Three grubby bikers discussing forgiveness

Au Sable Chasm

Au Sable Chasm

Three grubby bikers wound up discussing forgiveness, of all things, after getting delayed by a rainstorm in upstate NY. Their original intent was to gas up, grab some chow, and continue their journey from Fort Ticonderoga up to Au Sable Chasm, but a violent rain storm changed all that.

Discussing forgiveness was not even on their radar. They were concerned with how long it was going to take for the front to pass through. When it became apparent from a smart phone weather app that it was probably going to be a lengthy wait (six hours as it turned out), they had no choice but to shelter their bikes, and then hunker down over some chili dogs and coffee.

The forgiveness discussion started after maps had been pored over exploring all possible avenues of escaping the rain, after the routes of previous trips had been reviewed, and after outlines for future trips had been recorded.

There was no direct spark that began the conversation, nor was there any unfinished business between the brothers that required more forgiveness then that they had already granted each other. Brothers are bound to butt heads over hurt feelings, women, or who Mom loved best, and those matters had been put to rest long ago. In fact, the brothers could talk about past problems between them, and shake their heads in disbelief that they could have been so selfish, so childish, and so ignorant.

But there was something about forgiveness that piqued their interest. Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience.

Forgiveness, they decided, is simple to understand, yet difficult to implement. There is the simple, superficial forgiveness of words spoken merely in the desire to just get along. Yet the mere act of saying “I forgive you,” doubles-down forgiveness. The heart of the one forgiven is eased and, at the same time, a sense of peace is granted to the forgiver the very moment the words are spoken. It’s palpable.

Forgiveness eliminates the desire for vengeance. Brother Brian described the futility of vengeance, that long, rainy afternoon, with the example of an individual who swallows poison expecting it to kill his adversary. Don’t swallow the poison. Forgive your enemies.

But forgiving is hard. I get all self-righteous, and stubborn about it. I am the one, after all, who has been wronged by that stupid mother-fucker and he doesn’t give a shit about how I feel. Fuck him! I’ll fix that bastard!

My mind goes off somewhere (close to hell), devising elaborate schemes for revenge, the nastier the better. Yeah…yeah, I know, vengeance is a dish best served cold and I will serve it cold – well…not icy-cold. There has to be some heat in it or I will not enjoy my vengeance as much as I want to, and I do, SO, want to bask in my vengeance!

Instead, the lesson is that I must forgive. As hard as this may be, its upside is that its rewards are immediate. Like a single tab of Tums, forgiveness neutralizes the cauldron of boiling bile in the pit of the stomach.

Additionally, there is a satisfaction available in realizing that our enemies are forever possessed by their demons. BUT we must not revel in that self-satisfaction because it only diminishes us. Evil-doers will remain caught in the traps of their own making until they learn to forgive themselves, and change their ways.

Forgiving one’s self can be the most difficult type of forgiveness of all.

Let’s take divinity out of Christ for a moment – just for purposes of this discussion. Christ, the philosopher, preached forgiveness. It was a central message of his ministry. He taught not only the forgiveness of others (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”), but he also taught forgiveness of self. Christ taught that we must admit to our own wrongdoings, our faults – our “sins”, and repent. The result is the elimination of the burden of that sin. We free ourselves to live our futures newborn, or, as some say, born again.

To brother Gregory, forgiving is two words – for giving him the freedom to let go and get on with his life. When we forgive we don’t change the past, we change our futures. Forgiving is a gift we give ourselves.

There is visible proof of the power of forgiveness. Pope John Paul II forgave the man who tried to assassinate him and the man converted to Christianity. We expect that of Popes but other examples can be taken from the news headlines. The so-called Green River Killer is a self-confessed serial killer of scores of female prostitutes. The man committed so many murders he could not even remember which victims were which. Throughout his incarceration, he showed no signs of remorse. He remained a stone-cold killer. At his sentencing, family members of his victims were allowed to speak. Most cursed him but the father of one of the victims forgave him. Only then did his stone-cold demeanor break. You can see it for yourself here.

The discussion about forgiveness made that long, rainy afternoon memorable.

After the storm passed, the brothers mounted their bikes and headed for Lake Saranac, a necessary change of plans due to the weather. The sky was still gray but the weatherman had assured them that the rain had passed.

