10 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

Who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts related to the work they love to do? No one! And that includes writers.

My hope in writing this post is to ease your shopping burden, and offer you some online shopping options made just for the writer in your life.

 

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Under $20

  1. Writer Emergency Pack has the tools you need when you get stuck ($19.99).
  2. Just One More Chapter, a book quote necklace. Handcrafted in the USA ($15.99).
  3. MRCUFF Fountain Pen Cufflinks Pair are perfect for the male writer ($19.99).
  4. Poets & Writers Magazine Subscription is a perfect gift for writers of any genre
    ($16.95 with varying option renewals).

Under $50

  1. Scrivener Software, for either Mac or Windows, is a great benefit to any writer. This is a download product ($45.00).
  2. A curated, themed box of pens, notebooks, pencils, and items designed to inspire sent monthly with subscription (Monthly subscription $29.00).
  3. Bellaa Decorative Bookends make an elegant gift for the writer or book lover ($29.99).
  4. Leather Journals are always popular with writers and those who like to track their days ($49.95).

Under $125.00

  1. Boxed Set of the Major Works of Charles Dickens in hard cover ($114.49).
  2. Kenneth Cole Reaction Columbian Leather Flapover Computer Case has a classic briefcase style in Columbian leather ($99.44).

 


 

I hope you found some helpful ideas in this list. If nothing here seems right, think about providing your writer with a day in a quiet place to write as long as desired. Quiet time is worth so much to a writer.

Cautionary Tale for All Web Site Owners and Bloggers

Before I begin my cautionary tale, I must warn you it is lengthy but it’s a story I feel strongly I must share. Also, in my story I mention my site host, BlueHost, for whom I am an affiliate. If you should use the link provided below and decide to buy a hosting service from BlueHost, I will receive a percentage of the sales price but it in no way impacts the price you pay.

Why the Cautionary Tale?

Like most of you, I function using a self-hosted WordPress site. What this means in lay terms is:

  1. I want ownership of my site and its content.
  2. I want the flexibility of design choices.
  3. I want to depend on a site host to help me when troubles arise.

You see I’m tech savvy to a degree, but not savvy enough to handle everything related to keeping my site running. That’s where I need a site host, and I chose BlueHost.

My relationship with BlueHost has never faltered, and it continues as a solid foundation for me.

What Happened to Make Me Cautious?

I strive to keep my site safe by using backups, plugins , WordPress and BlueHost advice about security, and general suggestions to protect my site.

A few months ago BlueHost notified its users of the inclusion, at no charge, of site protection against spam, hackers, and other thefts. I was grateful for what seemed an extra layer of protection for free. At the same time, WordPress highlighted a security plugin which also protected against hacks, spam and similar threats, also free.

With both free features in place, how could I go wrong? Obviously this is an area in which I lack the knowledge to understand what features will do exactly what to protect my site and me.

My Cautionary Tale

Here is what happened first

In early May, the WordPress plugin representatives began notifying me of potential malware problems. I contacted them for instructions about what I should do. Their instructions were to send these emails to them and they would sort things out.

A little over a week ago I received an email from the company BlueHost had contracted with to give security. A scan had resulted in this service finding malware on my site. I did what any conscientious owner would do and contacted them.

Immediately, I found myself talking with a sales representative. He, of course, was intent on selling a higher level of protection. And he didn’t start with the least expensive of his software packages. His sales pitch was high pressure.

I decided to give myself at least 24 hours to think about what he had to offer. In the meantime, I decided to contact BlueHost directly.

Imagine my surprise when I filled out the topic on my inquiry with words “malware” and “security” and immediately someone answered the phone from the security company BlueHost had graciously supplied to its subscribers.

It took a couple of chats to actually get to someone at BlueHost who was able to explain the problem to me. He also apologized for the sales pitches, which he indicated BlueHost was troubled by.

And then…

The worst happened. I attempted to get access to my site only to learn BlueHost had shut my site down. It’s hard to put into words how I felt.

Did I make a mistake in calling BlueHost? Likely the answer is no. An email had also arrived while I was talking with their customer representative. So, this would likely have happened whether I had been in contact with BlueHost or not.

What to do next? I called right back to BlueHost. I certainly felt my site was being held hostage for something I didn’t do and would never do.

This time I spoke with a Terms of Service agent who explained what had been found–what is a pharma hack. That’s where someone hacks your site and then proceeds to attach ads for drugs. How was I to know?

