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Self-Publishing a Book with Blurb

Self-Publishing a Book with Blurb

Blurb.com – A Way for Authors to Self-Publish

What is Blurb? It’s a wonderful discovery for an aspiring author or someone who just wants a few books for a special occasion or to share with their family. When a writer chooses to self-publish their content, there are a number of Print-On-Demand sites like Lulu.com or Create Space, but let’s focus on Blurb.com here. I’ve used it a number of times with varied books and found it quite versatile.

Made using Blurb.com

Gail Lee Martin shows off her books with family memories. I used Blurb to publish both of these books for Mom and Dad.

The wonderful thing about Print-On-Demand (also called POD) is the author doesn’t have to buy hundreds of dollars worth of books to get the book published by a traditional printer or face rejection over and over from a traditional publisher. The way that POD works at Blurb is the author uploads the book content to the Blurb website. At that point, the only obligation is to buy one copy of the book. Anyone else wanting the book can order it directly from Blurb’s online bookstore. The author sets the price and keeps any income above the printing cost set by Blurb.

How To Do It

  1. Sign up with Blurb. It’s free and you put the usual information (username and password).
  2. Click on DOWNLOAD THE BOOKWRIGHT SOFTWARE at the Blurb site. This downloads Blurb’s software to your own computer. You work offline at your own pace. Use the Blurb BookWright Guide to learn more about it.
  3. Start a new book using the software. Choose a title, paste in the text and get the pictures from your own computer files.
  4. Rearrange the text and photos until you are satisfied with the book.
  5. Edit, edit, edit… run the spell check and review the text and photos one more time. It’s best to actually print out the pages and review it that way. Somehow one sees the errors more clearly in a printed copy.
  6. Once you have it perfect, upload the book to Blurb.
  7. Now you have 15 days to order the book or they will remove it from their site. Don’t worry, it’s still saved on your own computer.
  8. Start promoting the book. Potential buyers go to Blurb’s online bookstore to preview a part of the book and to order copies.

You can preview the various books I’ve published using Blurb. My sample books are featured in my online bookstore. Click on a book cover to read more about it and to PREVIEW a portion of the book.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Books, Self-publishing

 

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Taking Spider Web Photos

Taking Spider Web Photos
Orange spider blends in with the dry grasses.

Orange spider blends in with the dry grasses. (Photo by Virginia Allain)

Nature buffs and camera enthusiasts find spiders and their intricate webs fascinating. Photographing them is challenging. Here are some tips to improve your digital photos of spider webs.

 Things You’ll Need:
  • digital camera with close-up mode
  • outdoor area to find spiders
Spider webs with dew on them are more visible in photographs than a plain web. This means getting out early with the digital camera before the sun dries everything out.
spider web

Spider web after a light rain shower. (photo by Virginia Allain)

 

Use the macro setting (close-up) on your digital camera. Often this setting is represented by a flower icon.

 

canon camera powershot

Canon SX 20 IS Powershot that I use

Keep your hands very steady or use a tripod for macros. Avoid windy days when slight movements of the web will blur your picture.
spiderweb

Be cautious if the spider is on the web.

Look for plain, uncluttered background to show off the web better. Dirt, mulch, or sky work well as a background. The close-up setting on the digital camera helps by putting the background out of focus.
IMG_1285_edited
Take multiple shots from different angles. Try getting the whole web, a section of the web, different sides of the web. Then see what turned out the best.
IMG_7517

This photo could benefit from cropping. The grass background is not the best.

Tips & Warnings

  • Fog or a sprinkler or a light shower sometimes creates ideal conditions for photographing webs and can mimic morning dew.
  • Black construction paper held behind a web might work when the background is too cluttered.
  • Avoid disturbing the web when taking your photo.

(Previously published on eHow in 2008 by Virginia Allain)

 

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in eHow, Photography, photos, Uncategorized

 

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Will Bernie Sanders’ Voters Go Libertarian?

Will Bernie Sanders’ Voters Go Libertarian?

The short answer is a resounding “NO.” Here’s the longer answer straight from the mouths of dozens of Berners on Facebook on July 24, 2016. The question is “would you vote Libertarian?”

Karen W. – Libertarians are just republicans with a twist.

Carol V. – They are Twizzler Republicans. They are the worst of republicans. Richer guy beats the lesser rich guy! Hey, if you aren’t wealthy, with them in power, then change isn’t coming your way. Well, I guess you could get poorer!

libertarian platform

Chart comparing Bernie Sanders’ progressive stands and Gary Johnson’s libertarian stands (meme from the Bernie Believers group on Facebook)

Tom R. – They are Republicans that don’t want to be associated with all of the baggage. I’m going to vote for Bernie if he’s on the ballot but if he isn’t I’m voting Green. Not because I think they’ll win and not because I agree with them on most issues, I’m voting Green to send a message to the Democrats and to try to break the two-party tyranny.

