Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

The Internet is an amazing example of modern technological achievement. It seems like not that long ago, although it has been more than 25 years, we first heard talk of an “information super-highway”, and wondered what it would be like. It was simply too huge a concept for me, at least, to wrap my head around!

What I recall of those days, there was a lot of concern about things that in the end, never came to be. But I also remember, there was no concern about some things that did come to be, and that is very interesting.

There was a lot of talk that with the ease of computer use, our kids would stop reading. However, with the way information “goes viral”, that is no longer a concern. There are more kids reading than ever before—remember the Harry Potter craze? Followed by the Twilight craze?  All fueled in part by the Internet. No, they don’t teach “cursive” in schools anymore, and that’s a damn shame. But I don’t think we need to worry about reading going out of style anytime soon.

Another positive that I have touted often with regard to the Internet is the way it has helped the elderly and the shut-in to re-connect with society again. That was my first lesson. I first “went on line” in the aftermath of my open-heart surgery in early 2003. While I healed and tried to focus on writing, it was a comfort for me, this Internet, especially when I found a free game site. There, playing bingo online, I ‘met’ several wonderful women and men, some of for whom that game site and others like it were their only socialization, their only source of fun and their best contact with the outside world. What a blessing for me, and for so many others, to be able to find a place to get together, to chat, and to be entertained without having to go anywhere when that going would be so difficult to do.

There are so many benefits to be found with this amazing medium. The Internet itself is neither good nor bad. It’s the usage of this medium wherein the wiles of the user are revealed. It is ultimately the user who determines if this instrument is wielded for good, or for evil.

There are several ways that the Internet is used for ill, and I don’t think we imagined such would be the case at the dawn of this new age. At least, I know I didn’t.

It’s now much easier for those looking for illicit things—child porn, the drug trade, and even those who would become terrorists—to find what they want on line. There are hackers who specialize in ‘identity theft’ and who manage to take the unwary for thousands of dollars every year. Cyber-Crime is a growing industry on both sides of the law.

But to me, the most insidious use of all is the spread of misinformation, under the guise of “the public has a right to know”. It continues to baffle me, the degree of success those people have who spout ridiculous conspiracy theories. Also incomprehensible to me is the following those who like to spread hate-filled diatribes are able to claim. Where once someone making a speech about the craziest of stories or theories, or who would slander another person’s good name without real proof, would have been jeered off their soapbox, now, there’s an entire realm of crazy talk, crazy theories, and hate to which more than just the crazies are drawn—unfortunately. Remember that old saw, “if it’s in the newspaper, it must be true?” Yeah, that has no place in our reality anymore—neither in newspapers nor on the Internet.

Just because you can read it on line doesn’t make it true. You have to use your brain; you have to use your discernment. Some people with very high IQs, and allegedly very high morals, believe some of the most ridiculous and vile things about the so-called famous—things that absolutely defy logic or anyone’s definition of decency.

Some of the weirdest stuff of course, has a political bent to it. It doesn’t matter that most of the wildest stories circulating these days have been proven false. These characters who spread this crap care nothing for the truth. There are, with every new election cycle, people who haven’t heard those old lies, and thus, new people who now believe them starting the cycle of insanity all over again.

Did you hear the one about the Royal Family of Great Britain all being reptilian, and that at certain times, during secret ceremonies, they eat babies? I can’t tell you much more about it than that. It took me a few seconds for my logic to overcome my shocked disbelief to get the hell out of that video. If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and search YouTube. Seriously.

Now, some of you are going shrug, and say, “hey, there are crazies all over the world, and we all know there’s a lunatic fringe out there.” Yes, there are and yes, there is, true enough. And as long as they remain in the “fringe” category, I really have no problem with that. People have the right to believe whatever far-out crap they want to believe. They have the right to be crazy.
I’ll say that it again. People have the right to be crazy.

My only problem? What happens when the lunatics take over the asylum? When the fringe bleeds into the mainstream? And if you think there’s no danger of that happening, well, my friends, you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately.

I hope and pray and choose to believe that those of sound and discerning mind will continue to outnumber the wackos, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go line my hat with aluminum foil to keep the aliens from reading my mind.


Friday, August 19, 2016

A Wee Nip – Victorian Style! by Cindy Nord

The old adage that a well-bred Victorian lady rarely drank “the devil’s brew” is an utter fallacy–nothing could be farther from the truth!! And the higher up the economic scale one traveled, the more allowable a lady’s indulgence. Indeed, ladies of means, when visiting, even took to toting their own spirits in elegant cut glass ‘flasks’ and adding their whiskey, or other stout brew, to the customary afternoon tea — In fact, the oft-attended soiree which included ‘taking a wee nip’ rose in number, along with a lady’s social standing.

According to the Victorian Church of England when speaking of the fairer & wealthier sex, “worry is what they suffer from, rest and hope what they want. Thereby, drunkenness gives a rosiness to what is to come. But these fine ladies do not get unsightly drunk, unless on Bank Holidays or at marriages or funerals.” Indeed!

And it is said to be “the regular occurrence for a wealthy lady to slip into a neighbor’s parlor for a drink of whiskey while out shopping.” And yet, another male clergy remarked, “there is an increase in the number of respectably dressed young women given over to drink.”