Remember those items I contacted WordFence about? I probably should have dug a bit deeper. Likely one or more of those security breaches messed up my responsibility in complying with BlueHost’s Terms of Service Agreement. That was why my site was shut down–failure to remove the hacks.

Fortunately, the agent I talked with knew of an affordable security plan I could buy from the seller of the free security program BlueHost provides. Purchasing this program means scans are performed daily and when something is found, it is immediately removed. As my dad always said, “You get what you pay for.”

Your takeaways

Several things I’d like to point out from my rambling cautionary tale.

  1. First of all, it is important you understand what your security protection is, who is responsible for finding threats, hacks, or security breaches and seeing they are removed, and what responsibility you have in all this.
    • If you have a web design company managing your site for you, this may not apply to you. But it would be good to check to make sure your understanding of your site’s security.
    • If you have a self-hosted site, which means you own your domain and registered it through someone like BlueHost, the onus is on you to be sure you know what is going on behind the scenes with respect to security.
      • Read your host’s service documents, particularly anything about terms of use, terms of service, or something similar.
      • Determine for yourself what your role is in your site’s security.
      • Be aware of getting caught like I did and being shut down as penalty for not doing the above.
      • Whether you are responsible for the hacking, you are responsible for knowing what’s happening on your site and taking care to see that it is cleaned of any damaging materials.
  2. Always make sure any security plugins you use on your site are up-to-date. Also make certain the platform you use (i.e. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) is running its most current version.
  3. Always, always, always make sure to keep up a schedule of backups for your site. You want assurance you are able, if necessary to restore your site. For WordPress, I use a plugin which not only prepares backups but provides recovery.
  4. For reasons only you will know, these security issues should make you think twice about what you have on your site that you wouldn’t want to lose. The first thing that came to my mind were excerpts from drafts of my memoir. Would they be recovered? Yes, they were, but what if they hadn’t and it was something I needed.
  5. The last thing I want to share with you is a post I came across in my search to better understand what I can do myself with respect to any other situations like the one I’ve described. Himanshu Sharma, founder of Optimize Smart, wrote the post, Malware Removal Checklist for WordPress–DIY Security. Sharma lays out in a clear format a checklist for use immediately on becoming aware of malware on your site.

CONCLUSION

The best advice I can offer to self-hosted site owners is no matter what software you buy, which plugins you install, what security plans you have in place, and unless you have a professional site manager who works on your site daily and regularly maintains it, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE TO YOUR SITE’S HOST FOR MAKING SURE ANY THREATS OF SPAM, HACKS, OR FRAUD ARE REMOVED.

Be safe out there,
Sherrey


Check Out New Year’s Deals for Writers and Bloggers

Who doesn’t love a deal, especially a New Year’s deal? Everybody loves deals. Just offer something at a good price and see how fast people come calling.

This week I’ve heard about some great deals for writers and bloggers. In honor of the support and encouragement my followers have given me in 2015, I’m sharing these New Year’s deals with you.

1. FIRST UP IS A GOOD DEAL FROM WEB HOST, BLUEHOST.

I’ve been working with BlueHost going on almost four years. They host this site plus two small business sites my husband and I run. When it comes to support, they are fantastic! When it comes to a great deal for new customers better than fantastic.

Right now BlueHost is offering a great monthly rate. And the reason I know about this discount is because I’m celebrating my first anniversary as a BlueHost affiliate. Yes, that means I get a little something for every new customer I send to BlueHost. If you’re interested in BlueHost as your site host, click on the image below and check things out: 

2. LOOKING FOR WRITING BOOKS AND/OR VIDEOS?

Writer’s Digest has some books offered at discount prices. Here is what I found in the store today:

2016 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition by Robert Lee Brewer is a list of literary agents and publishers curated by Writer’s Digest and now they are offering it for 40% off the regular price, or $29.99, a savings of $20. In addition to the listings, the book includes many tips on the business of writing and a free webinar is offered (a $79 value) on building your audience, marketing, and publishing. It doesn’t sound like you could go wrong.

Under “Bundles and Kits,” a collection under the title Turn Your Blog Into a Successful BookThis bundle includes four books and three webinars on topics like How to Blog a Bookby Nina Amir, Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton, and one of the webinars is on starting your platform. Regularly the price for this bundle (and you have to see it to believe it!) is $293.95 and you can buy it for only $49.99.

You will find other great offerings at the Writers Digest Shop, so spend some time and see what you can find to help your writing take off in 2016.

