Book Review: A Rather Unusual Romance

Middle-Aged Singles Meet Eligible Mates
Stevie Turner and some of her books.

Life is uncontrollable at times. Erin’s husband had long since married the woman Erin found in her bed with him. When a coworker asked about a growth on her neck, her life turned upside down. That started a chain of events that culminated in her sharing a radioactive suite with another cancer treatment patient, Alan Beaumont.

Somehow, by the time you meet Alan, you know that he and Erin will probably meet. When finally they do, it’s unlikely that they would fall in love. Cancer treatment is not exactly romantic especially when you are sharing a suite.

My Recommendation

My hat goes off to anyone who can write a book and keep all the characters straight. Stevie did a great job of taking a difficult topic and weaving it into a romance. The story reminded me of Fault in Our Stars, but without the drama of teenage cancer, hormones, and death.

Cancer is difficult at any age, but Erin and Alan show that it is a blip in the road of life, rather than the end of life in every case.

There is hope expressed in this book. I enjoyed A Rather Unusual Romance and gave it four stars.

Biography

Once a medical secretary in a busy NHS hospital, English author Stevie Turner retired to concentrate on writing suspense, women’s fiction, and humorous novels. She won many awards for her books. Her screenplay, For the Sake of a Child, also won several awards.

Contact Information

Reach Stevie at the following email address: stevie@stevie-turner-author.co.uk
You can find her blog at the following link: www.steviet3.wordpress.com

Related Links

The Fault in Our Stars

https://tchistorygal.net/book-review-waiting-in-the-wings/

https://tchistorygal.net/a-great-book-still-alice/

How to Overcome Messed Up Instructions about a Landing Page When You Don’t Know Nothing

Hey, New or Hobby Blogger!

Do you get frustrated when you’re learning new blogging skills? You think it’s because you don’t know anything but think again. Maybe the instructions are as clear as mud. Learn what you can do instead of getting frustrated.

Communication Causes Landing Page Frustration

Landing page frustration can leave a new blogger dead in their blogging tracks. Check the communication skills of the landing page provider.

#landingpage #email campaigns

This post is a redesign of a ranting article  I wrote February 16, 2016, when I first started on the pro blogging journey with Always Write.

On impulse, I took a free class on email lists from Kirsten Oliphant which I blogged about on this site earlier.

Marketing experts said, “Before you ever do an email campaign, you MUST have a landing page.”

Woah! Don’t panic! Do hobby bloggers need email campaigns?

The answer is no. But might they?

Of course, if you have a new recipe, travel post to a hidden gem, information for non-profit groups. Any tidbit of information that you want to make sure that your readers see, email campaigns are a great way to go. We do one for our church each month, but I don’t think it has a landing page because the subscriber number stays the same.

However, those who write posts about marketing campaigns assume that hobby and new bloggers have a landing page or know they need one.

landing page frustration

What is a Landing Page?

Heck, I didn’t know what a landing page was. I knew landing, and I knew page but put them together, and I didn’t have a clue.

So that you know, a landing page is NOT necessarily a static page on your blog like a home page. A landing page is probably a disconnected page (or multiple pages) that float on another cloud that doesn’t belong to the blogger, probably hovering over Colorado in some raunchy building in the sky.

Pretty much, it’s an opportunity for readers to sign up for your newsletter or products.

landing page frustration

How to Learn about Landing Pages

When I want to learn something new, I often turn to Google and click on a video. In February of 2016, I had the funniest experience with misunderstanding during a video and conversation with the kind podcaster afterward that I had to write about it instead of creating a landing page.

Unfortunately, that blog post disappeared when I got frustrated with the last line and saved it.  Apparently, the clouds in cyberspace are just for rain. My communication foibles were so ridiculous that I recreated it for you. I hope the humor of the situation remained.

1. Video Tutorials Are Excellent Learning Tools

Normally I love video tutorials because it is almost like being with the expert.