But the lower the working class a woman belonged, the more chastisement was tossed her way when she popped open a bottle and indulged: “They drink worse than ever,” we are told; and “these women drink to excess more than men. They take to it largely to carry them through their drudgery.” And yet again: “The women are worse than the men, but their drinking is largely due to their slavery at the washtub. Nearly all get drunk on Monday for they only live on four-ale and fried fish.”  So now you all know the truth.  And oh my, baby…we HAVE come a long way in the ‘spirit-taking’ practice.  Hmmmm, I do believe I’ll have another glass of wine…after all, ‘tis a fruit serving AND five o’clock somewhere! CHEERS!! 

Long live historical romance!! And the joy of reading about our oh-so-wily foremothers!  For more fun, historical tidbits pop on over and sit-a-spell…   ~ Cindy

An Unlikely Hero

by Cindy Nord

Available on: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Itunes

He’s a hard-as-stone man with a broken past…and she’s a reminder of all he’s lost.
Rugged army scout Dillon Reed has met his match in spoiled Boston debutante Alma Talmadge, but an unwanted assignment escorting the beauty across the wilds of America soon evolves into a journey of monumental change for them both. With killers hot on their trail, the odds of staying alive are stacked against them…and yet, falling in love was nowhere in their plans for survival.


Washington D.C.,
May 1873

Who in the hell came up with this asinine plan?

Dillon Reed grimaced at the stench of burning coal as he jammed the colonel’s telegram into his coat pocket. He cut his gaze across the station platform to the nearby locomotive. In a deluge of color, passengers descended the railcar’s iron steps; he kept his attention riveted on the opening.

An exasperated sigh escaped from between clenched teeth. He’d delivered the governor’s territorial reports to Washington in just under three weeks, a remarkable time, and he looked forward to a swift, unencumbered return home. But, when he’d checked the telegraph office for messages before heading out, this newest malarkey of an assignment waited. He’d also been instructed to shave and freshen-up prior to meeting this train from Boston, but Hell’s chambers would freeze solid before Dillon would make the effort. I’m an army scout, for Christ’s sake, not some damn nanny.

A grating responsibility rolled into focus when a peach-colored parasol, the signal he’d been awaiting, popped open to fill the train’s doorway. Dillon shoved from the depot’s wall and straightened, the crown of his slouch hat bumping a sign that read Washington, District of Columbia – The Capitol of Your Country. The plank swung back and forth on squeaky hinges. Heat fused with anger when his contact’s traveling boot glided to the first iron step. Good God, her entire foot could fit in his right hand. His gaze climbed a dark-green dress rigged with a ridiculous bustled contraption, raked over a fur encircling slender shoulders like a buffalo mane, then finally came to a stop on golden curls swirling upward into a tarnished knot. Atop the silken mass, a scrap of hat perched at a cockeyed angle. A dozen blue and green ribbons fluttered in the afternoon breeze with all the spectacle of a peahen.

Dillon’s throat tightened as the woman descended to the platform, radiant among the other travelers. Her ability to stand out in a crowd added another sting to the onerous assignment. For a full minute, he waited while she scanned the throng, anxiousness shadowing her face. Narrow of waist, she stood barely five feet tall…a good stiff wind would blow her over.

Another curse welled inside him.

The urge to walk away warred against every ounce of military commitment he possessed. What did he do to the colonel to deserve such wretched torment? Dillon straightened, then stepped from the shadows of the depot to collect his damnable…assignment.

Boots thumped against weathered wood as each stride echoed his resentment. How could this slip of lace endure the miles they’d have to travel, or the harsh sun of the desert? Christ Almighty, she’d end up sick or dead and slung over his saddle in no time. As his shadow darkened the woman’s diminutive form, he retrieved the telegram from his coat pocket, then tightened his jaw.

“Alma Talmadge?” he snapped.

She swung to face him, her eyes widening.

Dillon thrust the telegram forward, his words cleaving the air. “Per these instructions from your uncle, I’ve been assigned as your escort on the trip westward to Fort Lowell.”

A well-shaped brow arched with suspicion. Her mouth tightened as she abruptly scanned the words, her golden-tipped eyelashes raising and lowering with each haughty sweep. A moment later, her gaze lanced back to his. “I was told to expect a proper attendant.”

“Proper?” he snorted. “I’m as proper as you’re gonna get.”

Her attention riveted on his sweat-stained Stetson, then slid all the way down him to his scuffed-up cavalry boots. When their gazes reconnected, disgust dulled the spark in her indigo eyes. “But … you’re no gentleman.”

“Where we’re going, lady the last thing you’ll need is one of those dupes who can’t find his ass with both hands.”

Repulsion cascaded scarlet across her face. She pressed a dainty, lace-edged hankie to the column of her throat. “I cannot possibly travel with the unkempt likes of you. Y-You’re not even clean.”

The insistent urge to walk away blistered deeper. “The job is to deliver you safely to the fort…which I intend to do. Cleanliness does not increase my skill.”

