Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The troubles with Blogger site feed. A rant

Some of you will have heard my cries for help about six months ago, then again three months ago and finally today again. The reason: readers of my blog who wanted to subscribe, couldn't. I added the gadget 'stalk me via 'e-mail' button, to provide at least some sort of possibility to follow, but it wasn't what I wanted. I like it nice and clean.
Searching for an explanation via Internet left me puzzled. What I found were terms like feed burner (I might burn food, but I haven't got a clue what that feed burner thing does or is used for), redirect link(?), Blogger feed url, etc. I wouldn't know how Blogger feeds urls. I feed my animal and myself, and that works just fine. If I have visitors, I even feed them.
You see I love my facebook friends, because they rock. I posted my cry for help in the afternoon and had two people immediately replying, trying to help. Now Sudam, the wonderful man, is an IT wizard and that, you can imagine, left me with my head nearly exploding. I was even more confused after his kind help and the links he sent me.
Rachel, the lovely girl and I, we messaged back and forth until she had to leave and all the while I e-mailed with my friend Marcos (50 e-mails!) including screen shots on my side and finding solutions on his side. To no avail. I was devastated.
He finally started his own blog to find out how it's working, advised me to delete my blog url from that field and asked me to change 'full' to 'none' and back (saving between the steps. And don't ask me what that's for, if you did ask if I had a clue, I'd probably say exactly that: 'none', while I'm 'full' of anger.) So I did as he asked me and miraculously, the feed is now working.

But I wonder:
Why is there no explanation out there following the elimination process?
Questions like: if you go to your dashboard/design, settings/other and where it says Post Feed Redirect URL, is that field empty? Then it wouldn't be such a problem, would it? Best with screen shots. 
But no, all you get is an array full of terms nobody is able to understand, at least not this person here. I'm usually not that stupid with technique. But this tiny error of having my blog url in that field, kept people from subscribing.
At least it's working now and everyone who'd like to see what I'm up to, my rants or how the iguana is can subscribe. Wonderful world of Blogging, eh?
Thank you to my three brave friends who tried to shed light on the subject. You guys are awesome!

And to finish on a humorous note, this one here makes me smile every time:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When to bring an iguana to the vet

My iguana Zorro had some troubles recently. Caused by me. Not on purpose, it was an accident. I wanted to help him shed his horn in his nose, but somehow it went wrong. He's not in mating season anymore, which makes him less lethal, but he's still aggressive and doesn't like to be handled, or better: he decides when it's time for a good head rub.
So while I tried to desinfect his bleeding horn with Savlon spray ( I didn't have anything else in the house at that point) he moved, and I assume, got a bit of spray in his nose. As a result, his nasal passage swell and he had quite a bit of clear fluid coming out of it, in addition to a lot of sneezing. But that only started the next day. I wasn't sure if there was an upcoming respiratory infection on its way and was a bit concerned. They can vary from harmless to severe, ending in death. Iguanas are robust, but if the temperature or humidity is permanently low, it can affect them. In my sixteen years of keeping iguanas, I never had a case of an iguana having a cold or pneumonia.

Though iguanas do snalt to get rid of the salt in their system, if they sneeze more frequently, watch them closely and call a herb vet if unsure.

I didn't find any proper answers to my questions regarding respiratory infections and have called my vet today, not only to cancel my appointment, but to ask if there are any early signs. It seems there are not. Like humans who have a cold, iguanas can go about their daily routine of eating, dozing and being active like everything's normal. Some might sleep a bit more, others become grumpy. Their nasal passages can swell (sometimes only one of them), which makes breathing more difficult for them.

Here are some clear indicators that it's better to take the iguana to a herb vet:
- troubles breething, meaning they wheeze or don't sleep well at night
- coloured mucus in mouth or coming from the nose, or foamy bubbles coming from the nose
- loss of appetite when stress, low temperature, relocating or mating season can be excluded
- constant sneezing
- gargling noises when breathing (red alert! See vet immediately)
- mouth open for a long period (red alert! Your iguana needs immediate treatment.)
- apathy, not taking part in what's going on around it (red alert!)
- coughing (red alert! See vet immediately)  

Note: Those symptoms vary. Like us, iguana can get something in the wrong pipe and will cough. That should be over with a few coughs. If an iguana coughs up mucus, see the vet immediately. 
Iguanas are curious and observational animals and will follow you with their eyes everywhere. If they lie around apathically, have a darker skin and don't even take their favourite treats, see a vet. There's some serious underlying illness.

