Some things to keep in mind about using WordPress for your author site

After reading another post in a forum where someone has had a WordPress site hacked, I felt compelled to write this post.

Lots of authors let others set up websites for them and have no clue how they work, and the designer/developer decides to use WordPress to build the site because WordPress makes it easy for inexperienced website owners (authors) to post content and it’s free software.

But WordPress is not that easy to run for an inexperienced user, nor is it a set-it and forget-it solution, and that’s often totally forgotten.

I have a lot of WordPress-based websites and there are some key factors to keeping them safe you need to understand before you let anyone set up a site for you using WordPress.

  1. You’ve got to keep the thing updated. If the person setting up the site isn’t going to be doing that for you, you have to learn how to do this. It’s super important. If you don’t, you’re going to get hacked. Just no way around that.
  2. You need to be able to make backups of the WordPress site and media files on the server and the database that your WordPress site stores your content in. If the person maintaining your site doesn’t do this, you need to do it. Just like with your books, you need backups. Things can happen to databases and files can get corrupted or changed and need to be replaced. You need to be able to make these backups.
  3. You have to stay away from old plug-ins, or any plug-in that isn’t well-maintained. The best bet is to always only use plug-ins you absolutely need and make sure they have a reputation for being safe. There are plug-ins out there that are just back doors for hackers. You have to be careful with plug-ins.
  4. Highly customized and complicated themes are not good choices when the site is being run by an inexperienced WordPress user. WordPress code changes, security flaws get exploited, and depending on a designer/dev for updates and fixes can get really expensive. It’s safest to stick with customized child themes based on common, well-maintained themes, such as the core themes that come with WordPress.
  5. Using the default “admin” username is a big no-no and yet lots of designers/devs still set WordPress up with “admin” as the main user. Don’t let them!
  6. You’ll need to use a long (and I mean really long) password for your username. Brute force attacks are an issue with WordPress so you need a long password.

I’m sure there are even more things to keep in mind if you’re letting someone set up a WordPress site for you, but these are the biggies that come to mind.

If you’re not comfortable with web stuff, using WordPress is not going to be a safe option for your website unless you have a designer/developer you can rely on and you’re not afraid to spend some money making sure things stay updated and safe.

WordPress is great. I love it. But I also know my way around a database, can do some light php coding, and have been building and running websites since 2001. There are definitely costs associated with WordPress-based websites, including real money and time. It’s a trade off. You learn to do a lot of things yourself and save the money, or you save the time and pay.

Anyway, if you ended up here because you’re thinking about letting someone set up a WordPress site for you, I hope this helps you make your decision with your eyes open.

:-)

The new Gmail interface makes me miss Yahoo

I don’t know who it is that Google’s designing for, but the new Gmail (and Contacts) site as viewed on my computer screen reminds me of a large print book. For babies. Maybe that’s who they’re designing for! I don’t know. But the colors are blindingly bright and the white space is so excessive that it makes me miss Yahoo (which I pretty much hated).

First it was Google+, then Calendar, and now Gmail. I’m seriously ready to abandon them all. Actually, I did abandon Google+. I also avoid visiting the Google Calendar website unless I have to now, after using it for my homepage for years. Trust me when I say it is not my homepage any longer. I stick with my phone’s Google Calendar app, because at least they did that right.

Anyway, I’m just venting. I’m so frustrated by all the design trends that are ruining website usability for actual computer users. I realize mobile is huge these days (I myself spend a lot of time online on my various devices!), but there’s just no need for designers to ruin the screen versions of websites to make a mobile site work well.

Sigh.

Trouble with a space bar

As someone with shortish fingers, I happen to enjoy typing on my laptop’s keyboard. Unfortunately, that’s not an option right now, because my space bar started sticking a few days ago. Popping the bar off and cleaning it didn’t help, so now I’m waiting on a replacement keyboard.