I watched Landing pages 101 twice. After watching the video above from Landing Pages 102. when Oli Gardner said to try it, I took him at his word. That’s when the fun began. Oli started his video out with a blank screen on which he typed his Landing Page Title. That looked easy. I’ve typed titles in text boxes before, haven’t you? I went to Unbounce and opened up an account. I typed in the title of my page, and then I was lost. The screen Oli used to create his masterpiece landing page did not come up for me. After creating my page, I got this.

That looked easy. I’ve typed titles in text boxes before, haven’t you?

I went to Unbounce and opened up an account. I typed in the title of my page, and then I was lost. The screen Oli used to create his masterpiece landing page did not come up for me. After creating my page, I got this.

The same screen Oli used to create his masterpiece landing page did not come up for me. After creating my page, I got this.

landing page frustration
Unbounce Screen Shot

Do you see a toolbar for writing text anywhere? There’s a link that says edit notes in tiny blue letters, but I didn’t want to change my notes. I didn’t have any notes. There’s a box that says edit in the middle of the page, but it didn’t register because as far as I knew I didn’t have any variants, first, second or third.

So I tweeted Oli. If you are a logophile, this conversation may make sense, but if you are like me Who was on First and What wasn’t.

2. Ask the Expert Questions When You Don’t Understand

The good news is that today you can communicate with just about anyone.  I found Oli’s Twitter handle. WARNING: if you put out a post explaining how to do something, and people don’t understand it, they can ask you about it.

The following conversation is Oli chatting to a complete greenhorn about creating a landing page.

Marsha Ingrao to Oli Gardner

@oligardner Just watched video pt 2. Tried to start landing pg. Couldn’t get 2 1st base.

Oli Gardner

@MarshaIngrao you could take this course to learn more >>thelandingpagecourse.com

OK, I thought modestly, I have a master’s degree, been blogging for four years, learned WordPress, Blogger, Wild Apricot, Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator, etc. Easily, I should have been able to master creating a landing page without spending time and money on a class. Landing page frustration set in when I couldn’t find the screen to compose my page. It looked so simple in the video. So I wrote back.

Marsha Ingrao

@oligardner Simple question – how to access the screen you used to compose. Put in text box or page?

Oli Gardner

@MarshaIngrao I’m not sure what you mean re: access the screen. Can you elaborate?

I looked over at my computer guru husband and asked, “What you call the page where you write your post or compose something like a landing page?

“A screen I suppose,” he answered.

I threw up my arms in frustration. I started to tweet back then I decided to send Oli a screen shot. Screen shots on my Mac save as a TIFF, and so when I tried to save it to my Google Pictures to send him a link, it wouldn’t save. 

So I opened the picture in Photoshop and saved it as a JPEG, uploaded it to Google Picasa, and sent him the link.  I heard somewhere it is better to post pictures things online than from your computer. Below was Oli’s response when I sent him the picture I had worked for 10 minutes to create just for him.

Marsha

@oligardner Sure. bit.ly/1KlfxVI. I can’t create a text box even – no tools

Oli

@MarshaIngrao link is broken

His answer baffled me. What did he mean by link? Was he solving my problem, or could he not see my screenshot? If he solved my dilemma then what link was I missing? I sent him another tweet with the picture embedded.

Marsha

@oligardner ??? You can’t see my screenshot or the link on the page I’m trying to create?pic.twitter.com/nDsj04J6Ma

Oli

@MarshaIngrao I see the image now. Click the edit button to access the page builder. Do you want to add text or a text box for a form?

I do not cuss as a rule, but I wanted to. I wondered how I was so out of touch. Was I creating a form on this page?  For the life of me, I did not see any buttons that would give me either text or a text box. I did not see an edit box. My husband came back over and pointed right to it on my computer, but since it was in the First Variant line, I did not even see it. I pressed it, and this screen popped up. One point for Vince. Zero for Marsha.

landing page frustration

Do you see any toolbar yet? I do not! At least I have a blank screen. That is helpful.

Marsha

@oligardner The title first, then the form to sign up for the book.