~ Pop over for an even closer peek on Amazon

       Say hello to Bestselling Historical Romance writer, CINDY of NO GREATER GLORY, book one in her bestselling, award-winning four-book ‘The Cutteridge Family’ series, as well as a USA Today Lifeblog ‘Recommended Read’, & the #1 Civil War Romance at Amazon for over one full year.  WITH OPEN ARMS, book two, is also a #1 bestselling western historical romance. And book three, ANUNLIKELY HERO, just debuted on July 1st, & by that evening had surged onto the coveted ‘Top 100 Romances at Amazon’ list thxs to her beloved readers.
       She is now hard-at-work crafting BY ANY MEANS, book four in her series, which is set to debut the winter of 2017. Cindy is also honored to be a contributor alongside many NYTimes writers in the delightful non-fiction anthology SCRIBBLING WOMEN & THE REAL-LIFE ROMANCE HEROES WHO LOVE THEM [all proceeds from the sale of this book go to the ‘Women In Need’ shelter in NYC].
       A member of numerous writers groups, Cindy’s work has finaled or won countless times in competitions -- including the prestigious Romance Writers of America National Golden Heart Contest. A luscious blend of history and romance, her love stories meld both genres around fast-paced action and emotionally driven characters.
       Please join Cindy at her very popular Cindy Nord Facebook site for her delightful Monday-Friday ‘Coffee Klatch’ postings.  She loves all her ‘Klatchers’, as she affectionately says.

Upcoming Events Cindy Will Be Attending:
** September 21st – 25th, Spokane, Washington – National HistoricalRomance RetreatKeynote historian speaker & program, plus book signing event.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

There are memories right on the surface, so close sometimes I swear I could reach out, take a step and be there again. Over the last little while I’ve come to compare two phases of life—elderly and newborn—not something I was planning on doing, of course. But I’m an author—that is who I am down to the bone, more than it is my occupation. We who are authors do three things, mostly.

First we observe life around us, then we think about what it is we’re seeing, and then we write about it.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching a newborn baby? I’ve heard all sorts of things about these wee beings. There are assertions that they really can’t see anything, in the way that you and I see things, not in the first few days or even weeks; that’s why their eyes move so often, why it appears their gazes just roam. And when they stare at something? Why, it must be because something particularly bright has caught their attention. Oh, and no, that’s not really a smile, not at all and not yet. Of course it isn’t. It’s only gas.

But I wonder.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching someone who’s elderly? Someone who seems to be not one hundred percent in this world, mentally? They sit quietly, their gazes roam, not seeming to fix on anything. But every once in a while, they stare. There are assertions that granny is just getting old. She’s not really with us all the time, you understand. If she were, she would certainly be responding the way we are, hip deep in the conversation, as it were, living in the moment. She’s likely off in her own little world, thinking about the past. Maybe she’s recalling her wedding day, or perhaps some other important event in her life. Don’t mind her. In fact, let’s just pretend she’s not really here.

But I wonder.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching an older pet? Have you ever wondered what they’re thinking? Their eyes seem to look all over, except once in a while, when they stare, and you wonder what they’re looking at. And what do they dream about, anyway? I know a lot of people assert that when a dog is twitching in his sleep, he’s dreaming about “chasing a rabbit”. I would argue that a lot of dogs who’ve only ever been urban dwellers likely don’t even know what the heck a rabbit is.

But I wonder.

I wonder, because in those eyes—the eyes of the newborn, the eyes of the elderly and the eyes of an older pet I see something more than nothing. Is there a connection between this life, and the next? Is there a portal between times? Could there be a level of existence and thought and communication that we’re not even aware of?

Maybe babies really do see fairies and ghosts, because no one has told them yet that they can’t. Maybe the elderly really are able to visit the past in a more literal sense than we mean when we say they’re back there. And maybe, our pets bond with us on a level we don’t even know exists. Maybe there’s a point in life, near the beginning and near the end, when communication with our four footed friends is completely normal, natural and yes, psychic.

Can you imagine a park bench of ethereal proportions? The newborn, the elderly woman or man, and the pet, all sitting side-by-side-by-side, watching the world that is in progress around them—separate from it and yet a part of it—as they share thoughts and words of wisdom.

What would that conversation be like? If we could manage to break through that barrier that separates the spiritual from the physical, what words could they offer us as encouragement, words we could hang onto that would serve us for all the days of our lives?

The baby might express a sense of infinite wonder. He might tell us how vast the beauty and the hope and the possibilities really are, and how enormous and miraculous life realized truly is. The baby might urge us to always keep a sense of that wonder close to our hearts, for times when life becomes difficult.

The elderly might caution us to not be in so much of a hurry, because at the end of the day, everything happened in but an instant—here, and then gone so, so fast. Slow down, they might say. Slow down and cherish every single moment, of every single day, and never lose sight that it’s the little things that make a life worth living.

And the dog? Well, the dog might tell us that no matter how busy we are, or how important all the stuff in our lives may seem, it’s crucial that we don’t ever forget one thing: we should never forget the importance of play.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

This coming Monday, our great-granddaughter turns 3 years old. We’ll be having a party, of course on Sunday—this time at her maternal grandmother’s home which is, oddly, just a few doors down from our house.

Abby is a singularly formidable little girl. She knows what she knows and she wants what she wants, and that is it. I’m delighted to have a front row seat to the show, to be perfectly honest. I’m very grateful that I don’t ever have to be the person responsible for her, and therefore on the front line, dealing with her on a daily basis. She really is quite a handful.

I predict, that if she can turn that charm and determination and force of personality in the right direction when she gets older, then she will go very far in life.

Just as grandchildren were different from children, so, too, great-grandchildren are different yet again. There’s another layer of separation, which is a good thing. Most great-grandparents are much older than we are. By the time our grandbabies have babies, we’ve usually earned the right to just sit and smile. For the most part, that is what we do. We see her and her brother on a fairly regular basis.  When they come for supper, we spend time with them, of course—and then they go home, and our house returns to it’s quiet, natural state.