Not so. A short run out of Ticonderoga it started to drizzle. They rode on hoping for a change for the better, but the drizzle turned into a cold, hard rain. They pushed on for another two hours, finally arriving at their lodging for the night with stiff, frozen fingers and cold, cramped legs.

They didn’t forget to forgive the weatherman.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience

maturityMotorcycle joys mature with age and experience. Even though I was a fully grown adult when I start riding motorcycles I still had some growing up to do when it came to acting sensibly.

I had been interested in riding for years but no one I knew rode a motorcycle until the winter I got a job as a bartender down in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. My brother, Brian, was teaching school down there, riding his motorcycle to and from work. That was all the impetus I needed. My time had arrived.

At the age of 30, I purchased a 500cc Triumph Trophy. I taught myself the basics, with special emphasis on safety since I was scared to death of dying. Thus began my riding career. I have owned numerous motorcycles and I have been riding ever since.

Over the years, the joys I get from riding my motorcycle have matured. I still get a charge accelerating up steep hills. The roar of the engine is like that of a tiger just released from a cage expressing its need for freedom. But now when I get to the top of the hill I back off on the throttle a bit. Instead of continuing my hell-bent roar like I used to do early on, I look down the road ahead of me, the road I just crested, to see what lies beyond. If the road ahead is full of twists and turns and properly pitched pavement I might – no, I would – continue the roar. There is nothing like a good motorcycle road. Ahh! The Tail of the Dragon, Rte 129, down in Deals Gap, NC, 318 turns in 11miles. Whoo-whee! Now there’s a motorcycle road. OK…maybe I have not fully matured – yet.

I no longer take main highways either, unless absolutely necessary. I prefer the back roads as mentioned in the previous blog. First of all, you are not screaming down a four (six, eight) lane highway just to keep up with the chore-focused frenzy. Few folk are enjoying that drive. They have their eyes locked down the highway desperately looking for the off ramp. Where’s the off ramp… where’s the off ramp?

Highways are dangerous. Every road is dangerous but highways with their high speeds, wild-weaving traffic patterns, and wind-gusting monster trucks are particularly deadly. Yeah, a back road is a wiser choice.

For the most part I drive slower now too. I enjoy the ride more than the speed and it is a lot safer. Since the advent of cell phones/smart phones the dangers on the roads for all drivers have increased exponentially. This is especially true for motorcyclists. Drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to have an accident. And as if that isn’t scary enough, texting and driving is six times more dangerous than DRUNK DRIVING!

I live on Long Island, NY which is a densely populated area with way too much traffic. Except for extended trips with my brothers I seldom ride my bike anymore except for an occasional jaunt over the bay bridges to our barrier island where traffic is light and nature is near. Aside from the necessity for safety, slowing down also enhances sensory awareness. The Atlantic Ocean washes the shore there. You can see it, hear it, and smell it.

074On our latest trip through the Adirondacks that sensory awareness was most welcome. I was able to enjoy glimpses of a high, thin waterfall cascading down a heavily-forested cliff side. I could hear the joyous shrieks of children splashing in the icy waters of the boulder-strewn stream that meandered alongside the roadway. I could smell the green of freshly harvested corn fields. The pungent odors of horse manure and a pancaked skunk wrinkled my nose before being left quickly behind.

I have also learned not to ride in the rain. That sounds like a no-brainer but it is not always possible to anticipate when and where you might encounter inclement weather. On this latest trip, we had the modern convenience of smart phones with weather apps. We had heard on the news that a violent storm was to pass through the area so when we left Fort Ticonderoga to gas up, we checked the weather.

An interesting aside here. Fort Ticonderoga is not a state or national park. It is privately owned and presently run by a non-profit organization, funded by donations and park admission fees. It was purchased by the Pell family and restored after decades of neglect. They have done a great job and the fort is worth visiting for its vistas as well as for its history, including reenactments of the Revolutionary War era.

But back to the bad weather. A front with heavy rains and high winds extended from Canada down to Long Island, and was headed east. We were headed west towards Saranac Lake and there was no way to punch through that front without encountering the storm. So we just stayed put for six hours talking about forgiveness. Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Take back roads whenever possible

Back roads lead everywhere

Back roads lead everywhere

Take back roads whenever possible. I just got back from a five day, 1000 mile long motorcycle  trip with my two brothers through a bit of New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. Wherever possible we took back roads.

As mentioned in the first blog (The Journey is the Destination) on this website, both of my brothers enjoy motorcycling. Each of us took up the hobby at different times, and has had differing experiences, but because of our common interest we ride together whenever possible.