Of course you don't need to run to the vet at the second your iguana sneezes. It depends on your experience and how well you know your animal. In any case, monitor closesly. My boy acted absolutely normal, ate normal and slept soundly. He only sneezed when he head bobbed, but not during the night. The swelling in his nasal passage has disappeared and he doesn't sneeze anymore. 

I love happy endings. 

And I will never again use Savlon spray on injuries at the head. Only for toes or tail.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And you call yourself a reviewer?

Did I get your attention? Good. Now you might want to make yourself a cuppa and take a seat. It won't be a minute.
First I'd like to say that I don't include all reviewers; it's merely about a trend I observed and don't approve of.

Ready? Okay, then my rant starts now. With self-publishing, a new trend has evolved: self-acclaimed reviewers who will read and 'review' self-published authors' books. Now I'm certainly all for it, it helps to get the word out there and it's also often balm for the author's soul. If done right, that is. Since I'm self-published myself, I went on the hunt for a few so-called reviewers. What I found shocked me. Many state in their policies they won't post reviews for books with less than three stars. wooden spoons, tanks, monkeys -- whatever they use for their ratings. I find that rather peculiar, if I'm honest. Many say they will e-mail the author the exact reasons as to why they won't post a review. My bet is that many of those authors rub their little hands, happy they got away, ignore the reasons and carry on with promotion. What I don't understand is why people still believe a review is for the author. It's not. It's for the potential new reader to see if it's for her or for him. Surely the author benefits from a review; if it's positive they'll stick it on their blog (I do), if it's negative and packed with constructive comments, they hopefully learn and crack on with the correction.
Surely, opinions differ and sometimes people just don't like the book. Happens.

But why the fear of posting something negative? I mean as authors we should edit and polish our books to the point that the story flows with no holes or inconsistencies, the grammar and punctuation is up to a certain standard and the formatting is correct. If a book doesn't reach that standard, I find, readers should be made aware. With pressing the publish-button, an author hands over the book to the public and with it puts it into the limelight which may or may not result in negative feedback. Of course we are delicate souls, but we also ask people to pay money for our humble scribblings and not to forget, ask them for their time. Especially reviewers' time. It's lovely from reviewers not wanting to hurt anyone, but it's also a bit dishonest. As a reader I don't click on a review blog to have recommendations only, I click on a review blog to make up my mind. And I want to know the truth. If I only find positive reviews and recommendations, I don't know if I can take this blog seriously. To me that's not a review blog, it's a blog of a reader who recommends some books. That's an entirely different animal.

If a reviewer doesn't like the character or storyline or maybe the writing as much, fine. I didn't like the bestseller One Day, not one bit of it. Tried twice, then threw it across the room. As long as one can give valuable reasons, there's no point of not telling the world. I'm not asking to tear a book apart, but to post the negative as well. Or change your blog name to reader's picks or something like that. A reviewer is someone who gives an objective opinion of the book he or she's been given. Selecting only the positive, I find, won't earn you credits in the long run.
Authors don't need protection, they know full well what they're doing. Well, mostly.
It's the readers who need protection. Protection of those books that 'reviewers' find too crappy to even post.

Take Big Al, for instance, a great reviewer who knows he does and is not afraid to post negative feedback. As a result he has a queue from here to the moon and back, having to recruit more people who know what they're doing.

And since we're at it, I need to get somthing else off my chest: if you don't know how to review, don't do it at all. I had so-called reviewers spoiling the plot of my book, I had reviewers who anticipated hot and raunchy sex-scenes in my paranormal romantic comedy and I had a few who didn't even have a clue what conflict means in a novel. If you want to call yourself a reviewer, learn how to do it first.
Know the genre, don't spoil the plot and most of all: be honest and constructive.

Now if that's not food for thoughts, I don't know. What I certainly know is that I'll go on quite a few of black lists after this. Time to open the Champagne, right? Just kidding.

