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.