Our usual outings are to visit tri-state markers – just because they’re there – and because their locations are usually so far out in the boondocks they provide an excuse for us to go exploring. So far we have visited 18 of the 36 dry land markers.

Last week the three of us took a trip to the Adirondacks. This was our so-called “Lake” trip, because of all the lakes we visited: Lake George, Lake Champlain, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Mirror Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake and Colgate Lake. In addition we took a side trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, took in Au Sable Chasm, and visited with friends and family.

And we took back roads. Some pass through towns so small there isn’t even a cross street, where houses crowd right to the edge of the road, with old folks sitting on their porches who wave as you pass by. In some towns the road takes you passed paint-peeling buildings with sagging roofs that testify to a lack of work ethic. They are crumbling, dilapidated towns with barefoot children playing in the dirt too close to the road and dogs that chase you for a lap or so. Some roads circle through proud towns with meticulously mowed lawns, pots of bright flowers hung on parking meters, enormous American flags flopping lazily atop high flag poles in front of the volunteer fire departments and city halls. Each road has its own personality. Every road is unique.

Back roads take longer to traverse so you need to allow more time if you have a timetable to maintain. But that extra time is never wasted, even when you get delayed at a railroad crossing by a freight train pulling in excess of 100 cars. Depending on its speed you can be there a while. You turn off the bike, dismount, retrieve some water from your saddle bags, stretch your legs (that needed stretching though you had not yet noticed), lean back up against the bike, and watch the hawks circling unhurriedly overhead. Then, with one or two last deep knee bends, and a wave to the lone workman in the back of the caboose, you mount your bike and you’re on your way again. You never even consider checking your watch.

Some back roads become dirt roads. They are dangerous because of the loose gravel but they are the only roads that can take you to where the few choose to travel. You’ll need a good map, a gazetteer if you can find one, because dirt roads have a way of becoming narrow trails that just might turn into nearly impassable pathways. You know the ones; the ones leading to the abandoned quarry that’s now filled with water. There is always a tree by the water’s edge with a rope tied to one of its limbs for swinging out over its mirror-like waters.  Kids will be kids. Or the trail that leads to a long-ago-abandoned fire tower with its broken-slatted ladder climb to the top for vista views of hazy mountains in distant states. You’ll have to swing a leg off your bike and hike a bit to get to most of these destinations but the exercise is good for you and it’s fun.

I know. We cannot follow every dirt road wherever they all lead. There just isn’t time in a single life-time. But there is time to follow a few. Look for the thinnest lines you can find on your gazetteer. They are the roads that lead from where you are, to where you want to go, but do not yet know how to get there. Follow them. They will surprise you with the most revelations. They yield unsolicited knowledge. They are a bit edgy.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)

International Standard Book Number

ISBN

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are numerical sequences issued as book identifiers. They are required to publish and distribute a book. They consist of thirteen digits that are used to identify the title, author, edition, binding, and publisher of a given work. They are unique to each book and each variation of that book.

They are country specific, meaning that an agency in the nation in which the book is published is responsible for issuing ISBNs. In the U.S. the only company authorized to do so is RR Bowker.

In order to purchase ISBNs you must create an account with Bowker. ISBNs are expensive. A single number costs $125 dollars, but you can buy them in bulk which drops the price considerably, e.g. 10 numbers cost $295 dollars and 1000 cost $1000 dollars. If you choose to buy in bulk, the company will store your unused ISBNs until such time as you need them.

Bowker also sells barcodes which are used with hardcover and paperback editions.

Each book and/or variations of that book, except reprints, require a different number. This means that a hardcover, paperback, large print, and audio books of the same work would all require different ISBNs. This is also true for new editions and successive books in a series. In no case may you use the same number for different versions of the same work, e.g. paperback and audio. See https://www.myidentifiers.com/help/isbn for a listing of what products require numbers.

When you select a POD publisher to print your book, you will be required to provide an ISBN. If you do not have one, most POD companies will provide one for you, usually at a nominal cost ($10), sometimes for free. They can do this because they buy in bulk. If you use the ISBN they provide, they are credited as your publisher.

You will notice that ebooks are not mentioned in the above link. Bowker does say on its website that ebooks require an ISBN. However, some authorities on the subject question that assertion. Bowker is, after all, in the business of selling numbers.