Oli

@MarshaIngrao If you double click on the title it will open the text editor. If you double click the form, it will open the form editor.

Now my frustration level went through the roof looking for a cloud to punch. I double clicked on the title and went right back to the first horrible screen shot with variants right in the middle of the page.  Is safe to be around when variants are on the loose? When I double clicked on the blank page, guess what I got? Not even a blink.

Marsha

@oligardner I think we are using vocabulary to mean different things. Dbl clk on title gave me a screen shot page. Dbl click on form = nothing

Oli

@MarshaIngrao Can you email me? I’m assuming you are using Unbounce to create a page yes? oli@unbounce.com

Now I think even Oli was getting frustrated. I was ready to give up landing pages for a while.

Marsha

@oligardner Thanks for trying to help. I thought with much blogging experience it would be easy to pick up. Didn’t connect variant 2 edit btn.

Oli

@MarshaIngrao Can you send me a screenshot of inside the page builder so I can see your page?

I sent him the picture you saw above of the blank page. Not too exciting. So I emailed poor Oli. 

@MarshaIngrao Yes, I watched your video and thought I’d try it. Thanks for being so responsive. I would have given up hours ago. It seems like it shouldn’t be so difficult. Just the word variant in the same box as edit made me overlook the word edit entirely. But I’m on the page now, and the page is blank.

@oligardner Ahh, you started with a blank template, which means you have to add “Page Sections” to the page (drag and drop them from the left toolbar). However, it’ll be much easier to get started with a full template. If you start again to create a landing page, you can choose one of the 100 templates. That will give you a page with all of the elements on there so you can edit them, delete them, move them around etc.”

landing page frustration
Clicking this picture links to the Always Write Landing Page.

Follow-Up

Oli was not a good salesperson. He should have put the learning back on my shoulders and sent me some new links to longer articles or a series of short articles explaining more about landing pages. Clearly, Marsha in 2016 was not ready for this conversation. Then he could have followed up in a few days to see how I was doing. By that time I would have cooled down.

I was lucky. I had a patient web designer who designed me a page on WordPress to do the same thing. After experimenting with Mail Chimp, I finally understood more about landing pages and created several. I never went back to Unbounce.

My takeaway from this exchange as an information provider

  • If you write instructions, guidebooks, or courses for a living, keep in mind all the meanings of words and how they change when you speak technology. Don’t assume that ANYONE knows anything.
  • Have additional articles or videos you can send the novice.
  • Refer to different versions of the same products you are teaching, and alert viewers of changes.
  • Be sensitive to learner needs and levels of understanding.

My takeaway from this exchange as a learner

  • If you approach blogging as an experiment and a hobby. you need to try new things and keep up to date with blogging technology. If you get frustrated, put the new learning on the back burner for a while, and ask someone else you trust. I lived by this article by Hack the Entrepreneur eighteen months ago when I started getting serious about Always Write.
  • There is so much information available. To learn what which products you might need, and which are the best, take classes from experts. Feedly.com is a great place to find experts on any topic.
  • Read blogs by the experts in your hobby fields and in the field of blogging.
  • Taking classes is helpful, but again lack of vocabulary may slow down your learning.
  • Know how you might use a new product. Keep your goals in mind as you experiment. Some of the products on the market are not necessary for hobby bloggers. Some might make your life lots easier.
  • If you are serious about blogging, even as a hobby blogger, I recommend these courses because I’ve taken them, not because I’m an affiliate.
    • Chris Brogan’s Owner Unlimited Package. Here is a link to his landing page for that product. You buy in for a low dollar amount each month and have access to their catalog of materials.  I have a podcast interview coming up with him in September 2017 on Always Write.
    • Jon Morrow’s training, Serious Bloggers Only.  His landing page is a home page to that blog. Like Chris’s Owner Unlimited, you buy in for a low dollar amount each month and have access to their catalog of materials. You can use them at your own rate, and you get access to a Facebook group as well.
    • I also like Jeff Goins, Intentional Blogging. I get tons of impressions when I share a post on My 500 Words or Intentional Blogging Course. You can’t post on the latter unless you take this course.
    • I like Alex Groove’s newsletter. The link takes you to a post, and you can click on the yellow box, which is called an Opt-in. That takes you to his landing page.

