Theater (yes, that is how they spell it) on Hawthorne Street in Portland. She's on a book tour for her latest, Unfamiliar Fishes, which is about Hawaii from the time of the arrival of the missionaries in 1820 to its annexation by the United States in 1898. I was a bit undecided on whether to go because in order to get in, you had to buy the book at list price, $25.95. The ebook version is $12.99.

I didn't buy an advance ticket and while I was always leaning toward going, I didn't really commit until after 5 o'clock. Doors opened at 6. I ended up getting there just before 6. The lobby was full and the line was growing out the door. It was a mixture of ticket holders and those who didn't have them yet. As I was waiting, I overheard a woman talking to the couple just ahead of me. She said she was going to be joined by a friend who had an extra ticket. When the friend showed up and spoke about her extra ticket, I immediately said I'd buy it from her. She said she'd sell it to me for $25. The handling fee for buying online, which she had done, was $6.44, so I saved over $7. That paid for a couple of slices of pizza once I got in.

I almost had a problem. I was hungry and concentrating on the food booth ahead. There was a guy who marked off my ticket. What I didn't realize at the time was I should have turned from him on my right to the books on my left. Instead I just went toward the food booth, realized the line was a lot longer and got at the end. I got lucky because a guy came up to the end of the line where I was and said he had a few slices of pizza plus drinks at another little booth and I ended up being his second customer.

It wasn't until I was about halfway through eating my first pizza slice at my seat near the front that I looked around and noticed everyone else had the book. Uh oh. I finished the slice, and went back out to the lobby. I told the woman behind the book display I hadn't picked up the book on my way in. She noticed the guy had marked off my ticket printout, but when I explained I'd walked by, not being used to the setup, she didn't give me any trouble, so I got my book and went back to eat the second pizza slice.

The light wasn't that great, but I did a little reading, which I probably shouldn't have bothered with because when Sarah came out, after a brief bit of introductory talk, she began reading and of course, most of what she read was what I had read only a short while before. Oh well, I always enjoy listening to her.

During the question period following the reading, someone asked her about her formal education. She mentioned going to Montana State and then doing graduate work at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her graduate degree is in Art History. She told of how she really didn't care for the reading assignments and how that influenced the way she writes. She felt most of the people she had to read often were just very obscure and she wanted to write clearly. I think she succeeds in that quite nicely.

She mentioned she'd lived in Portland about 22 years ago and used to work in the coffee shop across the street from the Bagdad at a time in her life when she really wasn't too sure what she wanted to do with her life. She spoke of the lady whose coffee was never hot enough and the college students who were never straight enough. She said it was really nice to be back across the street from where she'd worked, only this time with her name on the marquee outside and she had a podium inside.

Someone asked her to share an anecdote of having dinner with the people from This American Life and that kind of stumped her for a bit because well, these folks, to her, are just coworkers and it wasn't like they got together as a sort of modern-day Algonquin Roundtable. She mentioned how the last time she'd gotten together with Ira Glass they'd ended up talking about The Book of Mormon - not the religious text, but the show. She also mentioned the time she'd gotten a new lamp and just couldn't figure out how to turn it on, so she called up David Sedaris, who came over, looked at the lamp, figured it out, turned it on, said, "See ya!" and left. So much for the glamor of public radio stars.

Sarah said she doesn't think of herself as an historian but rather as more a journalist who happens to write much longer stories. One thing she liked about doing the book about Hawaii was that she felt that the people she was talking to while she was doing the research really felt involved in the history of Hawaii. There are still some native Hawaiians who still resent the takeover of the islands by the United States. She hadn't felt that sense of involvement by ordinary people when she was working on her previous books.

One thing I like to do while reading one of Sarah Vowell's books is to read it with her voice in my head. She has a unique outlook on her subjects to go along with her unique voice and it just wouldn't seem right to read it without hearing her voice. If you need to refresh your memory on the sound of her voice, my Sarah Vowell lens has five videos including the newest one near the top in which she talks about that Hawaiian institution, the plate lunch. And of course, you can order Unfamiliar Fishes or any of her previous books from the lens.

The photo at the top of this entry isn't from tonight. I took my camera, but we were told no flash photography and lighting was dim. So the photo is from when she appeared at Powell's in Beaverton in October 2009.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coloring Pages & Books: Castles

My newest Squidoo lens is Coloring Pages & Books: Castles published today (Saturday). My other coloring pages lens, Coloring Pages & Books: Ireland, published about two weeks ago, has been doing fairly well, having move up well into the second tier of lensranking (2,001 to 10,000). It appears coloring pages lenses do pretty well. Other lensmasters have coloring page lenses up in the top tiers so it's incentive for me to create more coloring pages lenses. The tricky part is finding a subject that hasn't been covered or at least hasn't been covered well.

