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Friday, April 25, 2014

Google+ 101: Why is Google+ Hangout so great? Vol. #5

Why is Google+ Hangout so great?

Last night, we were able to connect 7 members of our Author's Cave group from all over the world. The voices were clear, not cutting out, and the videos were smooth, not stopping and starting to refresh constantly. Skype - you know who you are! 

We were also able to share screen so everyone could watch a presentation together - it truly was like being in the same room. I mean seriously, you could pour some wine, grab some cheese and have happy hour with all of your friends, all around the world, without leaving your house or getting out of your pajamas.

...and it is FREE!

Okay, now I must admit that I have had some confusion result from my experiences with Hangout, but you know "operator error". Once you understand the process, it becomes very simple and a fantastic way to connect a group of people. I will do my best to make using Hangouts as easy as possible.

What is this Hangout thing and where do I find it? 

If you are in your Google+ account, you should see this Hangout box on the right, below your menu and profile selector. If you don't have a Google+ account - can only lead a horse to water.

If you click on the + New Hangout, it will open a list of previous hangouts, once you have some, and also have a box where you can type in a person's name. Once you select the person you want to "Hangout" with, this box will open up: 


This is where you choose whether you want to have a video call or if you just want to instant chat. If you want to call them on video, click the image of the video camera on the top left. It will call them as soon as you click that button. 

If the person has Google+ open, they will be notified of an incoming video call. They will have the option to join or decline. 

If you only have Gmail open, then you can initiate a video conference, call or chat in the Hangout box to the bottom left. Where the confusion seems to come, is if you have a lot of folders in your Gmail, it will force this Hangout box down off the screen. You can click on the black chat icon to open up the Hangout box at any time. Without Google+ open, when a call comes in, you may find yourself hunting all over to find how to answer until you get used it. I think it's easier just to have Google+ open all the time...of course!

Another cool thing you may want to do with all of your extra time - yeah right - is to check out the live "Hangouts on Air". Maybe there is something that interests you...maybe not. Even better, you can start a live hangout and easily invite people that are in your Google+ circles. If they really like you, or are bored, they can join in and hangout talk about their favorite movie, book or how they hate traffic. 

And, if you click Learn More and then click schedule, you can find out about super cool upcoming live hangouts like this one with Lena Headey who plays Sercei on Game of Thrones! April 28! Sorry you missed her. But check it out for future events!

Once you are in Hangouts with someone, you can do lots of things.

Notice the menu at the top of the screenshot. You will see the following six buttons when you click or hover over the top of the screen. They do disappear if you are not using them.

  • Click the 1st button to invite additional guests. 
  • Click the 2nd button to turn your mic on and off mute.
  • Click the 3rd button to turn your video on or off. It will post your profile photo is video is off.
  • Click the 4th button to control the volume. You can also control the volume for your computer separately.
  • Click the 5th button to adjust settings you probably don't need. Integrated webcam and default microphone type stuff.
  • Click the 6th button to hang up the call. 

Then, on the left side of the screen, you should see a menu box like this:

Lot's of fun stuff happens here.

  • The top blue chat button opens up a chat box for the group while the Hangout is going on, so you can video and chat at the same time.
  • The green share screen button allows you to share your screen during the call. 
  • The blue camera capture button allows you capture images from the Hangout if you want to post later.
  • The Google drive blue, yellow and green triangle allows you to share you Google drive on the screen during the Hangout and also open items that are files in the Google docs.
  • The tan magic wand Effects button is for the crazies like me. You can choose a disguise, hat, glasses all sorts of stuff.
  • The red Youtube button allows you to share your Youtube account on the screen. You can also build a playlist that can be accessible even after the Hangout has ended.
That's your Google+ lesson for today.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review Colony Earth

Flavored Reviews
by Ginger Gelsheimer

Colony Earth (The Alterran Series - Book 1)
by Regina M. Joseph

Click here to buy Colony Earth or to read additional reviews!


When extinction is possible, tribes will come together.

