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Archive for November, 2008

Characteristics of a Good Website

Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has an interesting blog post about websites. He ran several author websites through WebsiteGrader to see how their websites performed.

I scored an 84, which shows room for improvement. I lost marks for too many images. Mr Hyatt’s post is very interesting and concludes that a slick website doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic.

This test made me think about the characteristics of a good website. I did a little online research and came up with the following list:

1. Good keywords – these are words that describe your site and what you do. For example I’m a romance author.

2. A simple design – nothing too complicated. Keep your page simple and on topic.

3. Easy naviagtion – don’t confuse your visitors. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

4. Fresh content – update on a regular basis and give your readers something new to look at. Give them a reason to come back. Keep the content short and organize it.

5. The Wow factor – make your page different and original. Make it stand out from the crowd.

6. Optimized – make your website search-engine friendly by using page titles and meta tags.

How did you do with the test? Do you have author websites you return to time and time again? What keeps you going back?

Busy Weekend: Turtles, Elections and Animals

Mr. Munro and I haven’t had such a busy weekend for ages. We’re both glad the week is here so we can have a rest.

Our night with the turtles turned out to be a lot of fun. As well as seeing turtles, we had a behind the scenes tour, watched the antics of the penguins as they stole nesting rocks from each other and sat on their eggs. We watched the stingrays being fed and wandered around looking at all the fish. I really like the fact that Kelly Tarltons focuses on New Zealand fish rather than having tanks of tropical fish. We ended up sleeping next to the seahorses. All the kids headed for the sharks and we decided we’d like to sleep!

I haven’t had a chance to download my photos yet but will post some as soon as I’m organized.

On Saturday it was our election day. Mr. Munro and I did our civic duty and voted. The polling booth was busy but very efficient, and we were in and out in ten minutes. We are both thrilled with the result and pleased with our new Prime Minister elect, John Key. Neither of us liked the way our country was going and it’s obvious that many other New Zealanders felt the same way.

On Sunday we attended the Clevedon agricultural show. I had an awesome time watching the horses perform, going around all the cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys etc and checking out the food and wine. I also had a back to childhood moment at the sideshows, lining up with the kids to have a turn shoving balls into a clowns mouth. Hey, I won a yo-yo. It’s a very cool yo-yo because it glows in the dark. I’ve decided I need a miniature donkey. They are SO cute!! I have photos from the show, too.

As well as all this excitement I managed to keep up with my daily word quota and hit the 50,000 word mark. I’m very proud of myself.

How was your weekend?

Oldies But Goodies

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I went to town. Of course, I couldn’t resist visiting Whitcoulls. (the store I mentioned here)

While I was there, I purchased season two and three of Deadwood (my love of Deadwood and several photos of the town are here).

The shop assistant and I started talking about the Deadwood series and I told her how Mr. Munro and I had originally watched the first program of series one and were horrified by the swearing. I said how we’d visited Deadwood and decided we’d try to watch the series again. Obviously she didn’t need to know we’d fallen in love with the series this time – she could work that out for herself! But we started talking about all the old Western shows that are starting to come out on DVD. Shows like Bonanza, Petticoat Junction and Daniel Boone.

My father loved Westerns. He still does, and if Daniel Boone was on we had an early dinner then all sat down to watch it as a family. Another assistant joined the conversation and we started talking about Fess Parker who starred in Daniel Boone. She said she’d seen him on TV recently, and despite his advanced age, the man was still a hunk.

This is my long-winded way of asking what shows you enjoyed during your childhood. I liked cartoons and still do with The Flintstones and The Jetsons being some of my favorites. Doctor Who, and the daleks in particular, used to scare me silly, and Lost in Space wasn’t far behind in the scary stakes. What can I say? I’m a big wimp!

What shows do you consider oldies but goodies? And for you Doctor Who fans out there – who do you think they’ll cast as the new doctor?

Plain Wrong.

I went to my local town today to post parcels and do a few other things. A couple of the stores have Christimas trees in the windows and are in full-out Christimas advertising mode. We also have a few Christmas adverts on TV. No doubt the first of many to come.

I think it’s plain wrong to think about Christmas in early November. The year is going quickly enough as it is.

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Which date do you think Christmas promotions should officially start?

One of Those Days!

I hope my Monday isn’t indicative of the week to come because I didn’t enjoy it. Nothing really bad happened, just lots of little things that on their own would have been okay, but together made me grumpy. I’m going to have a late night trying to get my word total done for the day. Sigh…

Good luck to everyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo this month. I see another Sweat with Sven challenge is about to start as well.

I’ve tried these types of writing challenges and have found they don’t work for me. I write at a fairly steady pace anyway and something formal like the above mentioned or a book in a month challenge seems to play with my head. I work better on my own. That said, I am pushing fairly hard for the next month to complete a 90,000 word manuscript. Apart from today I’ve been going pretty well, and if everything continues this way, I should have my first draft done by the start of the month.

Do writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month, Book in a Month or Sweat With Sven work for you, and if so why? Why not? Are you doing NaNo this year?

Pumpkins and Kitchen Gadgets

I promised Gabriele a pumpkin soup recipe. There are lots of variations of pumpkin soup. I make a vegetarian version and leave out the bacon. I replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

knob of butter and a little olice oil
1 onion chopped
3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons mild curry paste (I use curry powder)
3 – 4 rashers of bacon, rind removed and chopped
1/2 cup buttercup pumpkin pieces, peeled and seeded
5 cups chicken stock or 4 cups stock and 1 of water
light seasoning of salt and fresh ground black pepper
coconut cream to garnish (I use plain greek yoghurt)
fresh herbs such as coriander or thyme for garnish

Place the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until softened with a gentle heat. Add curry paste and when fragrant (allow about 30 seconds) add the chopped bacon and pumpkin pieces.

Constantly turn the pumpkin to avoid catching. Add stock and cook until the pumpkin softens. Once cooked process with a kitchen whizz until smooth. Season and garnish with coconut cream and fresh herbs.

Note – this soup always tastes better the next day so make it in advance if possible.

And in totally random news – I saw an ad for some new pots. The knobs come off the pot lids. The handles also come off and this allows for easy stacking in cupboards and also the dishwasher. They also have these nifty plastic lids so you can stick them in the fridge. They also come in frypans. I saw some in our local kitchen soup. Man, I’m in love. I’m lusting after these pots, and unfortunately, they’re expensive. I’m not big on kitchen gadgets, preferring to do most things by hand, but I really want these pots!

Do you like kitchen gadgets? Kitchenware shops?



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