Many (most?) ebooks do not have an ISBN. Their authors use the numbers that their POD company supplies. Each company has its own system of assigning tracking numbers. Amazon, for example, does not require an ISBN for its ebooks. It assigns its own 10-digit ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). Barnes and Noble uses a similar system. They do not require an ISBN either, but in this case they assign a 13 digit BN number. Apple’s iBookstore, requires an ISBN for all titles including ebooks.

There are several circumstances where you might need, or desire, an ISBN for your ebook.

  • As mentioned in the previous blog, you will have to provide your own ISBN if you have created your own publishing company and want your ebook credited to your company.
  • If you have any intentions of selling your book in another country you will be required to have an ISBN.
  • ISBNs are the ultimate tracking device. To insure that all your royalties are credited to your account, it is a wise idea to assign a number to each variation of your work including ebooks.
  • Your book will have a better chance of being found by search engines with an ISBN.
  • If you want to maximize your sales by selling your book through multiple retailers you may need an ISBN. This is a murky area with differing viewpoints. Some “authorities” on the subject state that you need a separate number for MOBI, ePub and PDF formats because end users need to know whether the e-book that they are purchasing will work on their device.

The following information is taken directly from the CreateSpace website. If Amazon assigns your book an ISBN, you cannot use the ISBN with another publishing platform. AND, with a custom ISBN, you cannot use the ISBN with another publisher. AND, for libraries and academic institutions, you must have a CreateSpace assigned ISBN.

If you do decide to apply an ISBN to any of your books, outside of the POD realm, it is up to you to complete the process. You MUST return to your Bowker MyIdentifiers account to enter the title, edition, binding, publisher, etc for each book so that the books information is tied to the correct number. This is how the rest of the world will find your book.

You will also want your book listed in the Bowker’s Books In Print database. An ISBN gives you this ability, and will make it easier for search engines to find your book. You must make sure you are listed there.

The ISBN is placed on the copyright page of the book, including ebooks.

The call is yours to make. Yes, ISBNs are expensive and the responsibility of applying all the necessary information to link your books with your numbers lies with you, but there are advantages as outlined above. My take is that assigning ISBNs to each variation of your books is a good investment if you desire to maximize your book’s exposure.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Publish using your own publishing company

 

 

Start your own publishing company

Start your own publishing company

Publish using your own publishing company. It is easy but is it necessary?

You can have your book printed by any print-on-demand (POD) publisher by following the steps outlined on their websites. Pick a POD company like CreateSpace and publish your book under their imprint. It’s as simple as that. For many of us, this is the way to go. But there is also the option of forming your own publishing company. You still use a POD publisher but your title uses the imprint of your own publishing company.

So, what are the pros and cons of each option?

The primary benefit of using a POD publisher is the ease of the process. They do much of the work for you. It is also cheaper, a lot cheaper. You do not have to pay for a lawyer or to file the necessary paperwork to form a new business. In addition, POD publishers will provide the necessary ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and a barcode to identify your book, for a nominal fee, in some cases for free. This is a substantial savings because a single ISBN costs $125 and a single barcode costs $50. If you decide to form your own publishing company you will have to pony up for all these expenses.

The major benefit of starting your own company is pride. The book is yours. You are the publisher and your individual imprint appears more professional.

This is no small matter. With the opportunity to self publish, authors with varying degrees of dedication, have taken to the market place. An estimated 3000 books are published every day. Of these there are, unfortunately, a lot of slap-dash books with a CreateSpace, Lulu, Lightning, et al imprint on their spines. With your own imprint you stand out. If you take that kind of pride in your work, form your own publishing company, bite the bullet and buy a block of ISBNs. More about ISBNs in the next blog.

Two other concerns bear addressing here. In the past it was reported that the brick and mortar book stores would not sell CreateSpace books. That appears to no longer be true. Here is a link to a letter from Barnes and Noble explaining their business approach to self published books.

There is also a YouTube video claiming that certain contests will not consider self published books for their awards. I have not been able to verify the truth of this assertion.