 Raven H. –  Libertarians are literally Republicans… They’re against everything Bernie stands for. Why would you even ask that?
 Alice A. –  “If we boil down the libertarian ideology to its fundamentals, they essentially believe that we should have as minimal government as possible. Government protections of civil rights? Zip. Government regulations of large, unsustainable financial institutions that have already wreaked havoc on our economy? Nope. Government policies that preserve the environment and protect our natural resources? Zilch.”
 Ellen L. – They also eliminate environmental laws
Dakota R.Libertarians don’t believe in taxation… Which is cool and all, but that’s public roads, bridges and highways, law enforcement, public schools, national parks, the post office, hospitals and healthcare, the fire department, congress, the CIA, FBI, the president, etc…

And we kinda need some of those things. 

Eva W. – Oh, HAIL no! They are Republicans on steroids.

Lorrene B. – No way, I’m going Green, I saw Johnson in a town hall meeting, didn’t like his ideas at all

 Laura R. – No Gary Johnson is not a progressive, and doesn’t concern himself with infrastructure or SS or Medicare
Pamela C. – Not even closely related to progressives. Yechhh!

Ruth A. – While many Libertarian “values” may seem appealing, the Libertarian Party of the U.S. is a corporatist party in disguise. Please do more research. They defend Citizens United. They are for the TPP. The Libertarian party is very dangerous. They would burn the world to the ground in defense of the “liberty” to go after profit.
Shelley L. – Not me. He’s for the TPP. Bernie wouldn’t approve and neither do I.
Tom R. – God, Not me! Gary Johnson is worse than Trump!
Theresa Ann A. – NO! It’s nothing like Bernie ideology!
Christine L. – Libertarians don’t believe in taxation but neither does the top one-tenth of the 1% and look where that got us
Paul Michael B. – The Libertarian party is a neoliberal party just like the D’s and the R’s, and thus represent the very root of our problems. Libertarians salivate over the idea of corporations suing governments.
This is my favorite answer out of the batch:
Stephanie F. – Hell no! How could any real Progressive even consider that. They’re Republicans, possibly worse. Libertarians have no foreign policy. It’s basically, “Sucks to be you, not our problem.” Johnson wants to get rid of Medicaid. He could give a crap about environmental issues or infrastructure, so no money would go to those places. Also, Libertarians don’t believe in taxation so there wouldn’t be any money to go anywhere. They’re all for private corporations building wealth, and getting rid of all government oversight of them. Capitalism unchecked isn’t worth crap! I would vote Green Party before I’d ever vote for a Republican or Libertarian. Jill Stein is an intelligent, progressive, environmentally conscious free-thinker, who isn’t owned by lobbyists. She’ll probably get my vote if Bernie’s not on the ballot.
Lee O. – Why? Deregulate and privatize everything. Why the hell would anyone contemplate supporting that?
Erik O. – Are you high, the libertarian USA are nothing more than parasites
Melissa C. – Nope, no libertarians for me. I care about workers.
Joy H.  Gary Johnson is mostly for everything Bernie is against.
He wants to deregulate everything (food safety standards, environmental protections, social security), abolishment of the tax system. It’s a really, really bad idea; more extreme than the mainstream Republican platform.
Justin L. – Why libertarian? It’s the Koch Brothers’ brain child and while Johnson holds to some liberal social issues, his economic policy is Republican; that is to say, outrageously horrible and broken.

Shane K. – If you’re a libertarian you never understood Bernie’s message. We are progressives.

Zarra H. – Libertarian is about 100% opposite most of Bernie’s philosophy and also mine.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Politics

 

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The Bleach Disaster

The Bleach Disaster

The cleaning lady worked hard today getting the place clean and sparkling. I always enjoy the shining countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms on cleaning day.

Unfortunately, she’s a big fan of bleach. The house reeks of bleach by the time she finishes. We usually have the doors open to the lanai so the fresh air moderates the fumes. Today was cooler, so the doors were closed.

The worst part of the bleach is the residue left behind. If I unthinkingly lean against the counter while making a cup of tea, I’ll regret it. I did it again today, so guess I’m a slow learner.

2012-01-10 2014 feb 001

The original bleach stain on my blue shirt.

The khaki skirt I wore today has a big bleach spot on the front. The stain could be covered in future by wearing an untucked shirt with it.