Originally I thought I'd be doing a coloring page lens on Scotland, and Scotland has some castles. That led me to look up castle coloring pages and there seemed to be enough for a lens in itself, so I put the Scotland lens off for a while.

I looked up a lot of castle coloring pages on the Internet and found about a dozen. Putting them all into one module as links was one of the easier parts of making the lens. I also found four Dover Publications coloring books on Amazon. Adding them took more time as I had to write blurbs for them and the lens template I used still has some old coding that had to be modified.

Some of the reviews for the books indicated using colored pencils instead of crayons might be a good way to use the books, so I added one of Crayola's offerings to the lens along with the crayon and washable markers modules copied over from the Ireland lens.

I haven't done any coloring myself since a brief time in the '70s, but at least that experience told me it's not just for kids. Quite a few of the reviewers for the Dover books on Amazon indicated they enjoyed it and recommended it for older kids and adults even though three of the four books gave an age range of four to eight and the other range was nine to twelve.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiction Best Sellers Updated

My Squidoo lens Fiction Best Sellers has been updated to reflect sales ending the week of March 19, 2011. Things were pretty quiet this time around, with only one new book in the top 10 and only one or two new books in the rest of the list.

I had developed a new button-looking thing (actually a very short paragraph with rounded-corner borders) for the lens I did for Wendy Rule earlier this week. With a little minor tweaking it works just fine for books as well as CDs. I had noticed that any text I created below the boxed text descriptions would start under the CD image on Wendy's lens, so I used that little feature to get the button under the book image as well. The only catch is the description box has to be longer than the book cover image, otherwise the button ends up below the text. So sometimes I need to put in some line breaks to make the description box long enough. I think it looks pretty good and draws more attention to the Buy now from link.

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl
The self-published first novel and ebook-only Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee, which appeared at #31 on the list last week is still on the list this week at #32. Amazon has given it their Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and Stephanie says she's getting communications from literary agents that are not rejection letters.

As one of the last of the big spenders, I decided to risk a whole 99 cents and just bought the book for my Nook from Barnes & Noble. It'll probably be a fun read even though it's not my usual fare.

I still think it's pretty cool that a self-published ebook only first novel has made it to one of The New York Times best seller lists.  It's not an easy thing to do.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Squidoo Lens - Faerie Music: Wendy Rule

Wendy Rule is a vocalist and songwriter from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia who draws upon her love of nature and her experiences as a practicing Pagan Witch to create mythical mystical journeys through soundscapes that call to mind worlds seen and unseen.

She has released six studio albums since the mid-1990s along with several side projects. She has toured in Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the US her music has been used extensively in the pagan community and she has been a guest of honor at a number of pagan festivals. She will be appearing at Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon June 17-19, 2011. She was scheduled to appear last year, but last minute problems getting into the US prevented her appearance as it did with the Mediaeval Baebes.

With the completion of this lens, I've got all the main stage musicians for Faerieworlds 2011 represented in either separate lenses or in my Faerie Music lens which includes performers who have released three or fewer CDs.

I have separate lenses for:

Other 2011 performers included in the Faerie Music lens are:

  • Delhi 2 Dublin
  • Trillian Green (just recently added to the lineup at Faerieworlds)
  • Brother
I've also created lenses for past performers Faun and the Gypsy Nomads who appeared last year, Alexander James Adams who has appeared solo and with Tricky Pixie, plus a lens for the Mediaeval Baebes who, as mentioned, were scheduled last year. While I wasn't aware of it at the time I created a lens for Solas, they appeared at Faerieworlds in 2004, two years before I started attending.

The Faerie Music lens also includes performers who appeared at Faerieworlds in the past back to 2006. I may break out Brother to their own lens since they appear to have more CDs available through Amazon than last year when I included them in the lens.

The Faerieworlds folks have said there's going to be a major musical announcement tomorrow, Tuesday, so we'll see if that leads to another lens. The  Faerieworlds lens needs a major overhaul for 2011 in any case.

New Faerie Music Lens: S. J. Tucker

On Saturday, March 19, I created a new lens about S. J. Tucker, who is a petite gypsy vagabond who has been on tour pretty much continuously since 2004 singing her mystical, mythical music influenced by Celtic magic with a good dose of rock and some punk thrown in. She's also part of Tricky Pixie, a group formed at Faerieworlds in 2006 when the Fairytale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams, asked her if she wanted a fiddler. As she tells it, "When this one asks if you want a fiddler, the answer is 'Yes!'"