If you do decide to form your own publishing company, here are the steps to follow:

  • The first step in starting any business is to decide which type of business you need. You can choose between a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. In a sole proprietorship you are the owner of the business, responsible for all its obligations. With a partnership, those responsibilities are spread out among the partners. A corporation can consist of a single individual or a group. Its main benefit is that it limits personal liability. The corporation becomes responsible, not the individual, for any monetary losses or lawsuits. Most authors write their own books so a sole proprietorship is probably best. You can always upgrade to a corporation/LLC at a later date if you desire.
  • Unless you intend to hire employees to help you, another benefit of a sole proprietorship is that there is no requirement for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). And there are no special taxes.
  • The next step is to decide on a name for your company. You can choose to use your own name, or you can create one. If you choose to create a name it is called “Doing Business As” or DBA. You must check to ensure that the name you select is available. This is a simple procedure. Most municipalities have an online search service where you can check.

I live in Suffolk County, New York. I was able to download the necessary forms from the County Clerk’s office and check for my business name online. Once all the forms were filled out, I submitted them to the County Clerk and received my DBA.

  • With your DBA in hand you can open a bank account in the name of your new company if you so choose. This is a good idea because it enables you to separate business and personal accounts.
  • Here is a government website for the many specifics related to starting your own business. http://www.sba.gov/content/follow-these-steps-starting-business.

If you do go the route of forming your own publishing company you might also consider generating a logo. That way when you publish your book, the logo will accompany the name of the publishing company. It will look more professional – part of that standing out from the crowd mentality.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Proofreading produces professional products

chiselProofreading produces professional products. It is the final step before your manuscript gets writ in stone and it cannot be ignored.

After you finished writing your first draft, then rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, you sent this “finished” work out to a copy editor for review. At least I hope you did. Copy editing is generally considered an essential step in the publishing process. I’ve covered that subject twice in these blogs because copy editing is so crucial.

When you got your manuscript back, you made the necessary corrections as proposed by your copy editor.

Generally speaking, we make most of these changes but not all. After all, this is our work and we know our story best. So while the copy editor may suggest modifications, we do not have to agree with all of them. I made about 90% of the suggested changes, but I left alone those that I felt best expressed my original intent.

So, finally, we are done.

Not so fast.

As you corrected your work, you may have found, as I did, that some of the wording had now become clumsy and needed further revising. Sometimes I was also visited by the inspiration genie while making these changes. This entailed adding or, in some cases, removing copy. So now what?

PROOFREADING.

You can proofread your manuscript yourself, but having read and reread and reread it so many times you have probably become word-blinded and will be unable see your own mistakes. So it’s probably best to have fresh eyes read your work for you, to see if they can find any errors.

And they will, which will then entail making these additional, final corrections. A renown author of numerous books once informed me that the last step he took before sending his work out to the publisher was to read it BACKWARD. You are allowed to groan here. I did.

I did read my manuscript backwards, as difficult and boring as that was, and I did find mistakes. Don’t ask me how the brain knew, but it did.

Guess what? Since that backward read, I have made additional changes (can we ever let go of our darlings?) necessitating a final proofread. I am now in the process of making these final (please let this be true) corrections which will then require another backward read. Groan.

This is proofreading and we cannot do without it.

One last note:

Proofreading and copy editing are, apparently, not exact sciences. Below, I have included examples of how different experts corrected my work according to their own styles and interpretations of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).

I have the luxury of knowing several professionals. I sent my work for proofreading to a PhD, a MFA, and an English teacher with 50 years of experience. This is in addition to the copy editor I hired to review my work and whose changes I had diligently (90%) employed.

Here are examples of how these proofreaders differed:

Example 1:

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word ‘hostile’ frighten you, Will. How about the word ‘challenging’?”

Example 2:

“First you have two different systems; one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system you have two separate systems; miles and/or kilometers.

“First, you have two different systems — one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system, you have two separate systems — miles and/or kilometers. (; here is wrong)

Example 3:

“Any agent of the BGK, that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK. That is who.”

So, which variation should you choose? Google any confusing issues and use those results, tempered by your own common sense. You must use precise wording in order to express the exact sentiments that you are trying to convey to the reader.

This does not mean that you will not get your manuscript sent back to you all marked up in red again. This is my best understanding of the process of proofreading, and I have no other advice to offer.

I welcome your experiences. Please share your take on the proofreading process so we can all become better writers. Thanks.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Building a website using professional help

experts

Trust us – We’re the Experts!

Building a website using professional help can be expensive. It is sometimes possible, however, to get the help you need on the cheap.

In the last blog I described how I was able to build my own website by following the instructions in Kent Mauresmo’s book, “How to Build a Website with WordPress…Fast.” The result is my website www.theriddleofriddles.com, not this website.