Note: I am NOT an affiliate of Writer’s Digest.

3. LOOKING TO SPIFF UP YOUR WEBSITE? LOOK NO FURTHER.

Elegant Themes is currently offering a 10% discount off themes and plugins for a limited time only when you sign up for their newsletter. Elegant Themes does a stellar job designing themes and creates some of the most effective plugins for WordPress I have used. Don’t miss this opportunity!

I am in no way affiliated with Elegant Themes.

4.WRITING SOFTWARE CAN BE EXPENSIVE, BUT LITERATURE & LATTE IS STILL OFFERING A GOOD PRICE FOR SCRIVENER.

I have used Scrivener since I began writing my memoir back in 2009. It has gone through many changes to make it a user-friendly writing tool. I especially appreciate the way I can organize my project within the software as if I were using an old-fashioned filing cabinet, file folders, and lots of paper. I just took a look at the site and was surprised to see you can still buy the software for Windows 10 for $40 and for Mac OSX Version for $45. Literature & Latte also offers a free trial. Check it out, and feel free to ask me questions. (Note: I am not an affiliate of Literature & Latte.)

There are many items helpful and useful for writers and bloggers. Sometimes you have to dig for them, and other times they come to you out of the blue. Keep your eyes and ears open and read up on the craft to see what’s happening with technology and books written to help us along the writing journey.

What writing tools and books have you seen deals on lately? Anything you can pass along to the rest of us today?

A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers

If there’s one thing all writers agree on, it’s that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we’re passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry…and then start the process all over again as we realize there’s room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yet, sometimes it’s nice to get a helping hand.

 

Finding a good writing book, a helpful blog, a mentor or critique partner to share the journey with…these things are gems along the writing path.

And guess what? Maybe there’s another resource waiting just up the road called One Stop For Writers.

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One Stop For Writers is not writing software, but rather a powerful online library that contains tools, unique description collections, helpful tutorials and much more, brought to you by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

Could One Stop For Writers be the writing partner you’ve been searching for? Visit Writers Helping Writers this week and see, where Angela, Lee and Becca are celebrating their venture with prizes and some pay-it-forward fun.

 

Windows 10 and a 2-Day Conference and Geek Squad, Oh My!! and Lessons Learned

Drawing on a line from the movie, The Wizard of OzI kept running the title for this post over and over in my head to the cadence used in this scene.

No, I haven’t faced anything nearly as frightening or deadly as lions, tigers and bears in recent days. But Microsoft’s Windows 10 soured my technology tastes just before a two-day writing conference. Hurrying home on Saturday, I planned to spend Sunday getting Windows 10 up and running, only to decide the Geek Squad would be my best bet. And then they took longer than first thought.

A Word on Windows 10

Attributed to WinBeta
Attributed to WinBeta

My purpose here is not to speak negatively about Windows 10 or Microsoft’s decision to upgrade to a new version of its operating system. Frustrations grew out of my haste in choosing to upgrade before all the bugs were worked out.

Husband Bob and I had upgraded his computer to Windows 10 without a hitch. Only one little problem after the upgrade finished, and it was such a minor issue it only took seconds to correct it. Why would it not go the same on my laptop?

Well, it didn’t. Nobody knows why Windows 10 chose to destroy and almost annihilate my poor Lenovo laptop. Suddenly, in the middle of the upgrade, the screen flashes as if it were a neon sign directing consumers to a favorite local pub or special event.

Nothing would make it stop or clear its throat but shutting down the computer. And nothing I tried that long Thursday evening would bring it back to life.

Earlier in the day, I backed up to a thumb drive all manuscript files as well as other projects not yet completed before attempting the upgrade.

I should have known better than to rush into this the night before my conference began. And I strongly recommend giving it some time to work out all its little issues, obviously some larger than others.

Willamette Writers Conference 2015

Day 1 (Friday)

Attributed to Willamette Writers
Attributed to Willamette Writers

Despite the events of the night before, the first day of the conference, including a 50th-anniversary celebration for Willamette Writers, dawned glorious and energizing. A keynote speaker Friday morning woke us up with an inspirational sharing of his own story as a writer and the truth of the hard journey writers often face.

My schedule for the day included back-to-back workshops, most focusing on the mysterious world of self-publishing. I met Carla King briefly as she facilitated a panel discussion of three writers who have self-published. Later in the day, I listened carefully to Melissa Hart‘s three-hour presentation on writing and publishing a book-length memoir. Well worth every minute spent with these two women.