S. J. had already been working with Betsy Tinney, who appeared regularly at Faerieworlds as part of the Gaia Consort (now known as the Bone Poets Orchestra). The three got together when Tucker was in the Northwest and their first show at Soul Food Books in Redmond, Washington in July 2007 was a resounding success. They appeared at Faerieworlds at the end of that month, where they were enthusiastically received and they've been back every year since and will be there this year as well. S. J. will also be performing as a solo act.

When not appearing as part of Tricky Pixie, S. J. is on the road appearing solo as the Skinny White Chick and also as part of the trio The Traveling Fates. She has a devoted following among the pagan and fae communities nationwide.

She takes some breaks from touring to record albums and she has also collaborated on two albums with author Catherynne M. Valenti that have centered around Valenti's The Orphan's Tales.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Amazon and Me

I've mentioned before that I'm an Amazon Associate. What that means is that I get to put links on this blog, on my Squidoo lenses (I have 125 at the moment and it'll grow), or anywhere else I'm allowed to put them, such as my signature on Delphi Forums where I link to the Kindle page. See that Amazon search box over to the right? That's one example of a link that will help me out. More on that later. By the way, the logo above this paragraph is not a link.

The links, if clicked on, take you to or in some cases to (you'll probably use the UK links only if you're in the UK or Europe). Usually the links take you to a specific product page on Amazon. If you buy the product, I'll get a commission. That commission does not increase your cost. It's built in to all of Amazon's prices as part of their promotional costs.

What if you go to Amazon through one of my links and change your mind about what to buy? As far as Amazon's concerned, go ahead and buy something else. I'll still get the commission. The commission isn't so much for getting you to buy a specific item, it's for getting you to go to Amazon in the first place. So go ahead and click on a link for a paperback book and end up buying a digital camera instead. I'd love that, in fact. Or click on a link for a digital camera and buy a paperback book instead. OK, I'd love that less, but at least you bought something and that's good.

What if you go to Amazon through one of my links and don't buy right away, but you return within 24 hours and buy something? As long as you haven't visited Amazon through someone else's link, I'll still get the commission. But if your second visit is through a click on say, The New York Times website for best sellers, I don't get a commission even if your first click through to Amazon was from my Fiction Best Sellers lens on Squidoo.

If after 24 hours you visit Amazon by just entering in your browser or click through from another site, I don't get a commission. If you view this blog or one of my Squidoo lenses and then just enter into your browser, I don't get a commission. So if you'd like to help me out, keep this blog or my Squidoo lenses in mind and enter through Amazon links on either of them.

The best and simplest way is through this blog. Remember I mentioned the fairly big Amazon search box at the top right side of this page? (If you're not seeing it, you may need to turn off your ad-blocking software. Please do, at least while you're here, then turn it back on later.) That search box is keyed to my Amazon Associates ID. Use it to enter, buy something, and you've helped me out a bit or maybe a lot if you're on a shopping spree. Whether it's only a few cents or a few dollars, though, I really appreciate it.

I'd appreciate if you'd bookmark this blog in your computer's browser your work computer's browser, your iPad or other tablet's browser or your smartphone's browser. Did I miss anything? Bookmark it on that too. Then use that bookmark any time you think of Amazon. It's an extra click, but that extra click helps someone who's trying to keep on paying the bills.

Thank you to any and all who use my Amazon Associates links. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Celtic Music's Big Stage Shows

Three years ago I started a series of Celtic Music lenses on Squidoo. I concentrated on performers I was personally familiar with to begin with. Some are no longer recording, but their CDs are still available, others are recording and making a living, probably a modest one in many cases, from playing smaller venues like pubs, small halls and clubs. A few, like Enya, Loreena McKennitt and The Chieftains, are doing very well.

The sense I've gotten about these performers, from the obscure to the ones people who aren't necessarily Celtic music fans might have heard of, is that to start with they had a great love of the music and a joy in playing it. It comes through very clearly in their music. To me, the heart of Celtic music is in these people and they share that love with their audiences. They do it for the love and joy, with money only being a means to the end of sharing the music.

Over the years I've gotten a fair number of reader comments on my Celtic music lenses and even though I hadn't done lenses for them, Riverdance, Celtic Woman and Celtic Thunder got mentioned now and again. People mentioning them often said they hadn't heard much about Celtic music beyond those shows or maybe they knew of Enya, maybe Loreena McKennitt or The Chieftains, but not much else. They were finding out more through my lenses.

Since the big stage shows have influenced people to do a bit more exploring of Celtic music, it seemed only natural that I should create lenses about them. I was most familiar with Riverdance, having seen it on video and heard the music on CD. It's a spectacular show for the big stage, with extremely talented performers. And it grew out of the more modest Celtic music scene. Composer Bill Whelan was at one time a member of the Irish group Planxty and along with fellow Planxty member Donal Lunny, had put together a piece called "Timedance" as an interval act for the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, hosted that year by Ireland. Out of that idea grew the interval act for the 1994 contest, again hosted by Ireland and that went on to become the Riverdance stage show. So I started with Celtic Music: Riverdance earlier this week.