This website was created by the professionals at Web Hosting Hub. The reason I hired experts was precisely because of the freight train of doubt that almost ran me down. As happy as I was with my efforts building my own website, I was still very unsure whether or not I had actually done it correctly.

I don’t know anyone in the web design business. While some of the novices I questioned were as helpful as they could be, I needed someone with enough expertise to sit down with me and go over my website point by point. In short, I needed reassurance. What had I neglect to put in? What about all the minutia? What did I not know about, not have a clue about? And how about that pesky SEO stuff?

But I could not afford the thousands of dollars it usually takes to hire professionals. I was given figures hovering around the $5000 dollar amount.

Luckily, a year ago Web Hosting Hub offered a package for $100/mo for 12 months to create a website. I managed to work that hundred bucks a month into my budget, so I hired them. This website is the result and I am happy with it. Check with your web host to find out if they offer any deals.

This website also gives me a template against which to compare the other. That comparison resulted in some minor changes. Overall, though, I found that my personal efforts were pretty much on the mark. I am, however, already planning on additional changes. Recent research has hipped me to the fact that I need to add MailChimp, and I may be changing my SEO plugin to Yoast, the one used here.

As I was writing these last two blogs I went back through Mr. Mauresmo’s book searching for topics I may have missed. I rediscovered passages that I had forgotten all about (like editing my permalink.) I got several, well-needed, memory jogs not included here (or this would be a book too.)

Keep in mind that whatever book or website you choose to get information from will, probably, have recommendations by the author as to which domain name provider or web host they recommend. These recommendations are often based on monetary arrangements between the two so just remember, that while the author’s ideas might very well be valid, there are other opportunities out there. Do your homework.

Note: I am not being paid for these blogs (wish I was.) This is all just long, hours-earned knowledge. Take what you need. I hope some of this information will be helpful.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Building a website

websiteBuilding a website is fun, and, believe it or not, relatively easy.

I had no experience building a website when I sat down to attempt to do so, NONE, and, yeah, I was nearly run down by a runaway freight train of emotions before I even started.

The locomotive pulling that freight train was lack of self confidence, followed by a long string of cars laden with varying degrees of fear, nervousness, doubt, inadequacy – pick a negative emotion, any negative emotion. The caboose took a long time arriving. A bunch of Yahoos were leaning out its windows and over the rear railing yelling at me that I was just too damn stupid to even try to accomplish such a lofty goal.

My ego, Mot (see “My massive ego website,” four blogs below this one) poked me in the ribs as the caboose disappeared around a nearby bend, reminding me that he was not going to give me any rest until the website was complete.

But where to begin?

I began where I usually begin – on Google. Once again that research drone raises its ugly head. If you intend to do most of heavy lifting yourself, including building your own website, get used to doing research, or be prepared to spend sack-fulls of sheckels.

I Googled “how to build a website” and all the rest fell into place. Well, it didn’t just fall into place. I had to follow instructions. I can do that and I did.

Please remember that the website to which I am referring is not this website. It is theriddleofriddles.com website that I created for my book. This website was created by professionals at a later date as a venue for me, the author. More on that in the next blog.

If you Google “how to build a website” right now, you will get pages and pages of instructions, YouTube videos, tutorials, book offerings, etc, some of which are free. There is a wealth of information there.

I noodled around, exploring various options, reading what was being offered, before I decided on a course of action.  Out of all the information I found I decided to buy an ebook that caught my attention. It is entitled “How to Build a Website with WordPress…Fast” by Kent Mauresmo. The Kindle edition costs $2.99 and Amazon’s “one click” purchasing tool made that easy. (This tool is so easy as to be dangerous.)

I see that Amazon is now offering other similar books that were not listed when I started my research so I cannot comment on them. I am, however, quite satisfied with Mr. Mauresmo’s book. He led me through the process step by step.

Step one is to log in to your webhost which will take you to the basic WordPress theme. WordPress offers hundreds of themes and there are thousands more on line, some free.

Do not be frightened by new words like “themes” or “widgets” or whatever. If you come across a word you do not understand Google it. Find out what it means and how it applies to your task. If you still don’t get it, move on. Sometimes frequent usage of a term can help make clear what it means and how it’s used.

Select a theme you like. I like themes that have moving slides on the home page because they seem more alive, and are able to display more information than a static homepage. I tried a number of different themes before selecting the Solidate Theme.

