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.