Once I got that done, it seemed a good idea to quickly move on to Celtic Music: Celtic Woman, which I started late on Tuesday and finished on Wednesday. It took a bit longer than I thought it would because I included some solo albums by Celtic Woman performers in addition to the CDs and related DVDs by the group. I finished and published that by late afternoon.

Next I thought I'd get the Celtic Music: Celtic Thunder lens at least started, planning at the time to finish it up today. Instead I just kept going throughout the evening and published it.

Once I'd done all that, then I went to the Celtic Music: Lenses lens and added a new category, "Stage Shows" plus descriptions and links for the three lenses.

I probably should have then done this blog entry last night, but since publishing also means sending out Twitter tweets, Facebook entries and Squidcasts (notes to my Squidoo fans), by the time I got the Celtic Thunder lens published I was a bit tired of typing and was finding myself typing "Cletic" and "mucis" a lot more than usual.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Better Late Than Never

A couple of hours ago it occurred to me that a Squidoo lens called 10 Best Movies for Grownups might be improved considerably by adding movie trailers. I'm so used to writing lenses about books and I used the module design I use for books when I made the lens. But movies aren't books. Books don't have trailers. Movies do. So I added the ten trailers and published the lens, tweeted, put a note on Facebook and wrote a Squidcast, which is a note about a lens sent to fans on Squidoo. I just realized something when doing that - I have 300 fans.

So I was doing some other stuff when it occurred to me that there was this certain special event on the telly last night known as the Academy Awards show. Hmm, seemed like a good idea to go to the Academy Award site and see if any of the pictures, actors, actresses, etc. mentioned in my lens won anything.

Yep, The King's Speech won several Oscars, including Best Picture, and was nominated for several more. Several other films were winners and others were nominated. So I added mention of those wins and nominations to the lens and tweeted again, added a comment to my Facebook note and fired off another Squidcast. Normally I wouldn't do a second round like that, but the addition was significant, being the Oscars and all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Video for Music at Matt Molloy's

Just after my last post I noticed I had a new comment on my Squidoo lens Celtic Music: Music at Matt Molloy's. In the course of checking it out, I discovered the session video I'd originally included had gone missing. That happens with YouTube videos and the older a lens gets, the more likely it is to have a missing video.

Fortunately I was able to find a new one from a session at the pub recorded on 6 September 2010, which tells us the sessions are alive and well nearly 20 years after the CD was recorded.

The new video's pretty decent and worth dropping by the lens for a look and listen. You might want to get yourself a Guinness first, though.

Fiction Best Sellers Updated

I've updated the Squidoo lens Fiction Best Sellers to reflect sales for the week ending February 19. I also added links to's top 100 best sellers in Literature and Fiction and a couple of Kindle top 100 best sellers, one for paid ebooks and one for free ebooks.

This version of the list is easier to update than the one I did in 2008 and 2009 when I included covers and blurbs for the top 15 books. Now I'm just doing that for the top 10 and only one had to be changed this week. The listing of books 11 to 35 is also pretty easy since I just have to look up the book on Amazon, create the text link, paste it in and add the author's name. This week was easier than last week since I only had to look up books that weren't on the llist last week. I think there were only three or four I had to add.

I'm hoping folks will not only look at the lens to get ideas but actually click on the lens' links to buy the books from so I get commission on the sales. It's not much, but it adds up.

By the way, Water for Elephants is #4 this week, up from #7.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10 Best Movies for Grownups

My latest Squidoo lens is 10 Best Movies for Grownups. It was inspired by an article in AARP The Magazine, which has been giving out awards for grownup movies for ten years. In addition to naming the 10 best movies, the magazine also gives awards in other categories such as best actor and actress, best director, screenwriter, best foreign film and several other categories. The lens lists these awards and the seven additional movies related to them. Many of these movies from AARP's awards go on to win Academy Awards.

This new lens is outside of the subjects for which I've usually created lenses. I like Celtic music. I like it enough to have made 48 lenses about it. I like science fiction and have made 16 lenses about it (more, actually, but I combined six lenses about the Hugo Awards into one). I've got over a dozen lenses about authors outside science fiction, and several lenses about Faerieworlds and music associated with it.

The one thing about all of those subjects is that while they are great lens topics, they're not always something most people have heard about. Most people aren't familiar with Celtic musicians outside of perhaps Enya, Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder or Riverdance. Most people tend to think of science fiction in terms of movies or television shows instead of books. Even when people do think of books, they're likely to see the science fiction/fantasy section of bookstores crowded with sword-and-sorcery, monster and vampire fantasy. Much of the actual science fiction is often dominated by Star Trek and Star Wars books.