Have a nice Sunday.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Easy and delicious vegetable curry

Every now and again, I'll get some cravings. No, not chocolate, but vegetables. I love my meat, but sometimes, I just want to have a delicious meal made out of vegetables. I watched Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall the other day; his vegetable summer has probably triggered my craving. I'm also a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and I like both of them for severeal reasons: they both stand for easy and simple great home made food, they are out to 'educate' the nation and I find them hilarious and approachable. I would love to cook with both of them one day. A girl can have wishes, no?

Well, back to reality: I like a good curry and it can be done without meat, still pleasing your taste buds. Here's one I cooked yesterday.

You need:  
Red pepper
Green beans
Butter beans
Chick peas
Chopped tomatoes
Garlic and a whole lot of Indian spices (Garam Massala, coriander seeds, curry powder, turmaric, ground cumin).

Simply dice the vegetables and onions and put them aside. Chop the garlic and chili.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok and throw in the onions, stir for a minute, add the garlic and spices, stir for a few seconds then add the vegetables and tinned tomatoes. Stir everything thoroughly. Add some stock and season with salt.
Let it simmer on a low heat for about half an hour, then add the chick peas and beans. Then let it bubble away for another twenty minutes and it's ready to serve. I had it with couscous, but it also goes well with rice, nan or French stick.

A healthy and wonderful dish to share with others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The cover for Candlelight Sinner revealed!

When I said I'm going to think about a cover for my upcoming novel Candlelight Sinner, people groaned, asking if it's going to change as many times as the cover for No Wings Attached. You can all rest assured, it's not going to change. The amazing Sessha Batto has done it again, she took my ideas on board and came up with a stunning work. And I'm in love. I mean I'm seriously in love, but see for yourself:

It mirrors the plot, has a great deal of warmth and...well, it's just perfect. For those of you who remember my sad attempts to find a good cover for No Wings Attached: you can laugh now: it looks like I'm going to change it again. Simply because the covers in a series should be themed. So I'll head off to find something pretty to match and I already have an idea. And covers are important, after all. I wasn't sure how the second book would turn out, as you know, I'm not the best plotter in the world, but I'll learn, I promise.

And more great news: one of my Beta-readers got back to me with five pages of comments, giving me the feedback I needed to see if the book works as a stand-alone novel. The talented (I'm just saying that because she loved the book. -- Just kidding.) short story writer Winn Smith has volunteered to read the first draft since she hasn't read the first book and boy, are her comments helpful.
I've started to edit/rewrite with great enthusiasm and am falling in love with the book again. It makes me smile, it makes me laugh it makes me feel all fuzzy and guess what? Next month, you'll be able to read it, too, because I plan to have it out in January. So you better warm up your Kindles, Nooks, iPads, Sonys or even your PC's, because I'm planning a special surprise.

Here's the blurb:
Being madly in love with Tom, a rather good looking, immortal wish-consultant and working in her dream job, life seems to be perfect for 32-year-old Celia. If it wasn't for the dark side still being after her or Sam, a charismatic man asking for her help, causing dilemma. When Tom gets another demanding case, and Celia takes her friend on a trip to Lanzarote, everything's about to change. The question is: for the better or for the worse?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A tale of a lost woman

What you are about to read is a true story. I will never get tired to show off my sense of direction, or better the lack of it.
Yesterday I was invited to a birthday dinner party. That's not so special, I know. Still, I went to get my bike fixed as the back tyre was rather worn and as the result it was flat, even flatter after placing my fat backside on the saddle. (It's not fat, I added it for the laugh.)
Right. Bike fixed I sat on it at around 7.20pm as the table was booked at 7.30pm. Luckily it wasn't too far away; fifteen minutes the most. Since I know my habit of getting lost on, I consulted google maps and was delighted when I saw a street I've been in before and would find again easily. The tricky part, which I learned later, was to find my way from there. So I remembered the main points from there and it was really only forth street right, straight through and again right and I should be there. Filled me confidence.