Summary to End Landing Page Frustration

  1. Today I use the Mail Chimp signup page as my landing pages. But that’s another lesson.
  2. Take tips from known experts. I’ve listed four of the best for bloggers and writers.
  3. Watch videos, but don’t waste your time, if the video doesn’t match what you see on your screen. Find another video – quickly!
  4. Subscribe to experts’ newsletters and check out their landing pages. Copy ideas from the ones you like.
  5. This is Always Write’s Landing Page to sign up for my newsletter.

Check out these additional titles for this post.

Vote on your favorites. You are welcome to use or adapt them if you want, just let me know how they do.

 

 

 

Why You’ll Never See a Tasmanian Tiger

My friend Norah Colvin wrote this beautiful interview.

It’s always great when you catch someone doing such a great job you wish you had done it. That’s how I felt when I read Norah’s interview with Aleesah Darlison.  After taking a course in writing children’s novels, I have such an appreciation for authors that write children’s literature. I say well done to both Norah and Aleesah. See if you don’t agree with me 100%.

Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson

by Norah Colvin

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning Australian author Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. She has won numerous other awards for her writing.

Aleesah has written over thirty-five books for children and in 2016, she set up Greenleaf Press, a business designed to provide critical support services to authors and illustrators. The company also acts as a booking agency for school and preschool visits.

Today, Aleesah and I are talking about her picture book Stripes in the Forest. With National Threatened Species Day just a couple of weeks away on 7 September, it is a timely interview. Stripes in the Forest is the story of an iconic species lost.

Told from the perspective of the last wild female thylacine, it provides readers with an insight into the rare beauty and uniqueness of these amazing animals, explains their fight for survival and provides important lessons for future generations.

An emotive and moving story, children will connect with the solitary, stoic and courageous female thylacine who does all she can to protect her young – just as a human mother would do. The story takes readers to a place in the past, but also offers a twist that projects them into the future and offers a glimmer of hope for the survival of a creature some believe may still exist.

Parents and their children will enjoy the rich, vivid and detailed illustrations of the Tasmanian forests and landscapes and the magnificent thylacine as depicted by illustrator and artist, Shane McGrath. Stripes in the Forest will generate rich discussion and raise important questions for young minds.

This powerful and poignant story offers hope for threatened species and shows how, together, we can make a difference.

Welcome to readilearn, Aleesah, we are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for inviting me.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

From about the age of sixteen, I told people that I wanted to be an author. Unfortunately, everyone told me I’d never make it and that it was too hard to get published. It wasn’t until many years later when I was in my early thirties that I came back to writing as a career option and stopped viewing it as just a dream or a hobby.
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

Most of the time I write at my desk, straight onto my computer. I type much faster and more neatly than I can write, which helps when the ideas are flowing. If I can’t get to my computer, I’ll write in my notebook and transfer later. If I can read my handwriting, that is…

Read more

If you like this post as much as I did, please visit her post and leave her comments. Tell her Marsha sent you. 🙂 Have a great read.

How To Bring Together a Community to Support a Botanical Garden

In our small community, Woodlake Botanical Gardens nearly became a town park.

Community meeting

Too much reliance on volunteer help, the finances of a small town, and the energy and amazing capacity of two people screeched to a halt at the end of June. Either the city had to take over the care of the gardens, or increase their spending to include paid help. The load was too much to bear alone. Too many disappointments when funds didn’t come through frazzled nerves and maybe a few tempers.

But the love of their gardens never wavered.

Agronomist for U.C. Davis and his wife, Manuel and Olga Jimenez, have given their time for the past 14 years. Modestly their donated time has been worth $2,310,000, or about $165,000 per year. That doesn’t include the donated plant materials and infrastructure.