When you are on the homepage of your theme, at the very top, you will see either the name of the theme or your name. Click on that to display the website’s dashboard (also called the administration area). On the left margin you will see a list including: posts, pages, comments, appearance. Plugins, tools, etc. These are the tools that you can now use to customize your website. You can add pages or even change the look of the website by building your own menu. This is the fun part of creating your own website. You can do it your way.

On my website I set up three pages. The first page operates like a blog. I make periodic entries on this page which is my “Home” page. I also have an “About” page which describes my book and a “Contact” page which enables others to contact me by leaving me their names and email addresses (required) and a comment box.

Solidate came with only five slides but I added another bringing the total to six. I inserted pictures in each slide. I adjusted the speed at which the slides moved, the time between them. Then I changed the pictures again. I was having fun.

Another option is the use of “plugins.” These are extra goodies you can use to accomplish important tasks. There is a Meta Tag plugin that will help search engines find your site. Others include: All in One SEO Pack, XML Sitemaps, Jetpack, and many others. One is called Shareaholic. This is a plugin that inserts icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other at the bottom of your blog so that you can share them. The book I was working from recommended the plugins listed above (and others.) I followed the directions and installed them. It was easy and I achieved a great sense of satisfaction when done.

Themes have widgets such as a search box, lists of past blogs, and email subscriptions among others that you drag and drop where you want to place them. When you look at your theme before you start altering it, you will see language that looks like some kind of pig-Latin, or foreign language. These are just place holders and will be changed as you move your widgets around or type in new text.

When I had completed most of the author’s suggestions and they seemed to be working properly, I Goggled my website name. Bingo! There it was, and, boy, did I feel proud the first time I saw my own handiwork on the World Wide Web. Considering my ignorance when I first began I did OK. No, I did better than OK. I did good.  I did that! Wow! And if I can do this so can you.

Selecting a Web Hosting Service

web hostSelecting a web hosting service is our next step on the long and winding road to that cloud-floating castle in the sky where “authors” abide.

If you Google “web hosting services” you will find a number of sites listing their assessments of the top 10 best web hosting companies. They generally list the same top companies, albeit in different orders. These sites contain reviews of what each web host offers as well as price comparisons. You can also Google “web hosting reviews” for further comparisons. Take your time to review them so you can winnow the top 10 down to your top 3, and then make your decision from there.

Here is another take on choosing a web hosting service that I just recently found on Google+. It is written by Helen Nunia who has also written numerous other useful articles. Here’s the link:  http://www.webmastersun.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-good-web-hosting-company/. You can weigh her ideas against mine to get an even broader view on the subject.

At the time (approx. 1 year ago) my research had me tinkering with the following three web hosting services:  Internet Options, Inmotion Hosting, and Web Hosting Hub. Internet Options was on my list because it was highly recommended by a knowledgeable friend. I included Inmotion Hosting and Web Hosting Hub as the other two in my top three because of their reviews. Their fees were all comparable.

I disregarded Go Daddy because it is such a large company and I was afraid I would get lost amidst the multitudes, but this was just my own personal idiosyncrasy. Likewise, iPage did not then have the status it does now or it would have been in the running. As we know, the internet and its offshoots rapidly evolve.

In the end I choose Web Hosting Hub because of the wide variety of services it offered, because it was responsive to my inquires, and because of its reviews.

An aside here;  I find reviews to be an invaluable resource for making decisions on any number of subjects; books, restaurants, hotels, tools, you name it. I usually only read a couple of 4 and 5 star reviews because I find I get more valuable information from the 1 and 2 star reviews.

My experiences with Web Hosting Hub have been excellent. Their support staff is great with a few exceptions here and there. When I called and requested information to which they did not have a ready answer, I was sent an email with suggested solutions. Unfortunately, the emails were occasionally outdated. I got the feeling that the particular individual with whom I had just been dealing did not want to be bothered finding an answer for me. Most of the time, however, they were fine.

Once you decide on a web host they will register your domain name for you if you have not already done so. Your web hosting service will act like a nanny for your website for a fee payable monthly, quarterly or yearly. It is pretty basic and they will lead you through the process step by step. Questions can be answered 24/7 on their support lines.

I decided that I was going to build my own web site because I did not have the money to hire a professional. I learned that hiring a professional cost thousands and thousands of dollars, thousands of dollars I do not have. I did not know what building a web site entailed, so I had to snuff it up, and do the best I could.