That’ll be fun. I’ve never replaced a laptop keyboard before. To be blunt, the videos I’ve seen for this model make it look like a PITA. There are rivets to be removed.

While I was shopping, I picked up a few other laptop parts to fix a few nagging issues that have developed this year since the parts weren’t expensive: the keyboard, of course; a front plate to replace the one I let get sticky because I wiped the rubbery surface with alcohol, not realizing I definitely shouldn’t do that; and a new fan, because the current one rattles every so often for no obvious reason.

The problem I’ve run into is that computers aren’t improving at the same rate as they used to, and I bought what I thought was a good computer at the time in 2012, and well, it must have been very good, because I can’t buy a better computer than the one I have for anything like the very reasonable $700ish I paid for this one in 2012.

If the parts work out, that’ll be $57 for a nice little refurbish job on a computer that I’m still happy with and that probably has a couple of good years left in it. And I won’t be forced into Windows 10 or have to finally commit to moving everything to Linux.

It would have been nice if the keyboard had lasted longer, but six years of daily use? Probably not a bad deal.

A theme change

I’m a little bored with the Twenty Seventeen theme I’ve been using here on the site, so today I started messing around with themes, figured out how to change the font to PT Sans, tried it out on several of the themes I have installed, deleted a bunch of them after realizing I was never going to use them again, and finally settled on changing my theme to Twenty Fifteen, a theme especially suited to a blog like mine (heavy on text, uses tables sometimes, and is pretty much just a blog).

Twenty Seventeen has a terrible layout for tables, puts the numbers and bullets for lists outside the margins of the paragraphs, and has a so-so default font (Libre Franklin). (I know, I know! It’s not that different from PT Sans—but it is!)

I also didn’t like that you can’t see tags or categories for posts on the home page. You had to click through to the post. That’s just an extra click that’s not needed for diary style posts.

I need to update my favicon. It’s been ages since I made the one I’m using now, and it matches the color and font styles of the old Twenty Thirteen theme, which was awful and I’m not sure why I even used it for a while. :D

Since I need to start another writing session, I’m going to stop this ramble right there. I have a scene to gut and words to write. :-)

Recommendation! Don’t use Wix for your author website

I wanted to save a few articles from an author’s website to read later, so I sent the links to Pocket using the right-click context menu. It’s something I do regularly when I want to follow links but don’t actually want to do it right then for whatever reason. (Because I should be writing!)

So I went to do some reading in Pocket later on my phone and here’s what I found:

See that “books”? Those are supposed to be posts/pages on that site, specific pages that I wanted to read. “Books” is the site homepage, and if you chop it off books like lots of people do (myself included) to get to the main author site, you don’t get a page at all. You get a 404 error. Now that could be the author’s problem, maybe they set up the site wrong, but the thing I’m concerned about, for every person out there who might be using Wix as a website, is the fact that individual pages are not viewable in things like Pocket.

From the pages I’d saved:

Every page I had saved was just like this. Blank.

I’m blaming Wix for this because Wix supplies the templates. Isn’t that the whole point of Wix, to make it easy for people who don’t know how to make a website or just don’t want to fool with the details?

Now I have to go try to remember what pages I wanted to read and find them again. Or if it’s even worth the trouble.

My suggestion to anyone considering Wix for anything as important as an author website is to skip it. Wix does not function the way it should.

Fiction Writers’ Social revisited

I’ve updated my Fiction Writers’ Social Google+ private community.*

It’s a community for fiction writers. To be exact: A conflict-free zone of friendly chit-chat and interaction, before, during, and after the day’s writing is done. Here’s to a fun, lively place to share news, chit-chat with fellow authors about life in general, and talk shop. All members should be respectful of others, tolerant of different mindsets, and friendly.

If you’re interested in joining, leave a comment on this post or get in contact with me. I’ll send you an invite.

Keep in mind that you need to be friendly and at least mildly active in the community to get anything out of it. This is a social group so any kind of active self-promotion is a no-no.