Would the Community Step Up?

Today was the culmination of a month of planning.

So, Manuel and Olga invited Proteus and me to help them plan a meeting to see what kinds of support might be out there. We invited about 75 people from service organizations, educational and government services to attend a brainstorming session. Thirty-nine reserved, and fifty came.

Community meeting
David Hobgs, Monrovia, Proteus, Woodlake Pride and Delores Huerta Foundation all hobnob about the Gardens.

Fifty influencers in Tulare County gathered at Woodlake Presbyterian Church to brainstorm ways to raise $250,000 this year to support the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Wow! Even to put that much money on the screen scares me. Did you know that the San Francisco Botanical Gardens spend 5.5 billion dollars per year to maintain and grow the gardens?

Community meeting
Educators and Audubon society discuss the gardens.

That works out to $100,000 per acre. Woodlake has a unique 14 acre agricultural and rose and cacti garden valued at 500,000 in roses alone. If we maintained it to the same level as the SF garden, it would cost us 1,400,000 per year. That makes 250,000 seem paltry in comparison.

Our Agenda

  1. Our agenda included an opening walk around. Everyone wrote one or two things they love about the Gardens.
  2. Next, I gave a brief welcome, explained what in the world an educator/blogger was doing running a meeting about a botanical garden, and why we were there.
  3. We pre-selected four people to make presentations about the benefits of the gardens.  The first speaker, Chuck House, from Sequoia Hills Stables focused on the value and work of raising roses. Carmita Peña discussed the educational value to the 25 student volunteers a year who earned community service hours in high school working in the gardens. A Boy Scout organizer for 75 years, Bob Ludekens also still runs a nursery business that has donated hundreds of trees to the gardens. He explained why fruit from the store doesn’t taste sweet, and the fruit in the Botanical Gardens does. Finally, a former journalist and now website designer and documentarian, Shirley Kirkpatrick explained why the Woodlake Botanical Gardens are a treasure. A tourist attraction nestled in the foothills of the Sequoia National Park, the park draws much interest to their website about Tulare County.
  4. Finally, the meat of the meeting, table group brainstorming, and presentations. WOW. You can tell the engagement level of your participants in the process by simply listening to the buzz in the room. Each presentation was carefully thought out and well presented. Very few left the room even though we met during working hours.
  5. We held the meeting to right at one hour as promised, and offered them a chance to go home, but no one did until the last presentation finished. We closed with commitment cards about 10 minutes after the designated closing time.

    Community meeting
    I remind myself of my mom! 🙂

Follow-up

As a volunteer administrator, I am going to be looking for money. Several in the group volunteered to help with grant and proposal writing. It was clear that the gardens needed exposure. Some volunteered to help with marketing.

Even a little garden presents a huge amount of work. Plants don’t stop needing attention while you’re working out the details of who is going to do the work.

Community meetingWoodlake Botanical Gardens needs your help. Maybe you can donate funds. Someone suggested Fund me. So I’ll check into that. Maybe you love to weed roses. We need help with that now.

Community meeting
Manuel and Olga Jimenez, David Hobbs from Monrovia, Linda LaFleur from Kiwanis of Woodlake

Manuel is writing out a calendar of events so we can figure out how to get volunteers in the short-term to do the gardening work until we raise money to hire full-time employees. Even though we get employees, it will not negate the need for volunteer help. So if you can help, please let me know.

community meeting
a beautiful row of cabbage

I hope you don’t mind me writing about this on my blog. Right now, it’s where my mind and heart are. If I don’t write this, I won’t get much writing done.

Check into Always Write for my interviews coming up with author Sally Cronin, and social media guru, Chris Brogan. Today I am reposting a wonderful interview done by Norah Colvin with an author, Aleesah Darlinson. The topic of the interview caught my attention – the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

Related Posts

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake?
Woodlake Kiwanis Run for Hunger
Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

 

Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust me; you haven’t read a book like this one before. However, Tim Ferriss disagrees with me.  “Holiday is part Machiavelli, part Ogilvy, and all results…this whiz kid is the secret weapon you’ve never heard of.”
–Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek

Spoken like a salesperson with a touch of conscience, Ryan Holiday unravels the internet marketing game he played. You won’t be able to put down his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying. It’s more than a great title.