A week ago, we’d just returned from Pennsylvania. It’s not a long drive down to visit our friends—about six hours. Our daughter accompanied us as she has the last few times, and we took the dog, as well. Our daughter joins us each year for two reasons.  The first is so she can have a few days when she doesn’t have to be responsible for anyone. Her job is a very busy and taxing one, and her son and his family live with her, so times of peace and quiet are few for her. She brings her e-reader, and spends at least a couple of days in her jammies—except when she changes to go to the pool.

Her other reason for accompanying us is to go shopping. It isn’t a question of cheaper prices, either. It's because the selection of products available is so much different down there than it is up here. When she isn’t buying things for her dogs, she is shopping for her grandbabies.

Some of what she bought on this trip was for their birthdays. Abby’s celebration is first, and her brother, Archer, has his next month, in September when he’ll turn 2. The day before we headed home, our daughter carefully packed two little gift bags, to be given to the kids on her return. The rest of what she purchased for them was craftily hidden in her luggage, awaiting their birthday parties.

Of the things my daughter bought her granddaughter to receive as soon as she got home was a pretty summer dress, and “princess shoes”. Abby is a girly girl, a complete opposite of her nanny, who was a tomboy. She loves dressing up, and she absolutely loves anything that is sparkly or shiny. Those shoes were both. Of course, she had to have them on as soon as she saw them.

My daughter was pleased with herself, and I’m certain we can all relate. There’s something very satisfying when you give your grandchildren gifts they love. Well, Miss Abby loved her dress, she loved the toys, but she really, really loved those princess shoes.

She loved them so much she refused to take them off for bed.

I don’t know how they handled the situation, exactly. I do know that it involved a fight. Abby can be quite insistent in getting her way, and she can also, I have seen, eye a person with what I swear is cunning calculation. Yes, she will go far when she is older.

Another thing about being a great granny is that family tends not to ask me for advice. That’s fine. I do believe in letting parents and yes, even grandparents, figure things out on their own. But I’ve begun to slide into what I consider the golden reward for having endured so many years and generations of my own family. I’ve begun simply giving my advice, without a care as to whether it’s wanted or taken or not. 

Of course, I had two suggestions on the subject. The first was that they could have convinced her that her shoes could sleep beside her in her bed—because after all, since they spent so much time with her, they had to be tired, too.

Or her parents could have simply let the little girl fall asleep in her shoes. They would be easy enough to remove when she’s snoring.


Monday, August 08, 2016

The Story Of A Famous Dessert, by James D Hunt

We have two Englishmen to thank for the famous banoffee pie pudding. In 1972, after seeing a dish during his travel in the USA, chef Ian Dowding and the owner of the restaurant he worked in (Nigel Mackenzie) created this new pudding. The American dessert was known as Blums Coffee Toffee Pie and was similar to banoffee pie but had no bananas and tasted (unsurprisingly) like coffee. Dowding wasn't keen on the recipe though as it was difficult to perfect, stating that the pudding didn't set correctly all the time, either being too hard or too soft. 

Together they adapted the idea to toffee and bananas and made up the word "banoffi", which has now turned into "banoffee" and is now part of the English language used to describe anything that tastes of banana and toffee. So they added the new Banoffee Pie to their menu and found it became so popular that diners would actually request table bookings only if this particular dessert was on the menu. In fact, it became so popular that they simply could not remove it from the menu. 

It didn't take long before the local competition was copying the dessert, and just a few years after the initial concept it started turning up in Australia, America and even India. It's fair to say that these days banoffee pie is probably served somewhere in every country on the planet! 

Below is a delicious recipe for making your own banoffee pie Ingredients 

3 large bananas, 300 gram packet of digestive biscuits, 60 grams of butter, 350ml double cream, 1 tbsp of icing sugar, 100 grams of chocolate (to decorate), 397g tin of caramel 

1. Turn the oven on to pre-heat at 180C/gas mark four. Put the butter in a pan and leave over a low heat to melt. While the butter melts crush the biscuits (a rolling pin or blender will do the trick. Failing that, just use your hands!). Once the butter's melted mix the biscuit crumbs and butter together in a bowl. 

2. Pour the biscuit mix into a 20cm (ish) pie tin and press into an even layer to create the base. 

3. Place in the oven and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Check the mixture has lightly toasted, if it hasn't give it a couple more minutes.When you are happy take the base out the oven and let it cool. Once cool, carefully transfer the base to a plate. 

4. Once cooled, open the caramel and pour evenly over the base. Once level, put in the refrigerator for roughly 60 minutes. 

5. Once chilled, slice the bananas and arrange them over the caramel. 

6. Whip the cream and icing sugar to get it nice and thick, and then create the final unhealthy layer over the bananas. 

7. Take the chocolate and use a grater to sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the cream for the final touch.

Article City

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

How do we define “humanity”?

A quick search online gave me two definitions. The first, of course, is The Human Race. Us. Our entire species. The second definition reads: humanness, benevolence. The synonyms given in this second definition are listed as compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, tolerance.

The first definition is a physical one, explaining that we are living beings, different from others that occupy space on this planet such as monkeys or worms. The second definition has to do with that which is not physical. It refers to the inner being, to our emotional and spiritual aspirations. I use the word aspirations because of all that I have been seeing lately as I watch my nightly newscasts and surf the web. I see many examples of people who lack the essence of the second definition. I see many who appear to lack humanity.