It’s also a new community, so yeah, I’m the only current member as of this writing. :D

*By updated I mean I retired the old community which never really got off the ground (the members weren’t very active) and which was linked to my personal identity. I started a new community of the same name that’s associated with Lynn and Perpetualized.

1,063 words and time ended 7:13 pm

Today was better than yesterday and that’s good enough for me!

DAILY ACCOUNTABILITY

Session 1 : 234 words
Session 2 : 92 words
Session 3 : 174 words
Session 4 : 244 words
Session 5 : 46 words
Session 6 : 177 words
Session 7 : 7 words
Session 8 : 80 words
Session 9 : 8 words
Session 10 : 149 words
Session 11 : -320 words
Session 12 : 172 words

For 1,063 total words.

As with yesterday, all sessions were 20 minutes.

I’m not surprised it’s taking a while to relearn how to focus on writing. Focus in quantity has always been difficult for me. I do seem to have episodes of hyperfocus, but to be honest, they almost always accompany things like reorganizing my file system or troubleshooting a problem I want fixed right now.

One thing I have noticed: It’s funny how often I don’t notice my bladder problems until I sit down to write and end up with my sessions constantly interrupted.

11:23 pm and too few words again today

I’ve managed only 2 of my 12 sessions today (20 minutes each). Part of the blame goes to my panic at realizing I had ruined the opening of my book by overworking it. I had to pull up backup copy 9 to get the old opening back. I’m currently at backup copy 20, and backup copy 9 was made on 6/11 (today is 6/24).

This all came to my attention last night when I sent my document to my Fire and read through what I’d written. My first thought was uh oh. So I pulled up the old version that I just happened to have sent to my Fire a while back and read the opening of it.

The old version was much better than the new. Miles better. Leagues better.

I was not happy to realize this.

I got up this morning knowing I’d have to fix it.  I’ve obsessed over things I didn’t need to obsess over today in an effort to avoid thinking about this.

I did a “compare documents” in Word to see just how bad it was. It was bad. More red than black, and ouch, I didn’t really need to see that.

It’s 11:59 pm and I should really go to bed, but I think I’m going to try to do a few more sessions so I don’t have this hanging over my head tomorrow. Then again… it’s late and I just want to put this day behind me, so maybe I won’t.

As for tomorrow, I think I’m going to forbid the internet until I’ve done at least half my minimum sessions. That’s only 6 and at 20 minutes each, comes to only 2 hours. I can surely hold out that long!

Now, time to get out of my own way and write this damn book without agonizing over every word. :D

DAILY ACCOUNTABILITY

Session 1 (20 min): -25 words (meaning I deleted more than I wrote)
Session 2 (20 min): 8 words

Poor little kitty

A stray, starving cat showed up in my back yard yesterday.

She looks much better than she feels, because what she feels like is a half-pound bag of bones. (If she’s even a half-pound. I’ve had blocks of cheese that feel heavier than her.)

Anyway, I fed her, a little, and then a little more, and a little more. I was most worried that she would make herself sick eating too much too fast, and I was right. Mostly I succeeded, but she did get a tiny bit sick by the time evening came. Today she’s doing well, and I think she’ll probably hang around a while. She’s a friendly little cat. As long as she stays, I’ll feed her. But indoor animals are not for me, so she’s definitely staying outside. I’ve put a bed out for her and a box on its side up on my deck where she’ll be safest from the predators lurking in the woods. She seems to like it. :)

I’ll add a picture later.

I hope she improves–I’d love to see her fatten up a bit. I can feel what feels like every bone in her little body when I pet her.

On vacation!

Not that I’ve gone anywhere, but today I decided what I was going to call this unexpected break of mine—something without negative connotations, a name that’ll help me fight off the guilt I don’t need to feel for taking some time for myself without stressing over what I “should” be doing.

What I decided was that I was on vacation. :) I don’t take vacations often enough as it is, so instead of feeling guilty about not feeling like writing, I’m counting this time as vacation time.