So this new lens, along with my next-to-newest lens, Fiction Best Sellers, is an attempt to attract some traffic for subjects that might have broader appeal. I am interested in these new subjects, otherwise I wouldn't do lenses about them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"How to See Faeries" - New Brian Froud Book

Brian Froud has teamed up with New York Times best-selling author John Matthews in How to See Faeries, an interactive guide to those in search of the dwellers in the land of the Fae.

Brian Froud is well known for his many books on faeries, beginning with the classic Faeries with Alan Lee, first published in 1978. He was also the conceptual designer for the Jim Henson movies The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. His art inspired the annual celebrations Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon and FaerieCon in Baltimore, Maryland.

The new book will be available on on April 1, 2011 and is available for pre-order before that date.

I hope you'll consider ordering the new book either from this blog or from my Squidoo lens about Brian Froud. I also have created a lens for his wife, Wendy Froud and for Faerieworlds, the annual summer celebration in Eugene, Oregon where the Frouds appear each year. The festival was inspired by the art of Brian Froud.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to Write a Check - My #1 Lens

My Squidoo lens How to Write a Check is by far my most visited lens. I have 120 lenses and that one lens often accounts for about half of the visits to all my lenses.

Generally I'm more interested in doing lenses about Celtic music, science fiction or humor. I never would have considered doing one about writing checks except that back in July 2008 when I made the lens, I was a new Giant Squid (50 lenses considered to be quality lenses by those who determine who gets to be a Giant). I'd signed up to follow a blog by Seth Godin, Squidoo's founder. One of the things he did was toss out a whole bunch of lens ideas and asked subscribers to pick at least one for a lens. Somehow the one about writing checks appealed to me, so I did some research and published the lens on July 30, 2008.

For quite a while it didn't attract a whole lot of attention, but I noticed around January 2009 that the number of visits began to increase. They've climbed pretty steadily since then and last month there were 5,000 visits. Squidoo counts unique visitors, so if someone goes back to the lens the same week, it doesn't count.

It was all a bit surprising because I'm not that great about promoting my lenses, something I'm trying to change. Over time I've tweaked the lens a bit and tried adding related products. Since it get so many visits, I've also added links to my other lenses.

Snowflake Photography - Video Added

I've added a YouTube video clip from CBS Sunday Morning to my Squidoo lens Snowflake Photography: Kenneth Libbrecht. There's some very beautiful snowflake images to be seen. Dr. Libbrecht talks about photographing snowflakes and is shown at work in subfreezing temperatures working without gloves.

This lens, which I created at the end of December, is a complement to my lens Wilson A. Bentley - The Snowflake Man. Bentley was farmer in Jericho, Vermont who pioneered the art of snowflake photography.

Fiction Best Sellers: A New Squidoo Project

For a while until around August 2009, I did a lens based on the New York Times best seller lists, updated weekly. After not seeing sales for many months, I deleted the lens since it took about 2-3 hours every week to update it.

When I resumed activity around Thanksgiving 2010, I realized I'd made a serious coding error that prevented sales with affiliate links from being credited to my account. Now I'm going to try again, this time with correct coding. I had been getting some sales until I started using the bad code.

Instead of using the hardcover list, I'm using a new list the Times started earlier this month that reports combined print and ebook sales. Since ebook sales at are now larger than hardcover or paperback sales, this appears to be the best way to reflect what people are actually buying.

Alone is #2 on the latest New York Times list of print and ebook fiction best sellers.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Things went downhill after the Neverworlds Masquerade in Eugene on the 29th. While walking around, I noticed some pain in my left foot like I'd strained a muscle. I must've done a pretty good job of straining it because when I got up on Sunday I was really hobbling around. Every other step was painful, and it took several days for it to fade.

Just as that was getting better, I got a case of TALOIGA (my acronym for There's A Lot Of It Going Around). I have a big suspicion I picked it up in Eugene, since I started getting sick about 48 hours or so after I got back. It was probably a dose of the flu - I somehow skipped getting a shot this season. "Taloiga" sounds a lot more exotic than "flu."

Mostly it seemed to be a nagging cough that was persistent enough to sap my energy so I just haven't felt like doing anything that requires much thought or much stick-to-itiveness. After more than two weeks the cough finally seems to be subsiding.

One thing I have done is read up a bit about Redgage, a social networking site where you can post blog entries, photos, etc. and get paid. The folks in the Squidoo forum called the Chatter Box have been saying it's a good place to make backlinks, so I plan to start doing short blog entries about my lenses. Some will be about lenses I've recently blogged about such as the Discworld lens, the Grand Masters of Science Fiction, the Hugo Awards, etc. but I want to write something new for them.

