The Website Changes Begin!

Mylar balloons for Barbara Custer, horror author

“Oh, Barbara!” purred a voice coming from a Mylar balloon tree. “Barbara!”

I looked up from the submission I was reading. “Yes?”

“You’re contracting several books and making promotion plans,” my Mylar balloon said. “Isn’t it high time you cleaned up your website?”

Aw, geez, why did they have to bring that up? “I will, eventually.”

“How about now?” the balloons asked. “How are you going to sell new books with the same, tired images?” Then they smiled as if offering a reprieve. “You don’t need a new theme. The one you’ve got gives you plenty of options to make your website look spiffy.”

I started with the header. I like to use rotating headers, and coming up with three headers I could live with took two afternoons. I thought I might need to redo them after I decided on a background, but this hasn’t been the case. Thankfully.

I started looking at backgrounds when my balloons piped up with. “How about getting rid of those advertisements? They’re an eyesore.”

These were WordPress ads – I agreed to run the ads with the understanding that if anything sold, I’d get a percentage. Trouble was, most of the items had nothing to do with my business. The folks at WordPress (I have a self-hosted site, but it works in tandem with my WordPress account) were glad to help, and the ads are gone.

I started looking over new themes again, and was about to download when the balloons got my attention. “Don’t you dare monkey with your theme,” they warned me. “If you do, you’ll make a lot more work and spend money that you don’t have. You’ve got a perfectly good theme that will enable you to change the font and the background. While you’re at it, look at your menus, too.”

My first attempt at changing the font didn’t go, so I installed a Google font plugin. For the menu, I merely had Night to Dawn Magazine & Books, LLC. If people clicked on it, they would get a dropdown menu of all the authors and their books. I rearranged the menus so that the authors have their own link in plan view and a dropdown for their books. One author had no link, but it’s fixed now. I got to wonder how people managed to find stuff on my website. What’s more, it would be helpful for each author and book to have a description to tempt viewers. So … I have more work to do in this area. Not sure if I like the white letters in gray … I’m saving that one for after I see how the new background works.

My takeaways? It pays to review your website every so often to make sure the links, images, and other items work. The balloons had it right about not changing themes. Each new theme presents a learning curve, along with all the work I needed to do on the menu. Later on, when certain issues have settled, I can look at getting a premium theme. Before changing themes, I would ask, what will the new theme give that you don’t have now? And I would back up the website before making the changeover, and consider putting into maintenance mode. And if you don’t know CSS skills, thankfully, WordPress has plugins that can help; but before using them, make sure they’re compatible with your version of WordPress. Do you use WordPress software? How do you approach website management? I’d love to hear about your experiences. 😊

Self-hosted Site to WordPress.com?

Barbara Custer included lots of zombies in When Blood Reigns.Too often, I read about people buying balloons, dogs biting people, and people migrating from WordPress, BlogSpot, etc. to a self-hosted website. So this year, I’m writing about balloons that chase humans, people who bite dogs, and what it’s like to move from self-hosted to WordPress.

Three years ago I was in a big hurry to go self-hosted, so you must wonder why I’m contemplating going back. In a word, cost. This past summer I racked up steep charges – not just for hosting and SEO, but virus protection, file backup, spam filter, and SQL certificate. I crunched numbers and got the cost at $600 a year. You can get a similar website, same capability using WordPress.com’s business option for $360 a year. I believe that includes a premium website. WordPress does the back-end work for you and they offer options now that were previous available to self-hosted sites.

You can do a heck of a lot of promotion for $240 a year. Now if you have a lot of tech savvy, you can do self-hosted for $300 / year or even less. I grew up with a B&W TV and radio, so anything techy has a steep learning curve. It comes down to knowing where your strength and weaknesses lie. Frankly, I’d rather spend that time writing my next book or running from balloons. Dat’s wight, wabbits, the balloons chase me when I go to the supermarket for food shopping. And they always catch me. 🙂

WordPress leaves you on your own for the most part with the migration process but they provide a step-by-step way to do this. It seemed easy until I realize I had more blogs than I had balloons. So one question loomed: do I upgrade first or do I migrate first? They also talked about domain mapping. To my consideration, a map is what I download from GPS when I’m traveling. I put that down as a question to ask.

I had planned to do this on my vacation, but I chickened out. Then the opportunity to run this promo came about, so I felt the time wasn’t right to make the switch. I’m keeping an option mind in case the option for a cheaper version of wordpress.org comes about.

Oh, by the way, when I mention people who bite the dog, I’m referring to the zombies in When Blood Reigns and Steel Rose. Basically, they’re people whose brains were altered by a chemical which renegade aliens, the Kryszka, concocted. So these folks will bite anything that moves, including dogs and other people.

Has any of you ever from a self-hosted website to WordPress or BlogSpot? What made you migrate, and are you glad you did it? What made you decide to continue with self-hosted? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Commenters are eligible to win a copy of When Blood Reigns.

Clutter in my Home, Website, and Writing

I’ve started a campaign to clean out the clutter in my house. Today I mopped floors, changed kitchen curtains, and filed away the atomic piles in my office. In case you’re wondering what “atomic piles” means, I’m referring to the growing piles of folders and NTD material on the floor surrounding my office chair. I’m ditching some of the empty boxes I’ve got as well. You’d be surprised how fast they accumulate if you shop online. I began the job with a balloon acquisition, of course. I never undertake a difficult task without fortifying myself with a balloon.

I’ve attacked my website, about 3 pages/posts a day. Why the website? Well, gremlins crawled into some of the pages, interjecting weird-looking symbols when I upgraded the WordPress software. Also, I had a learning experience about WordPress.org. When you upload photos to the Media Library to use on your pages, you’ve got to keep them forever. If you delete them, as I found out, the respective images will disappear off your pages and posts. That’s what I did, thinking I could conserve memory. Some of the people I interviewed changed publishers, so the images I have are obsolete. Also WordPress provides a thing called SEO, but you gotta type in your key words, summary and title with every blog post and page you do. So I’ll ‘fess up. I’d gotten lazy about doing that, so now I’m playing catch-up SEO installations.

Finally, my writing. While the floors dry and my website digests the changes I’ve made, I spent the next few hours going through When Blood Reigns, the sequel to Steel Rose. I found a lot of padding where words are concerned, so I’m tightening up the story. I’ve caught little inconsistencies which I’m fixing now. I’m missing an entire scene around Chapter 26, so I typed in “Chapter 26” and left a note, “insert a scene with Laurel and Woehar plotting here.” Yep, you’ve got it. Both women are up to no good, and our heroine Alexis is about to get the short end of the stick. I’ve stuck other notes in red here and there, to be addressed after I’ve gone through the whole story. I dread facing the ending; I struggled with it the first draft out. Steel Rose was meant to be a two-part serial, which means Needing A Satisfying Ending. Endings are tough. Coming up with a workable ending for “One Last Favor” (City of Brotherly Death) was a nightmare.

Okay, I’ll have some whine with my cheese, preferably Provolone because I love Italian cheeses. A purebred Italian, Alexis loves Provolone and homemade pastas. Alas, out in Zombie Land, shops that specialize in ethnic food don’t exist. She counts herself lucky to get canned spaghetti.

But here I digress. I’m focusing on cleaning up the clutter, the extraneous sentences and information dumps in my story, and facing the ending when it comes. Do you find yourself struggling with clutter in your WIP? I’d love to hear how you handle the revision process.

Steel Rose features zombie fiction by Barbara Custer.

 

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