We cannot change the fact that we are human beings; we can, however, exercise control over the level of our humanity. The first definition is etched in stone. The second is a matter of choice.

We began our experiments in society, we human beings, in caves. There is evidence to support this fact. We likely banded together for survival, and not just from other clusters of human beings. I imagine at one point the large, carnivorous predators on this planet outnumbered the humans.

As our social development progressed, we made our structures more complicated. Beginning in ancient times, there was a small upper class—the nobles, if you will, that held all the power and made all the rules; and then there were the serfs and the slaves—the workers who barely survived, but who knew their place and continued to work for the nobles because they didn’t know any better.

Serfs and slaves were drone-like, and completely expendable. The concept of that second definition of humanity had not yet been created. It had not yet been discovered or chosen.

Through the ages, we’ve changed and evolved in our societal structures, although it wasn’t a unified journey that was species-wide. In this day and age there exits several different forms of society on earth, running the gamut from uncontacted tribes, living as they have since the dawn of time, to democracies, where there are neither noble classes, or serfs by birth.

Just as during this process we came to know the depths of the negativity we humans could sink to, so we also discovered the heights of positivity to which we could rise. We learned to define that which was best in us, as our “humanity”.

Modern life is complicated, no question about that. Change is happening at an ever faster rate. The world around us seems unstable. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are those who hate with such fierce devotion, they would kill in cold blood all those they see who are not like them. We call those people terrorists, because they use their violence to breed terror in us.

Others use fear as their weapon of choice, to destroy not the body, but spirit. I’ll leave it to each reader to come up with a name for them.

There are many who believe the best way to combat this fear is to turn back the clock. They believe they can end the reality of terrorism by stopping the forward momentum of our social evolution. These people would like to go back to what they call the “good old days”. Those days in their minds were the days when people knew their place, when life was good, when the “right people” had the jobs in the mines and the sweat shops, giving them money and security.

I feel sorry for anyone who actually believes this. Thousands seem to support the concept of regression and they’re all convinced that not only can they make this happen, but that they’ll somehow come out on top when they do. They will no longer be powerless or insignificant or whatever it is they believe they are now. But you know what? It’s kind of a funny thing, really. All those people who are decrying modern society and wish to somehow create a tumble back in time? They will not, as they believe, suddenly become the elite, the nobles, the ones who will be, to borrow an English expression, in the catbird seats.

No, the ones who will be at the top will be that same 1% that we have at the top, financially speaking, now—because they already are. Those believers will be the serfs, the ones doing their overlord’s bidding—because they already are.

They will, in truth, have sacrificed their freedom and their humanity for a prison of ignorance.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Make Your Website More Panda Friendly, by James Salerno

The recent Google Panda update has raised the bar not only for SEO experts but also for web designers. It’s getting tougher and tougher to rank well and that means that you really have to pay attention to all designing and Google ranking factors. When we do this, search engines rewards us because we are rewarding our audience and providing them with the information and experience they are looking for. The following points will help you to make your website panda proof:-

1.Content is key:The Panda algorithm update emphasizes providing assurance only on websites that contain unique and useful content. This will help users better find content relevant to their search. If you provide web page content that is unique, relevant, high quality and preferably 1000+ words, your site will likely be rewarded with improved rankings and therefore, increased traffic.

2.Above the fold design: Narrowing your header images, removing header banner images and pushing more content onto the top of your site will help with Panda.

3.Web Page indexing: A website with more than 100 web pages and maximum pages indexed by Google would be considered as a Panda friendly website.

4.Page rank: Page rank is still one of the most important factors. PageRank is an independent measure of Google’s perception of the quality/authority/credibility of an individual web page. It does not depend on any particular search phrase. Google conveniently reports this as a number from 0-10 (10 being the best).

5.Check your Domain registration: Domain registration for five years helps to enhance authority points. This is a small tip, but every little bit helps.

6.Webmaster tools: It enables webmasters to get a better idea of what Google “thinks” about their web sites, how the Google “spider” sees them, and what improvements could be made.

7.Social media proof: Google Panda takes social media trends seriously and content that is loved by social media sites like Twitter and Facebook gets better position in search engines.

8.Optimize for Fast Load Times: Avoid flash, single background images in the website. Google tends to favor sites that are snappy, quick, and fast.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, is essentially a new way to read a number of books (limited to books enrolled in this program) for one monthly fee. You’re limited to ten books at a time. If you want more, you have to return a book or two before the system will let you add more to your library.

When it comes to nonfiction, Amazon’s subscription service is not so great. At least my nonfiction books aren’t doing great. It makes sense, though, because Kindle Unlimited speaks much more to the fiction reader, in particular the genre fiction reader, than it does to anyone else. This doesn’t mean your book won’t do well if you’ve written nonfiction, but there are some things to consider.

Fact #1: Kindle Unlimited (KU) appeals to the avid reader.
This means that if your book is genre fiction, you’ll do well here. Hyperfast readers often fall into this category because they can save money with this subscription service. Consequently, some of the highest sales are coming from these readers.