I could just write something new on Redgage, but by importing material from this blog to there I get the advantage of two backlinks. I'm hoping this might make for at least a little increase in traffic.

I was in Costco earlier and took a look at Laura Hillebrand's new book. If money wasn't so tight I'd buy it, but it's still penny-pinching season and it will be for a long time, I suspect.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Neverworld Masquerade

This past Saturday I went down to the McDonald Theater in downtown Eugene, Oregon to the Faerieworlds Winter event, the Neverworlds Masquerade. The theme was "Faeries vs. Pirates" and I went as a pirate, or perhaps more accurately as the Thief of Time since I wore my clock hat.

I got there way too early. Another time I'll get there about a half hour before the doors open, not more than two hours before. But although I've been around Eugene now and then since I started going to Faerieworlds in 2006, I'd never been in the downtown part of it. I wasn't sure how parking would work out, especially since a performance center close to the McDonald was presenting Itzahk Perlman that night.

It turned out that parking was extremely easy. I'd checked out Google maps and had a printout, so once I got off I-105 I got right to the city-operated parking garage, which is free on Saturdays and they had plenty of spaces.

I had my camera and my little prop sword with me, and eventually I took them back to the car when I realized the sword was considered a weapon even though it's not at all sharp and it was tied so I couldn't pull it out of the scabbard. Just before the doors opened, someone from the theater saw a guy with a pro-level camera and told him he needed a photo pass. So I figured photos just weren't allowed even though I'd seen photos from past Winter events at the theater.

Once inside, I realized plenty of people had cameras and I could've kept mine with me. The only thing being restricted was flash photos inside the auditorium part. Photos in the lobby and lounge were no problem.

There were a few vendors set up in the lobby with some interesting things, but since money's so tight I didn't spend much time looking. I did talk briefly with Mark Lewis, who was in his "Dirty Jack" pirate outfit and was one of the emcees along with "Green Man" Billy Scudder. I told Mark I was there as the Thief of Time, and his response was, "We have ways of making you tock."

There were three musical acts for the evening and the first was Manoverboard (yes, it's all one word). They've been to several Faerieworlds Summer events on the Village or Neverworlds stage, but I'd only seen them in passing. It was good to see them for their whole set. It was very energetic and a lot of fun.

Scott Huckabay, who's a real guitar wizard, was the second act. He's also been to the Summer event at least once that I know of. I'd gone into the lounge between acts to get a drink and ended up spending all of the time Scott was performing there talking with a few of the Circle of Merry Folk people. The lounge had a video feed from the auditorium, so I didn't completely miss out. That feed was also going out on the Internet via UStream (they also carry feeds from LiveIreland, the Internet radio station).

Of course, the headline act was Woodland, Emilio and Kelly Miller-Lopez's band. They were in great form with plenty of new material and Emilio got to play the hurdy-gurdy he'd gotten a few months ago.

Back during one of the Full Moon gatherings at the standing stones out at Mount Pisgah, I'd heard Kelly playing a Loreena McKennitt tune on her harp. I think she said she was just learning it. The band has worked up a full arrangement of the tune and it sounded great.

While I'd originally booked a motel room, I canceled it earlier in the week - a move spurred by the higher cost of getting the car's oil changed plus having the fuel filter replaced. So after the show, I headed back home. Since it was after midnight, traffic was very light. Even with a bit of fog developing toward the end of the trip, it only took a bit over two hours to return.

Discworld: The Monstrous Screwup

Terry (not Terrry) Pratchett
After seeing things going pretty well for my six-page Squidoo lens Hugo Award Winners: Novels, I decided to consolidate my five Discworld lenses into one. It was mostly a matter of tedious cutting and pasting, although a bit of writing was needed and I had to create a set of links for people to get from one page to the others.

I spent about three or four hours on that last evening (Monday) and published the lens, Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett, or so I thought. What I'd really published was "Discworld Novels by Terrry Pratchett" with three "r"s in "Terry" instead of the usual two. The problem occurred as the second step of creating a lens after clicking the lens builder link - naming the lens. Typing in the title creates the URL. I was careful about spelling "Pratchett" but didn't notice a finger stutter on the first name.

Of course, it was one of the first things I noticed after publishing. That was way too late, since the URL is set once the button is pushed to create the lens and open the workshop. Once assigned, a URL can't be changed. My only option was to recreate the entire five-page lens, which is what I did this morning and it took about three hours. I did spot a few errors to correct and I made a few tweaks, so overall things are better on this newer version above and beyond fixing the title/URL gaffe.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grand Masters of Science Fiction Lens

Well, I guess that'll teach me to resume not writing about works in progress. Last Saturday I wrote predicting my lens on the Grand Masters of Science Fiction would be published on Sunday. It took a bit longer. Longer as in I just published the lens this evening (Thursday).