Bloggers Are Powerful

When blogging started, bloggers did not know the power they wielded. Even Holiday didn’t realize the powerful game he played. He certainly did not know it would backfire on him. In twenty-four fast-paced chapters, Ryan weaves the argument that down home, backyard bloggers exert a powerful influence on the world.

Average bloggers and blog readers do not investigate deeply. They tend to believe what they read even if writers exaggerate. And writers do. Sometimes they lie.

Tryst Ryan. He knows. He did it. He lied to start a controversy. The contention led to high traffic and more clicks. Additional clicks resulted in more sales.

Be Careful What You Read and Blog

Trust Me, I’m Lying is a cautionary book. Ryan writes from an insider’s viewpoint.

Bloggers, desparate for traffic, comb the internet for delicious local news tidbits. When they find a good story, polish it, and publish it. Then, they credit you, Ms. Hobby Blogger as their trusted source. You published it. Obviously, you are honest and checked all your facts. If you did not, it does not matter. It will be old news soon enough.

Their mantra is to post often to keep their blog traffic soaring high. No time to investigate. No time to waste on the truth! Right?

You are happy, someone noticed you. They are happy because they got their job done.

But  Wait, There Is More.

The next level of news reporters, see the story, trust that bigger, high traffic blogger, repackage the story again, and off it goes to the online warehouse of news stories. at Huffington Post or some other big name online news source.

Then someone reports a mistake. Oops! Someone’s life or business got smeared or ruined. Sorry! By this time, the old news lies buried in a graveyard under a pile of multiple blogs. Most people don’t go back to read the original, corrected story.

Trust Me; This Book Makes an Impression

I can’t tell a joke because I can’t remember the punchline for two seconds, but I will remember this book and the stories inside for years.

If you blog, you need to read it. You won’t necessarily like everything you read.

Other Readers Opinions

One reader called his stories chilling. Another thought they were merely “compelling.” I wonder what the exposed marketing strategies compelled the reader to do. Kirkus Reviews wrote that Holiday’s book was disturbing and “more than a dyspeptic diatribe.” My vocabulary increased more from reading the reviews than from reading the book. I don’t think I could have waded through 270 pages of dyspeptic diatribe. Do you?

Tucker Max profited from Holiday’s marketing techniques. “The strategies Ryan created to exploit blogs drove sales of millions of my books and made me an internationally known name.” And we bloggers had a part of that game, according to both Max and Holiday.

Don Rakeshaw stated Holiday’s thesis as “modern blogo-journalism is hopelessly broken.” Meet another new term to me, “blogo-journalism.” Like President Trump, both Holiday and Rakeshaw had words to say about “fake news.” “The stories on sweatshop blogs cannot help but be fake news.” So if you run a sweatshop blog, you just made the news. OK, that was fake. 🙂

My Recommendation

Ryan Holiday does not need my endorsement, for his book, but maybe you do. I would not have known about it without Jon Morrow. You got the word from me unless you’re taking Jon Morrow’s course, too. Tell me if you buy this book because I recommended it – because I found every chilling detail of the blogo-journalism story compelling.

About the Author

Trust me
Ryan Holiday Trust M, I’m Lying

“Ryan Holiday is a media strategist for notorious clients such as Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at nineteen to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He is currently the director of marketing at American Apparel, where his work is internationally known. His campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker, and Fast Company. Holiday has written four previous books, most recently The Obstacle Is the Way, which has been translated into seventeen languages and has a cult following among NFL coaches, world-class athletes, TV personalities, political leaders, and others around the world. He lives on a small ranch outside Austin, Texas,” or maybe in New Orleans. (from the Amazon biography)

Additional Books by Ryan Holiday

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