Fact #2: In order to be a part of the KU community, you must have a book enrolled in the KDP Select program.
That said, I wouldn’t recommend having all of your books in the program at once. In fact, I recommend rotating them in and out of KPD Select. If you have a series, this becomes even more crucial because with KU, if all of your books in that particular series are in the Select program, they will all be relegated to the subscription shelves. Granted, this can work in your favor, but it’s smart to keep just the first in the series in KDP Select with a link, letter, or some blurb at the back of the book pointing readers to the next book in the series, and then the next, and so on. Depending on how many books you have in a series, you could conceivably rotate two or three in and out of the program. You’ll want to experiment because not all genres (even in fiction) respond the same.

Fact #3: Shorter books AND longer books rock. 
It used to be that short books performed better than longer books on Kindle Unlimited. While it's true that avid readers still love a quick read, and read a lot, longer books are gaining traction with Kindle Unlimited users. Additionally, since the roll out of Kindle 2.0, Kindle Unlimited authors are paid by the number of pages read (instead of once 10% of the book has been read). 

Fact #4: When I tested this across a few titles, I found once again that themes matter.
Check out this video I made about themes: Surprisingly, though some are using themes, not everyone is. It may be hard to let go of one or two of the keywords you upload to the Amazon system, but trust me, it will make a difference. In a recent test, I deleted all of the theme keywords taken from the back of a fiction book. The book’s sales plummeted, going from eighty-four per week to one. When I reentered the theme words into the keyword area, the book bounced back up again and has returned to almost normal status. It’s not yet clear why themes matter as much as they do for KU books, but it’s definitely wise to take advantage of them.

Fact #5: Bonus content makes readers happy.
An editor will often cut sections from a book. When this happens, authors can create a “director’s cut” of the book with the additional pieces either in a separate edition or as separate books on Amazon. Having additional content to drive a reader’s interest to your book can be an effective marketing strategy, not just for the KU program, but across the board. If a reader likes your writing, they will likely read everything you’ve written, and they’ll likely tell their friends. Bonus content, director’s-cut content—whatever you want to call it—can keep your readers coming back for more as well as pull in new readers.

The bottom line is, Kindle Unlimited can be a great tool in your book marketing arsenal, especially if you write fiction and can spend a bit of time identifying your themes and keywords. Be sure to watch for our next newsletter with more great tips on book marketing!

Reprinted from Author Marketing Experts, a full service book marketing and publicity firm. Find out more at: 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Tomorrow we leave for our annual visit to Pennsylvania. We’re headed to coal country once more, as we’ve done at this time the last few years. We go to visit our friend and his mother, and for me, as well, to do just a little more research into the area. I’ve been planning a mainstream suspense novel that takes place in that part of the country, but there’s a lot I still don’t know about the region. There’s probably more I still don’t know about the novel, too, but that’s another topic.

During past visits, we’ve toured northeastern Pennsylvania with our friend as tour guide. We’ve walked through the Eckley Miner’s Village, famous for having been the filming location of the movie, the Molly Maguires in 1969. We’ve visited the haunted jail in Jim Thorpe and seen that handprint. We’ve toured the Steamtown National Historic Site which houses an extensive rail museum in Scranton, and we’ve been to the Lackawanna Coal Mines which offers underground tours of some of the anthracite mines once vital to the economy of the region.

We spent an afternoon at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, a place that had my husband’s attention every bit as much as the locomotive museum did.

We’ve heard the stories of people who came to this part of Pennsylvania from across the oceans to dig their futures out of the ground and who built their lives in the company owned patch towns—some of which survive to this day, having morphed into current day boroughs. We’ve listened to the tales of a hard existence, of a time when simply earning a subsistence living was fraught with peril.

We listened to stories of wives, suddenly widowed, faced with being tossed from their company-owned homes unless they sent their young sons to work in the mines, in place of the fathers who’d lost their lives doing just that.

We’ve driven the grass dissected, heat-ruptured streets of Centralia, a former borough and now a ghost town, the location of an underground coal fire burning since 1962. We’ve stood and read the plaque at the site of the Lattimer Massacre of 1897.

The mountains dominate this land, and the mountains rule. They affect the weather and the culture and the livelihoods of those who call them home. They support houses, and even entire towns built vertically into the rocks, and streets that are steep and narrow. They can also play games with radio signals—our friend, when he worked in Scranton, which is several hundred miles away from us, at night would listen to the radio station in Hamilton, Ontario—a city just thirty-five miles down the road from where we live. 

This year we’re also honored to be attending the wedding of our friend’s niece, a young lady we first met several years ago.

We look forward to this visit each year, to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. It’s a family time, of sorts, as our daughter accompanies us—as does Mr. Tuffy, our dog. Our fur baby has proven to be a good traveler. He’s especially content, I think, because he has all three of his favorite humans all to himself, for the excursion.

Do we even need to talk about the big, smoked, chewy bone our friend has waiting for him? It takes the dog no time at all to remember he’s among friends as he follows our host out to the kitchen at every opportunity, knowing a tasty morsel will most likely be his as reward. For a few days he trades his computer desk and his porch for a different house and a hotel room, guarding his two domains like the brave sentinel he is.

He, too, has been invited to attend the wedding. It is, after all, going to be a family affair.


Monday, July 25, 2016

So You Want To Know How To Write PC Game Reviews? by R.D. Wylder

What better way is there to unwind after a tough day than to spend some quality time with your favorite PC game? It doesn’t matter whether your preferences tend more towards complex first person shooters or simple hidden object games. An hour or two behind the computer screen might be just what you need to forget all about your troubles. If you are one of those people with a passion for gaming, and the time to sample many titles, why not try your hand at writing PC game reviews? 