Now, back to Midsomer Murders and the “Days of Misrule.” ;) As an introverted homebody, this is the best kind of vacation.

New theme, new theme!

Can you tell I’m excited? I’m so happy to have a new theme for the site. It’s the basic Twenty Seventeen theme, but I really like it. I mean, it’s my favorite of the default WordPress themes to date.

I tried my picture in the header, but it was just too big. I can’t get past the desire to have text above the fold. For some reason, landing on a page that’s just an image really throws me, and I just don’t like it. So no header image, still.

On the other hand, the Visual editor window is so much nicer! I hated Merriweather (the font from Twenty Sixteen). I mean, it was nice to read, but it took up way too much space in the back end when I was trying to compose a post. I’d defaulted to doing all my composing in the Text editor. Now I can use the Visual editor more often again. I love that.

Now, off to put this theme on numerous other websites, because I like it just that much. :D

(Oh my goodness. I just realized I’ve spent 7 hours on this stuff, including a few blogs posts on one of the sites where I updated the theme. It’s 11:25 PM. So there went my plans for more than a few words of writing tonight. I’d better get to it if I don’t want to ruin my streaks.)

WordPress 4.7 has a bug in the editor window

The WordPress 4.7 update went well, but writing a post just became more difficult, because—bug. Possibly several bugs.

The window jitters and moves when trying to delete a space and just generally doesn’t react well to scrolling and other stuff at random times.

The table issue I complained about previously is still there. I can’t delete most tables in the visual editor. Instead, I have to go the text editor window to delete them.

But the jittery window is new, as is the fact that I was trying to delete an empty line while in the visual editor and it kept not deleting and the editor window and right side menu just kept jumping up and down. I had to go to the text editor to delete the blank line and the text editor said all that was there was a non-breaking space.

I’ve turned off the “Enable full-height editor and distraction-free functionality” and things feel a little more stable, but the fact is, the WordPress 4.7 editor has problems.

:D

Word count post for Nov. 19–21, 2016

Nov. 19: 218
Nov. 20: 393
Nov. 21: 3,325

Daily average since 9/19 (as of Nov. 21): 1,032 words

Yesterday was good. I also reached 6 hours of writing time.

Today has not been good. I haven’t even reached 0 minutes of writing time. I have time to recover, although probably not to reach yesterday’s successful word count, so I’m going to give it a shot. Either that, or fall asleep on the couch. Haven’t decided yet. :o

(PS. I am sick. I have definitely caught a cold from one of my kids and I have the stuffy nose and sore throat to prove it. Maybe I’ll just blame today’s lack of progress on that.)

Another WordPress bug to bug me: I can no longer delete tables in the visual editor

And today I discovered that no matter what I do, I can no longer delete tables in the visual editor of WordPress. This matters because tables that look quite small and should be able to be deleted with a simple highlight and delete are often a pain in the butt to delete in the text editor because the code for tables can be quite long on the page.

I certainly hope this one doesn’t hang around a long time. I absolutely hate having to switch to the text editor every time I need to delete a table. I paste tables into WordPress a lot and I’m grateful that at least I got that functionality back after it disappeared in one the previous WordPress updates. But still…

It’s not the end of the world, by far, but it’s definitely not my favorite thing. :(

Day 2 of the new schedule

Scheduled 9:00-10:30 1:00-2:30 7:30-9:00 Words
Day 1 10:15-11:57 4:29-5:22 .75 hrs  771
Day 2 none  none  none  0

All sessions are 1.5 hours of writing time regardless of length unless I say otherwise.

Day 2

As you can see, I’ve written nothing today. I wasn’t sick, despite being sick yesterday. I just didn’t get started. Instead, I spent lots of time with my daughter and the stray puppy my daughter recently adopted. My daughter left this evening for a week, and the puppy isn’t feeling great after having been spayed yesterday, and I guess I’ll just have to try extra hard to make tomorrow a really good writing day.