I did reserve time for one writing workshop in the morning hours led by the keynote speaker, Bill Kenower, founder and editor-in-chief of Author Magazine. Listening to Bill both in the morning and in the workshop was like an instant makeover of my perspective on the writing life and where I am in my journey. Thank you, Bill!

This doesn’t include nor give credit to three wonderful women writers I met on Friday–Karen Garst, Cecelia Otto and Nikki Martin. We enjoyed conversation and chatter over lunch and drinks, and I hope to continue to connect with each of them.

I went home at the end of the day filled with motivation, encouragement, inspiration, and a notebook stuffed with notes and handouts. I determined not to even cast a glance toward my laptop.

Day 2 (Saturday)

A slight change in my schedule found me sitting in Larry Brooks‘s presentation on getting to that “true final draft.” Larry is a consummate teacher and lover of words and writing. His passion for the subject he’s teaching combined with his own best-selling books make him the perfect writing teacher.

Larry’s genre is fiction, primarily suspense and thriller stories. He has also written nonfiction but instructional nonfiction on the subject of, what else, writing. However, I had heard so much about his teaching that at the last minute I switched workshops to experience him in action firsthand.

I was not disappointed. And as Larry moved through a topic about which he gets excited, humorous, flippant, and sarcastic at times, I knew I was listening to someone who really knew his craft. By the end of the 90 minutes, I saw the connection between what he was teaching and my work in writing memoir. Following the workshop, I told him of the connection I had made and we discussed it for a few moments. I’m glad I attended Larry’s session.

Then another panel but this time with editors who wanted to share how writers should write to please editors. It was a lively and fast-paced panel discussion, including a freelance editor who also works for a local house, a traditional house editor working from home here in Portland, and lastly another traditional house editor working in-house. Their processes were very similar with respect to agents and writers, with the major difference being in their respective proximity to their personal editorial teams.

In that last session on what editors want to see, I may have met a potential writing/critiquing partner, Linda Atwell, also working on a memoir project. Networking and meeting up with new people is a huge benefit to conference attendance.

One last workshop on print design with Cheri Lasota, a young woman well-versed in book design and design software. In fact, Cheri’s knowledge coupled with her enthusiasm for writing and publishing almost demolished the six minds sitting in the room with her. There was no way we could absorb everything she wanted to share, and we were all grateful when she indicated she would email us her slides. Whew!

Another workshop was available but after that last one, it was time to head homeward.

Geek Squad to the Rescue!

Attributed to BestBuy
Attributed to BestBuy

After a good night’s rest, I arose on Sunday determined to conquer Windows 10 and resurrect my Lenovo laptop. After preparing breakfast and seeing Husband Bob off to church, I settled into the task. Online I found many sites offering instructions on reverting back to Windows 8.1 and then installing the Windows 10 upgrade again. These were daunting words. They meant others had met a similar problem.

I followed their instructions to the letter multiple times. Not once did I ever get a positive response. Around noon, I caved in and called the Geeks over at the Squad.

The “agent” assigned to “my case” quietly checked the laptop out with a few almost doctoral sounding hmm’s and aah’s. Finally, he tells me he’s keeping my laptop for the next couple of days. With disappointment, I left alone.

Patience has not been a longstanding virtue of mine, so Monday and Tuesday weren’t especially easy for me. I now had all this new knowledge and inspiration to complete my manuscript, but I couldn’t get to a computer to get it done. Finally, late Tuesday afternoon another “agent” called to give a status update. And late Wednesday afternoon, I picked up my laptop and gently brought it home.

But I still had work to do. All applications and software loaded on my laptop after I purchased it were wiped out and needed reloading. Guess how I spent my Thursday? After several hours, I had things back pretty much where I wanted them, and today I typed this post on my newly restored Lenovo laptop upgraded to Windows 10 and operating quite well.

Lessons Learned

⇒ Never, I say, never again will I rush into a Microsoft upgrade. In an earlier life working in a law firm, I had gone through many such upgrades, always before any bugs were worked out.

⇒ Never again will I attempt such an upgrade the night before the first day of a conference. It causes frustration, loss of sleep, and a bad start to the next morning.

⇒ Never will I miss attending the Willamette Writer’s Annual Conference, if I can help it. Too valuable to miss.

⇒ Beginning now, I will work on exercising greater patience in all areas of my life.

Do you have any similar stories to share about computer failures or upgrades or other crises happening just before a writing conference you’d like to share? Leave them for us in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your stories too.