Don’t let anyone tell you that PC game reviews aren’t important. People don’t go out and buy any old game arbitrarily, especially if they have a limited gaming budget. How do they make their decisions on what titles they should or should not purchase? 

• They’ve played the game demo and they like it. 

• It’s the latest sequel in a beloved series. 

• It’s gotten pretty good PC game reviews. 

Reviewing your favorite PC game titles can be a fun way of sharing your passion for a particular genre while helping other enthusiasts make informed choices. Not only that, but there are a number of sites that will actually pay you for well written PC game reviews, the emphasis here being on well written. Everyone has their own opinions and anyone can put those down on paper. You need to stand out above the rest by providing concise and useful information in a manner which proves that you actually have played the title in question. 

The first thing you need to remember is to not be overly ambitious. Stick to genres that you actually have an interest in. This will keep you focused and objective, rather than revealing a preset bias against a game or being overly zealous should a particular title prove to be a pleasant surprise. However, zeroing in on one type of PC game alone is not without its downfalls. You can easily become jaded by the perceived lack of anything new and forget that your readers are not necessarily as obsessed as you are. Pick a subset of game types that are similar to each other to write your PC game reviews on. For example, if you enjoy role playing games, why not include some strategy and time management titles in your collection? 

Writing good PC game reviews depends, in a large part, on knowing your audience. Are you dealing with hardcore gamers or the casual game enthusiast? Determining this up front will tell you exactly how in depth you need to be. Regular gamers are unlikely to be concerned with every single facet of game play while the more devoted fan probably won’t care that the colors are pretty. 

That brings us to the PC game reviews themselves. What are the sorts of things that you’ll be expected to highlight? 

Requirements: This is often one of the most important parts of any PC game review. Just because someone may be interested in a particular title doesn’t mean that it was made to run on their machine. Be sure to list the manufacturer’s specifications, as well as those of your computer if they happen to be different. It’s possible that some games may still run well on a PC with lower specifications, but there are often problems with game play and graphics. 

Genre: There was a point in time when game genres were pretty clear cut. Now there are more genres than you can count and most people have a preference for at least one or two. Be sure to state what type of game it is that you’re reviewing. Be as accurate as possible. Don’t just say that it’s a First Person Shooter. Is it set in a particular time period? Does is classify as Survival Horror? 

Story: This isn’t quite as applicable to small games, but most of the larger offerings can have very complex storylines, especially role playing games. Why is this important? Many gamers like to feel themselves immersed in a story. If the plot doesn’t make sense then the game play can often seem unsatisfying, unless you happen to like walking around and whacking things for no reason. You don’t need to give away the entire plot. Just summarize enough to say whether it’s reasonable or not. 

Game Play: This can encompass so many things, depending on the type of PC game reviews you’re writing. One thing that is common to all games though is navigation. Were the controls easy to use and can they be defined by the user? Are you allowed to save your progress? Does the game have multiplayer capabilities and how well do these work? You may prefer to play by yourself but many gamers rather share the fun. 

Graphics: There are games, especially within the Fantasy and Action Adventure genres, that are quite frankly visually stunning. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some graphics can be garish or just plain amateurish, and end up being more irritating than anything else. There may be points within the game when it’s so dark that it’s almost impossible to see. While this technique may work in titles such as the Silent Hill series, it’s not something you want to run into in a racing game for example. 

Try to be as objective as possible and not go into things with any preconceived notions about a particular title. It should be obvious but never attempt to write PC game reviews without actually playing the games yourself. Regurgitating another person’s review is not only ethically wrong but you run the risk of replicating their own biases, and that can seriously backfire on you. Especially if their PC game reviews contain inaccurate information. Start small and see what kind of feedback you get before trying your hand at the major titles.

R.D.Wylder is a part time freelancer and amateur author.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

War has broken out in the Ashbury household. Like most wars, it’s over “territory”, more or less. The piece of real estate under dispute is that space of my writing desk between my computer monitor and the tower. The two combatants are the dog and the cat. I must tell you it is a war of aggression started by the cat.

Now, shortly after this cat came to live with us (you may recall she just showed up one day), she decided that her place would be on the desk. That was fine, the dog we had at the time was a big dog, one that weighed over seventy pounds and had no interest in being that close to me—unless of course, there were fireworks being set off in the neighborhood. When that happened he wanted to be not only close to me but under me.

After a few weeks, Puddy, as she is now called (a name which beats Scary Kitty or Spooky Kitty, the names she was dubbed with when she found us), tired of that place on my desk, and found softer, more luxurious surfaces to sleep the day away upon. But she wouldn’t stay in one place too long. The sofa, one of the chairs in the living room, a kitchen chair, and the top of the wicker chest in my office all took their turns—as did the bathroom counter and at one point, the bathroom sink. Sometimes she’d want to come to the bed, but mostly not. It seemed like she would sleep in one area for several days, and move on to the next. Rarely did she avail herself of that original place on my desk, but I kept the towel there, just in case.