Puppy is cute though, huh?

Puppy

Turns out she’s about 6 months old. She’s a very sweet puppy. I wish I liked animals more, but I really don’t. Luckily, my daughter does, so the puppy has someone to play with her.

The puppy makes me pet her every time I go to the door, and she licks my toes. It’s yucky, but I put up with it because I can’t stand the thought of being mean to her. :o

The vet says she’s a mix of a mix, possibly with some Labrador and German Shepherd in her. Whatever she is, she listens better than most, and she’s one of the friendliest dogs I’ve known.

When she arrived, she was clean and well-behaved and looked like she’d been eating well. I also had one of the weirdest incidents I’ve ever had here a night or two after she showed up, and it has me convinced that the puppy showing up on my doorstep wasn’t by chance.

Someone dumped that poor little dog in my yard on purpose.

At about 8:30 the night after she arrived, the neighbor across the street called to let me know someone had stopped in my driveway and then left quickly. Thinking it was strange, and that maybe they’d been messing with my mailbox, I took a flashlight and walked down the drive.

There, right in the middle of my driveway, someone had left an aluminum pie plate piled high with dog food and another full of water.

Someone obviously wanted to make sure the puppy thought my home was her new home.

Like I said, weird. Who the hell stops in someone else’s driveway and leaves food and water for a dog?

Also, what an asshole thing to do. I really didn’t need or want a pet, but I couldn’t very well let the puppy starve. I tried to find her a home, but I couldn’t find anyone interested, and by then, my daughter had really taken to her.

So now we have another dog. Blackie’s getting old so he wasn’t that thrilled to find himself sharing attention, but he’s adapting. I’m not sure I am. I don’t want to care about another dog, but it’s hard to stay hard hearted when they look at you like they do.

I miss Evernote, but I miss it less after installing Pocket

I’m pretty happy with my switch from Evernote to OneNote in most respects, except one. I used Evernote as my to-read list and regularly clipped articles I wanted to read later to a “To Read” notebook. If I liked the article I moved it to my Clipped notebook, where I kept random articles and clippings from the web to revisit later if I wanted.

I don’t organize these articles, because it’s not some massive amorphous list of things I’d like to read someday/maybe. These are articles I absolutely want to read as soon as I have time and I get through them quickly. No one article usually sticks around longer than a week, and if I keep passing it over, I usually just delete it.

I still have those notebooks in OneNote, but OneNote doesn’t quite work like Evernote did and I find it more difficult to read articles I’ve saved.

Pocket has become the solution to that problem—an excellent solution, in fact, because it’s compatible with every device I own and I can read on any of them, much the way I was able to read my Evernote notes on any device, even my 5 year old Droid X.

Although OneNote is compatible with almost all my devices, it won’t run on the old Droid (which I still use as a reading device) or my second generation Kindle Fire. Believe it or not, these are my two favorite reading devices and I choose them over my newer options almost every time, unless I need OneNote. Now I can read on my preferred devices, despite their age.

If I want to save an article, I can visit the original article from Pocket and clip it to OneNote. (I tried it and it works just that easy.) This seems like it’d be extra trouble compared to just moving a clipped article from one notebook to another, but this really isn’t a big deal for me, because I don’t save that many articles. Mostly I read and delete.

And if in the future Pocket goes the way of Evernote and starts limiting device usage, I’ll just go back to reading on OneNote.

Some days, I still miss Evernote. I used it for years and was quite happy with it, so it’s only natural. But now I don’t miss it quite so much. :)

I need a plan for tomorrow

I feel so completely out of sorts because I haven’t been writing. I don’t feel like I’m going to get out of this funk without a plan of some kind. My mind is so far from my stories that it feels impossible to move forward.

I asked my son what kind of plan I should make and he said: “Work. Your plan needs to be to work.”

I think he might be right. :o