The lens is much better for the extra time. If I'd published on Sunday, it would have been a lens mostly made up of links to authors' pages on Amazon and links to books on Amazon. The extra time mostly went into writing up semi-brief blurbs about each author, and there are 27 of them. Just today I realized I'd left one author off the list, so I was able to correct that. Writing those blurbs went a lot slower than I would have thought. That's only partly because I ended up reading most of the Wikipedia entries and referring to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Then, of course, there was writing up a few paragraphs about the SFWA and the award.

I couldn't find free-to-use photos of all the authors, so for those I couldn't find, I used book cover images from Amazon. I did find photos for most authors on Wikipedia, and most of those didn't require attribution, but I provided it for those that did. The photo of Robert A. Heinlein is the only one, I think, that I got from Amazon. It was only after I'd placed the photo that I recalled that the term "Grand Master" is also used in chess.

It's a relief to have the lens done and published. Now on to the next big or maybe not-so-big idea.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Merging Lenses, New Idea

I've started merging about eight of the Celtic music lenses with their corresponding video showcase lenses. Since I made the video lenses in 2008, Squidoo added the ability to make lenses with more than one page. I decided to cut down on the total number of lenses by putting the videos on page 2 of the main lens and delete the video showcase lens.

I started out with Celtic Music: Altan because it's the first one on the Celtic Music: Lenses lens. I deleted all but one video on the showcase lens and added a note with links to the main lens. I was going to do another one, but went out for a walk instead because it was a nice day, i.e., not raining.

While out walking I got an idea about doing a lens about science fiction grand masters. The Science Fiction Writers Association, which gives out the Nebula Awards, has been awarding the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award since the 1970s, although they didn't name it for Knight until after he died in the '90s. It seemed like a good way to make a lens with lots of links to Amazon for the all-time best writers in the science fiction field.

I got a list of all the Grand Masters in a text file and added links to their Amazon pages if they have them or searches on their names at Amazon if they don't have a page. Then I decided to make it more interesting by adding links to their books that have won the Hugo and/or Nebula awards. I managed to get through to 2000 and I'll most likely finish it up tomorrow.

It's still just a text file now, but I've found that by doing a lot of this type of lens with multiple Amazon links as text files is easier than working in Squidoo's lens workshop. I did find the Hugo Award Winners: Novels lens very helpful since I've already created the links to both and in that lens, so I just copy them over to the text file.

I'm hoping to be able to find photos of the authors either on Amazon or Wikipedia with Creative Commons licenses so I can use them. Also I'm hoping I can get the lens published tomorrow. Usually I don't write about stuff in progress just in case something changes. Occasionally I'll start a lens that seems like a good idea, then get bogged down. If I don't say anything before publishing, nobody has to know. But this grand master lens looks like it's definitely going to happen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Squidoo Lens - Celtic Music: Kíla

When it comes to my Squidoo lenses, Celtic Music: Kíla can also be put in my category of Faerie Music since they'll be headlining at Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon June 17-19, 2011. But they are first and foremost an Irish group, performing with plenty of spirit and energy all over the world. Faerieworlds folks eagerly await this years event for the chance to see Kíla live and dance up a storm.

Kíla's members are much more than just players in an Irish band. They're all involved in many other ventures in music, theater and film, and most have recorded solo albums.

I'm really not too sure about that Klingon nose trumpet, however.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Squidoo Gives Hugo Award Lens a Purple Star

Less than 36 hours after I published my Hugo Award Winners: Novels, it's received a Purple Star from Squidoo. Purple Stars are given to lenses nominated by other winners of that award. They are awarded for lenses that the nominators and Squidoo staff agree are of top quality. Getting one so quickly is, I think, somewhat out of the ordinary.

This is my third Purple Star. Not long after the program began I got one for my lens about Mount St. Helens. Late last month I got a second one for Spoonerisms, which had also been named a Lens of the Day in 2008. And speaking of Lens of the Day, I got a second one of those awards in 2009 for Celtic Music: Lenses which lists all of my lenses on that subject.

One thing they ask you to do when you get a Purple Star is look for someone else's lens that you think is worth the honor. I was just looking around and found Shakespearean Insults, which I thought was funny and deserving of recognition, so I nominated it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Discworld Lenses on Squidoo

Before I got caught up in the massive project that was the Hugo Award Winners: Novels lens that I published Sunday evening, I had another big project: Discworld.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, which started in 1983 and really got rolling a few years later, is one of those series I was aware of, but I just didn't think I was a big fan of fantasy. On the other hand, I kept reading about him being compared to Douglas Adams, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy guy, and I'm a big fan of Adams.