Then times changed, we lost our old dog and eventually adopted Mr. Tuffy. He had a baby playpen which we’d bought for him, our version of a “crate” and that worked well. It was portable and I’d have it in the office in the morning, and in living room in the afternoon. Yes, that worked, until our daughter eschewed the use of it entirely the first time we went to a conference after he became a member of the family and she stayed here. Since the cat didn’t seem to care for it anymore, I began to put him on the desk. He loves the desk! He can be close to me, sleep, and of course keep an eye on the outside, on guard, if you will—since there’s a window right there.

We bought him a bed after Christmas last December, and put it on the floor in the office. At that time, Mr. Ashbury still had his computer in this room, and if we were both web surfing at night, Tuffy often wanted the bed which though on the floor was positioned exactly between us.

The first sign of feline aggression came shortly after we got that bed. Puddy decided that it would make a better Puddy bed than it did a Tuffy bed. Just a note here, Tuffy weighs seven pounds, and Puddy twenty-five. So when Tuffy trotted over to get in his bed one evening…there was Puddy. She just fits in the bed, but obviously decreed it was hers. For that day, anyway.

This continued off and on for a few months. One day about two months ago, Mr. Tuffy was minding his own business, on duty, as it were on the desk (sleeping, but there, ready just in case) …when from out of nowhere the cat leapt from the floor beside me, up, past me, and landed on the desk, beyond the keyboard, a perfect Puddy landing. She didn’t land on the dog, a good thing, because she could seriously have hurt the little guy. We’d come home from being out (Tuffy always goes with us or goes to our daughter so if we’re out so is he) and discovered her there on the desk; this was the first time, however, she pulled a full frontal assault, while the territory was occupied.

Then she turned her patented Puddy stink eye on him, and Tuffy proved he’s not stupid. He got up and asked, in his own way, ears down and head bowed, for me to lift him off the desk. I asked him if he was going to just surrender his territory so easily? Apparently that was a question he deemed rhetorical.

This happens now at least once a week. And when it does, there’s no growling from him, and no clawing from the cat (she came to us with her front paws declawed), but the tension here can be high. I’ve done what I can to protect the Tuffy space from attack as I work away, here. But I must say it’s damned disconcerting when Puddy decides she wants the desk, because what she wants, she takes.

Though heavy, and old, she can still exert her position as head of household when she’s in the mood to do so. This only reasserts that basic law of nature: dogs have masters, cats have staff.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Writing The Modern Mystery, by Billie A Williams

From private eye, police procedural, professional Amateur, John and Jane Q Public, Heists, Capers, Kidnapping, Romantic Suspense the genres and sub-genres are endless when it comes to what constitutes a mystery. Correction, a Modern Mystery. 

Let’s begin with a definition of mystery – it comes from the old Greek MYSTERION – to keep silence (MYEIN- to be closed as with eyes or lips sealed.) Keeping a secret is the idea behind it all. The modern mystery finds its roots in morality plays. The felonious assault against neighbors and crimes against entire populaces, though the crimes may remain the same the intensity, the horrificness of those crimes has increased. It seems the stakes are higher, the punishment harsher in the modern day mystery. 

Some modern mystery writers prefer their imagination to reality, creating their own criminal milieu. Whether or not they use modern technology to solve the crimes is their choice. They ring out, draw-out, and leverage their creative powers until they squeeze the last thrill out of the whodunit and give the reader a full measure of satisfaction. 

“It is characterized by its own rules and is judged by those rules.” According to Barbara Norville, in Writing the Modern Mystery. This book was published in 1986 but the information is as true as if it were written today. 

Supposedly there is no such thing as a simple linear plot in a mystery. A mystery thought when a writer begins s/he better have a plot outline in place so s/he does not run amuck. Painting him or her into the proverbial, unsolvable corner is not an option. Even though it may not appear that the mystery is as orderly as a plot outline on the page, it must be thoroughly thought through to keep you on target so that you reach your perceived goal at the end. 

There is no room for irrelevant material or loose ends. Absolutely no room to change course midstream, unless you want to see the reader toss your book in to the circular file and cross you off their “to be read” list. 

Characters, fully developed characters, are always consistent in their attitudes and actions. Usually who they are isn’t as important as what they do. Hero/heroines solve the problems or promises made at the beginning of the story. Antagonists disrupt, thwart and create chaos that tears a hole in the fabric of known society. Theme choice of the crime and authors attitude toward the crime are also key factors. 

The many subgenres help define what type of story the mystery reader can expect. Detective, romantic suspense or true crime. Characters and plot define, and genre rules, ultimately, illuminate the category or subgenre for the reader. Create a world you are comfortable with, people it with characters, a crime, a world you are contented with and want to write about—choose your subgenre, and write. 

Your sleuth can have any career you can think of. Billie A Williams has used a single mother waitress, hobby candle making; an antique store owner, a bed and Breakfast owner, a town chairwoman, book store owner, investigative reporter, teacher, archeology professor, peace corps worker, a homeless woman, CAN at a nursing home—all accidental sleuths who solve the crimes in their own style. The modern mystery has many options for the writer, depending on the crime and author experience or imagination as mentioned above. 

Many times in real life, crèmes, cold case crimes, as in Patricia Cornwell’s Jack-the-Ripper solved, or others unsolved, but begging all sleuths to render their version of whodunit, a solution –they become mystery novels. 

The modern mystery is not shackled by earlier conventions; locked rooms are passé, but could still be used with a twist and your unique take on it. Your imagination, your comfort zone and your skill are the only limitations you must obey. 

Write Like the Wind and Solve it your way.

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