There I was, merrily cycling away, listening to music, looking forward to a nice evening. I found the forth street and almost run over a guy. Not my fault, he just stopped walking, when I've calculated that, by the time I got there, I could easily cycle around him. He obviously didn't trust my calculation. Mistake. After a 'Sorry', I carried on.
Now my problem was I couldn't remember the names of the main roads. All I remembered was Victoria -- not helpful. I knew the road where the restaurant is started with Lau or something. And because I'm very smart, I didn't even write it down, neither the main roads, nor the name of the restaurant. But then it looked so simple on the map, there was almost no chance of getting that wrong.
I recalled Grove Rd, but it wasn't one of the main points I had memorised, sort of. I stopped at a pub and asked a few guys outside if they knew a road with L or at least an Italian restaurant -- they didn't.
I tried to call the restaurant (I had the number because I needed to find out when the party started as the birthday boy forgot to tell me and I don't have his number), but they either didn't pick up or the line was busy. I even tried Kate who was invited, too and she didn't pick up either.

After a few tries, I gave up and cycled back, of course getting lost again. Had to ask for directions to get to Mare Street. I was rather happy when I arrived back home at 20.50pm. Great evening exercise, but a huge shame I missed the birthday.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Please 'like' my facebook page - a rant

How many times did someone you didn't even interact with  -- on facebook or elsewhere, sent you a friend request, just to immediately post a link to his or her facebook page, asking to take a look or 'like' it?
Does that annoy you as much as it annoys me?
No, seriously. I don't have a problem with people building their pages and if a fan happens to like it -- fine by me.
What pisses me off is the cheek people have to pester me with their generous offers on my wall. I always feel like I've opened the door to someone I just met and, without saying hello, he comes in to placard my walls and leaves flyers everywhere, just to bugger off after that.
I don't like that sort of behaviour. Facebook has become more and more a pain in the backside and people only use it for promotion instead of communicating with each other. Every time I get a friend request, I check the person out to see if they plaster their links on the new friend's wall or not. If you look at their own pages, it's often full of links to their books which are available on amazon, smashwords or even on the moon. Despite having 2548 friends, they don't interact with them. Gee, why don't you just tattoo the title of your book in bright red on your forehead and walk through the streets? Would get you certainly more attention than get on fellow writers' and authors' nerves.
As you probably have guessed by now: I'm allergic to it.
You know, I wonder why those people take themselves so damn seriously? Who do they think they are, written a book, sold three copies and feel the need to force their fan-page down other people's throats?

Do they not understand that begging to take a look and like their page is not only the pathetic attempt to gather some better looking figures underneath the like-button, but also preaching to the choir?
I used to have a page for my novel No Wings Attached and I remember that I asked my few friends I had back then to 'like' it. I think I ended up with something around 26, oh dizzy heights of stardom.
I'm trying to understand what the point is, because unless you have hundreds or more people following your updates, it's just more work for a site nobody's interested in. How many of those who've been asked to 'like' the page actually go back for a follow up? I place my bet on 1%. 

I have you know that I'm going to build one in the near future and be it only to take revenge on all those authors who thought it's appropriate to leave their rubbish in my living room. And I'll leave a link three times a day, every day.

There, now, I feel better.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The secret is out!

After last week's writing-marathon and rapid accumulation of words, I'm left with about 8k -- that's two chapters -- to finish the novel. And I still have a big twist up the sleeve. I set myself the goal of finishing the book by the 15th of November and then send it out to Beta-readers. With their feedback, I'll edit the book and then send it off to my lovely friends, who help me to eliminate what's left from my Germish syntax, typos and other errors. This time, I'll make sure that everything is cleaned up before I release it.

The book has been fun, as well as excruciating, to write; a sequel that continues the first book, yet still has to be able to stand alone is a massive challenge. If I did a good job remains to be seen once the Beta-readers, who haven't read the first book, get back to me saying it was all conclusive -- or so I hope.

More painful was the title. I wanted to continue the theme of word-plays, since No Wings Attached (No Strings Attached) mirrored the plot as well as the comedy aspect of the first book.
When I was about to give up, the title revealed itself to me: Candlelight Sinner (candlelight dinner). You have no idea how much I smiled that day.
Again, a word-play mirroring the plot, though I know it could be misleading. Anyone who expects a raunchy storyline will be disappointed, but then that's what the blurb is for, right?

If you're curious about the opening of the second book, I've created a page named Candlelight Sinner and posted the blurb, as well as the first chapter. It's still unedited, so please forgive the errors.

If you are interested in being a Beta-reader, please send me an e-mail; you'll find my address to the right, under 'About me'.