But I'm not a really big fan of fantasy, or at least I wasn't. To me it just seemed like too much of it was sword and sorcery and all of it was taken much to seriously. It turns out that's pretty much the feeling Terry Pratchett had in mind when he started the Discworld books. He basically looked at the genre and stood it on its head.

Pratchett's got a madcap sense of humour at least as far out as Adams had. His main wizard character, Rincewind, isn't very good at wizarding, although he does have this way of surviving. Unseen University, the place wizards go to learn their trade and often remain, is peopled by a faculty and staff that's gotten very complacent and fat, enjoying six hearty meals a day and not doing much magic at all unless it's something involving plots against wizards higher up in the hierarchy, and the results of the plotting can be fatal to the plottee. The university is in Discworld's largest city, Ankh-Morpork, a sprawling disorganized mess of a place where, Pratchett says, all roads lead from Ankh-Morpork, not to it. It's just that some people, those headed to the city, are going the wrong way.

There are witches, including grim Granny Weatherwax, jolly Nanny Ogg, and young Magrat Garlick, who is pretty much a parody of modern-day New Age influenced practitioners of the occult.

There's Death. Death SPEAKS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and rides a pale white horse. The horse's name is Binky.

Everyone lives on a flat round and highly improbable world that's carried on the backs of four huge elephants who, in turn, stand on the back of The Great A'Tuin, a 10,000-mile long turtle swimming through space. Since the world is flat, if a ship at sea disappears from view like it's falling off the edge (as people on Earth used to think), it's because it's falling off the edge. Water from the ocean cascades off the edge, yet Discworld and it's oceans never run dry.

It all sounds wildly fantastic, and it is, but Pratchett has a way of telling great and very funny stories about the world and the characters in it. There are plenty of references to fairy tales, Shakespeare, movies and other bits of culture from our world to make Discworld seem sort of familiar in its weirdness.

There are currently 38 books in the Discworld series, with several major categories. Someone had previously done a Discworld lens about why they shouldn't be read in order. I decided to make a lens listing them all in order starting with The Colour of Magic, which some say isn't the best place to start. Pratchett has said it wasn't until several books in that he discovered this wonderful thing called "plot." But I started reading that book and, being used to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, didn't have any problems with it. I just continued on with The Light Fantastic and kept going. I'm currently between the 12th and 13th books, taking a break to read other things.

The lenses I made are:

Discworld Novels 1 to 10
Discworld Novels 11 to 20
Discworld Novels 21 to 30
Discworld Novels 31 to 40

31 to 40? Well, yes. While there are only 38 published books, plans are in the works for at least two more. If I'd named the fourth lens Discworld Novels 31 to 38, I'd have a problem when the next books came out. This way no renaming is necessary and if Pratchett goes on past 40 I can put those books in a new lens.

There's a fifth lens for Discworld books related to, but not part of the series:

Discworld: Related Books

This lens links to the mapps, the Science of Discworld books, art, folklore, a companion, and even a children's book that grew out of the City Watch commander's reading to his young son.

Not having read past the 12th book, I had to rely pretty much on plot synopses I could find online. Some were way too brief, others were way too wordy, with some of the latter being the length of short stories. I just wanted something short, but enough to generate interest. Using a graphic online Guide to Discworld, I color coded the borders and backgrounds of each book description to relate to the categories defined by the guide: Rincewind, Witches, Death, The City Watch, etc.

I'm having a lot of fun reading the series. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to start reading it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A New Squidoo Lens - Hugo Award Winners - Novels

I just published my newest Squidoo lens Hugo Award Winners: Novels. It's a rather large project in that it combines the six lenses I'd previously made about Hugos. I decided to use the Page Break module to get it all on one lens, which I think will help with lensrank on Squidoo and page rank on Google.

The lens not only links each title to and, it also includes other awards won by each title. It's the other awards that took probably half the time in creating the lens. I think including those awards is important because I don't think there's many other places on the web where you can get a list of all the Hugo winning and nominated novels plus reference to other awards.

If you decide to take a look at the lens, let me know if you find any errors. In a project this size, even though I spent a good couple of hours looking over the whole thing (and finding missing links, misspellings and other cleanup stuff) there's probably stuff I just didn't see.

Thanks for looking and if you leave comments or hit the like button, thanks for those too.

All the book title and book cover links are through my Amazon Associates ID, so anyone clicking on a link and ordering something earns me a small commission which doesn't cost the person ordering anything extra. I'm using my own Associates links more and more on Squidoo, hoping to get enough orders in a month to kick the commission rate to the next level and also start making enough money to actually help pay some expenses.

I'll be doing more and more blogging about my efforts to make some income online. I really need to do a whole lot more promoting of the Squidoo lenses I've already made and will be making in the future. I might even change the name of this blog or perhaps start another to focus on that.