There’s no way to conceal the big white spots on my blue shirt though. Darn, darn, darn. I wiped down all the counters with a wet cloth and hope nothing else gets ruined.

Now here’s the funny part: I decided to do a spatter paint project on that shirt to see if I could turn it into something artsy. I did this in the garage, adding bleach dots and flicking bleach across the fabric. Interesting result and I might just wear that shirt sometime.

2012-01-11 2014 feb 003 (1280x960)

My bleach stains turned into graphic designs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the sense to wear an apron and ended up with 3 bleach spots on a favorite pair of slacks. I’d changed into those from the bleach spotted khaki skirt. Darn it.

 

2012-01-12 sarah tower 009 (1280x960)

I outlined the additional bleach stains with an indelible marker. Since it looked like a map, I added fantasy place names to it.

 
(Original article was published in 2014 on the Bubblews site)

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Crafting, Crafts

 

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Becoming a Top Amazon Reviewer

Becoming a Top Amazon Reviewer

If You Love Reading, Consider Writing Reviews for Amazon

I’ve been an Amazon reviewer for over 10 years now and managed to work my way up to Top 100 Reviewer ranking. As a retired librarian, I have more time to read now and posting reviews on Amazon helps me keep track of what I’ve read and how I felt about it. Even as a child, I kept lists of what I read. I get nostalgic looking back through my notebook to see the titles scrawled in my childish handwriting and remember what I was reading in those days.Yes, I was a bookworm.

Book Illustration of a Girl Reading Postcard
Girl Reading – Postcard
See other Book Postcards at zazzle

Now with my reading list online, I have more than just my memory to tell me if I liked a book and what it was about. My feelings and opinion of the book is posted on Amazon for my future reference and for all the world to read.

Writing Book Reviews Helps Libraries and Librarians and Authors

Upon retiring, I wanted to volunteer in a library or school or adult literacy center. Unfortunately, our frequent trips and erratic schedule didn’t match with those volunteer opportunities.

Luckily I stumbled upon another way I could share my experience from 30 years as a librarian. It made use of my love of books, but could be fitted in with our coming and going. I volunteer as a book reviewer for Amazon. The reviews on that online book site benefit librarians selecting books for their collections and help any reader trying to find the right book for their enjoyment or informational needs.

Now I read anything that appeals to me, then share a description and opinion online. It’s particularly satisfying if mine is the first review for that item. Readers rate the reviews as helpful or not and that determines the ranking of the reviewer. When I reached the TOP 500 REVIEWER ranking, I knew my reviews were helping other readers and librarians.

At that point, authors started sending books to me to read and review. It was gratifying to add “authors” to those who benefit from my reviewing efforts. I hadn’t thought about that aspect, but I’m helping get the word out about good books and identifying the appropriate audience.

I’ve expanded my efforts on the website by compiling book lists on varied topics. I have 88 of these lists so far.

Any reader can contribute reviews to Amazon and you can fit it around your own schedule and without even leaving your house.

Books on shelves at Wakefield Library

photo by Virginia Allain

There’s no pay, but it can be addictive to rise through the ranks as a reviewer. Here are ways to achieve Top Reviewer ranking. It took two years for me to reach the TOP 500 Reviewer ranking.

The third year, I was ecstatic to reach TOP 100 Reviewer ranking. Since then, I’ve slipped a little and fell to below 1000. It requires a lot of reading and posting of reviews to stay at the top. Update: After shifting most of my energy to Squidoo and other online writing, my reviewer ranking dropped quite a bit. The last time I checked, it was around 1,200.

Diligently post reviews on every book you read whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Others need to know about that book. It helps if you’re already an avid reader. If you only read 2 or 3 books a month, then it will take much longer to reach the top reviewer ranks.

Writing a Critical Book Review

If reviewing a best seller, it helps to get the review posted quickly after the book’s release date. More readers see the early reviews and vote on its helpfulness. The reviews with the highest number of helpful votes get posted near the top and get more viewings as time goes by. If there are already several hundred reviews posted for a book, yours gets pushed to the bottom and gets little attention and few “likes.”

It’s important to post a quality review. Don’t just put a sentence or two. Say why you did or didn’t like the book. For fiction, give enough of the plot for readers to know if it’s their kind of book but don’t spoil the suspense by telling the ending.

Free Books!

A bonus of reaching Top 500 Reviewer ranking is authors start offering free books for you to review. These books are yours to keep after your read them and post a review. I didn’t receive hundreds of books, but a nice sampling of titles. One author sends me her Disney World guide every time she puts out a new edition.