It became apparent pretty quickly that the best bet for creating my own website was to use WordPress. WordPress is a free software tool used to build custom websites and it is so commonplace that all the web hosting services that I visited utilize it. I have no experience in building a web site other than that I gained working with WordPress.

There is WordPress.org and WordPress.com, each offering slightly different features. Here is a link that compares the two so you can make up your own mind which one is best for you: http://diythemes.com/thesis/rtfm/differences-wordpress-com-org/. I choose to go the .com route because I wanted my website to be more on the professional side.

Before I wrap up this post I want to call to your attention to the fact that the title of this blog and the first sentence use exactly the same words. This is the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor that I mentioned in my last blog that enhances the placement of your website on the internet. I have, however, come upon another opinion that states that the most important characteristic for websites to get high SEO ratings is the quality of their content. Going for both can’t hurt.

Search Engine Optimization is a wide-ranging, ever-changing subject all its own that falls under the even wider topic of marketing. These subjects will be explored in future blogs

So, we have chosen our domain name(s), our web hosting service, and will be using WordPress to build our own website. The fun now begins, We will next be creating our own websites.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Domain names – the first step in building websites

Let's start building a website

Let’s start building a website

The selection of domain names is the first step when building websites. Your domain name is the title that will identify your website. This sounds simple enough and, in most cases, it is, but there are a couple of aspects of this process you should be aware of.

Please note the structure of the first sentence of this post. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) recommends that the title of a post and its first sentence use the same words, the same phraseology. This approach helps maximize the probability of search engines such as Google, Internet Explorer, Firefox, et al, of finding your post. I’m still new to learning about SEO, and will let you know what I learn as we progress. It all has to do with marketing. If you expect to sell any books, I hope you have already begun your own research into marketing. The Marquis de Sade could learn a lot about cruel and unusual punishment by studying marketing.

After I screwed up enough courage to attempt to build my own website, I needed all the information I could find on how to go about doing so. I needed a bare-bones, step by step outline to follow.

I keep harping on research for good reason. This is the only way I know of how to gather what I need to know. Daily, day (and night) long assignations with Google started making my wife jealous, until she saw how in despair I was with such a demanding mistress. But putting in the time is necessary. I know what you’re thinking here. You need every spare minute for your writing. Believe me, I feel the same way. So, unless you intend to hire outside help, which is entirely possible and, at times, necessary, you will have to spend (great word) time learning how to build a website. In fact, that’s why you are reading this now, in hopes that I can save you some time by telling you what I have learned. I hope I’m helping.

I Googled “how to build a website” and found pages of entries on how to accomplish this goal. Of these, the one with which I was most impressed, the one I used, was entitled, “How to Start/Create Your Own Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide” by Christopher Heng. He leads us by the hand through all the intricacies of creating a website. There are links throughout his presentation that enable you to further explore individual subjects about which you feel you may need more prompting. It’s a great source. Check it out. Here’s the link:

http://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml

As I mentioned in the opening sentence of this post, step one is selecting and registering your domain name(s). Christopher Heng (above) warns about the unscrupulous vermin out there who hover online watching to see what domain names are being checked. If you do not immediately register that name they will scoop it up first, and hold it hostage, only to be released after paying a handsome ransom. Luckily, I have not had that experience.

Choosing the right domain name is critical for building an online presence. You want to be found as easily as possible, preferably on page one of each search engine. In my case I choose to use the name of my book, The Riddle of Riddles, because, I felt, it was catchy, and easy enough to remember.

So, select a name that is relatively short, sweet, and to the point, and make it the name of your website. I’ve read, somewhere, that only 5-7% of the millions of domain names that are out there resonate with the public. So, make your domain name count.

Once you’ve selected a name, you must find out if it is available. Google “domain names” and you will find a list of websites on which you will be able to search to see if your domain name is available. Enter the name you selected, with the suffix you desire (.com, .net, .org, etc) to find if it’s available. If it is, you must resister it to make it your own. You can sometimes register your domain right then and there depending on which site you selected. The fees range from about $2 or $3 up to about $10/yr. and must be renewed each year. Depending on how important your website name is to you, you also may consider  registering one or more of the other suffixes listed above, so that no one else can use them. If you do, you can “park” them on your web hosting site where they will be safe. You can also register your domain names directly through the web host that you select. That’s next..FotoFlexer_Photo Quill