You can encourage this by adding onto your Amazon profile that you welcome review books. Now, it is more common for authors to offer an ebook copy to a reviewer. Too bad, as it was nice receiving a copy in the mail. After reviewing it, you could give it away or sell it.

Reviewing Non-Book Items

Think about reviewing household items as well. What about your camera? How about the lamp on your desk? Do you like them? If not, why not? Other people need to know what features work well on a product and what are duds. Amazon carries an amazing range of products and reviews of those products. Electronics and software reviews get a lot of votes.

Reviewing Music, Movies, and Software

Don’t limit yourself. Put reviews online for the music CDs you listen to on the way to work. Put a review on for the movie you watched on TV last night. Review the software that you use on your computer.

If you post a negative review on a popular movie, it will get lots of votes that it was unhelpful. Unfortunately, that brings your ranking down. Sometimes I chicken out and just don’t post a review for a movie that I thought was dumb.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Books, Reading

 

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Customize GlassGiant Graphics

Customize GlassGiant Graphics

You’re ready to post on your blog but don’t have a suitable picture for your topic. Here’s a solution for that problem.

The keyboard you see here is just one of the graphics that a site called GlassGiant  has. You can change the wording to whatever you want, then save the resulting image to your computer. I keep mine in a folder called graphics so I can find them easily and use them again.
post keyboard
I created keyboards graphics with words like “review,” “search,” and “post.” Those work for a variety of topics that I might not have a photo to match from my own collection.

The site is free to use and enables bloggers or content writers to make pinnable images to use online. I never post on my blog without a photo, since pinning to Pinterest is such good advertising and that requires a picture. Keep this site in mind when you don’t have an image of your own that suits your posting.

Take a look at some of my other images I made using GlassGiant. You can customize the message on the chalkboard, on the neon sign and on the diamond bling.

unclutter

GlassGiant bling graphic “unclutter” created by Virginia Allain

 

The neon words can be anything you want and you can change the background for it and the color of the neon. Cool, isn’t it!

pet peeves neon

Neon graphic created by Virginia Allain using GlassGiant

Spell out your name or your topic in shiny diamonds.         vallain bling

You can customize the words on the cookie and even the shape of the cookie. The heart shaped cookie looks good. I also like the bar of chocolate with your words added on it.

glass giant favorite cookie

GlassGiant cookie graphic with the words, “What’s Your Favorite?”

The blackboard graphic that they have proves useful for many topics. I could have used the keyboard graphic, but used this blackboard instead. Check out the site and have some fun creating your own images to use with online content writing. pet peeves blackboard

(Previously published on Bubblews by vallain on November 11th, 2013)

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Blogger

 

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Quilt of Souls – Recommended Reading

Quilt of Souls – Recommended Reading

As you know, I’m a family history buff and love old quilts. Maybe those affinities predisposed me to like the book Quilt of Souls. Even if you aren’t a history and quilt lover, you’ll find this book worthwhile.

I read a lot of memoirs but Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Lawson grabbed me and lingers in my mind even several months later. Here’s the message I emailed the author: “I really see your book as equal to Maya Angelou’s writing.”

She replied, “Thank you, Virginia, that’s a pretty high compliment and praise. To be compared to Maya Angelou is an honor. She was one of my favorites.”

Aside from her story which is compelling, I felt she brought up historic patterns and influences in black lives that both whites and blacks may be unaware of. The Black Lives Matter movement is tapping into many unresolved issues in race relations. Her book shows how this traces back to slavery days.

quilt of souls author visit

Quilt and photo of Phyllis Lawson’s grandmother.

As a four-year-old, Phyllis fell to the care of her grandparents as her overburdened parents struggled to make a living. Feeling abandoned in a strange place, she gradually blossomed while learning life skills and family history from her aged grandmother.

As she learned the basics of quilting from Grandma Lula, the vintage fabrics from relatives’ discarded clothing served as links to the past. The stories shared as they stitched these into quilts told of hardship, oppression, and fortitude. It was the story of our country’s mistreatment of a race through slavery and through structured repression but brought to life through the oral history of her ancestors.

Her vivid descriptions of her childhood take us to that dusty yard in Alabama where a fearful child hid under the porch. Light filtered through to her while overhead the grown-ups fanned themselves and talked about their lives.

Please check out the author’s webpage, Quilt of Souls and her Facebook page for the book. The author page lists upcoming events from California to New York City. You can contact her publicist, James Fontenot, at fontenotjf@gmail.com or 703-946-9111 to arrange for her to speak at your quilt guild, genealogy club or other groups.

 

quilt of souls author visit

Here’s the Quilt of Souls author (in black shirt) at a book signing in Florida.

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Reading

 

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