Brief synopsis: Lil is a captain and future destined leader of Alterran, who is stationed on Hawan, what was supposed to be a temporary Earth shelter. Lil came to Earth with a group of explorers and has been stranded, since their portal was incapacitated. Now, their food supply is approaching dangerously low levels and a massive comet is heading toward them. While out on a trial hunting trip, Lil and his crew stumble upon Alana and Maya, two women of the Earth. Lil opens an entire universe of problems, when he agrees to help them, going against the non-disturbance law.

Originality: What I love about this book is that the Earth Lil is living on is 10 to 11,000 years ago, based on the mastodons and cave people hunting them.  Some of these cave people are special, born from Atlantis, like Alana. I love the opposites interaction of the cave people, who dress in furs and hides with the conflict of the Alterrans, who can change their garment to be whatever they want it to be and even make it a protective shield.

Characters: I very much enjoyed the characters Alana and Maya and their friendship that carried me through the story. Through heart-wrenching tough times, they never give up. I found that I actually enjoyed the scenes where I was involved with Alana's side of things the most in the story and I felt most for her when things went wrong. A thought the relationship between Lil and Alana was well developed and clever and especially enjoyed the nervous courting. 

I did like Lil and his uncertainty, as he balanced what he thought was right and what was right-according to his people. It was cool to follow him through Hawan so I could see the structure of the compound, the imaginary waterfall and cool holograms. That said, I think the nature environment surrounding Alana drew me in more to her side of the story than the rigid compound of Hawan. I have to confess I am not a hard science fiction reader, so I do get a little lost when descriptions get lengthy to explain and somehow convince the  the reader of the possibility that things can actually happen. 

The one problem I did have with the book were too many secondary characters. With science fiction-fantasy like this, the names are already unusual and difficult to keep track of at first when you are getting to know them. There were so many introduced in the first chapter, I got lost for a bit, but definitely found my way into an amazing story. The author's descriptive and colorful visuals drew me into each and every scene.

Recommendation: Colony Earth goes well with a power bar-if you read, you'll understand why, oh and mead! This book is well polished and I highly recommend it for sci-fantasy and medium to hard science fiction readers.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Music does make the world go around... or at least gets me off me arse!

So, this one is short and sweet but I thought worth sharing if it helps anyone else out there.

As a full time writer, it's easy to stay in pajamas all day sipping coffee or wine, and I've definitely had my share of those days. They were fun days, don't get me wrong...


"Who the hell is that?"  I asked myself. A good fifteen pounds had become a parasite. With summer right around the corner, I have to do something quick.

I've worked out off and on over my 41 years, but the staying on never seems to happen-oh, except for the pounds. Right about the time I get 3 to 5 pounds from where I want to be, something else takes over, and six month or a year later, I get to start all over again. 

So, here I go AGAIN.

This time, I get up in the morning and I have my coffee-not giving that one up folks. BUT, then I turn on music, and I mean CRANK the music by 9:00 to 9:30 am. I can't help but

I have several pieces of work out equipment in a room facing my kitchen...convenient, I have to stare at it if I am grabbing some fat, high-calorie, delicious chocolate thing...anyway, now when a favorite song comes on, I jump on my equipment for that song. It's great, this way I don't feel like a slug, refusing my workout calling for the day, and I don't have to commit to a long period of time that I never seem to have. Some days, I pick a song and every time that song comes on, I have to get on the equipment for the duration. It's amazing how much they repeat top hits! It's like a drinking game, only healthy!

1 week, 2 days, 3 pounds down.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review Artifact

Flavored Reviews
by Ginger Gelsheimer

by KT Bowes

Click here to purchase Artifact or read additional reviews.

The universe always seems to make things work out...

4 stars!

Brief Synopsis: Lara is an archivist and kicks off the book as a naughty girl - a thief. She managed to steal two precious items from her beloved boss, Hone. It's okay, he died. She flies to her aunt's in Market Harborough to house sit and start a fresh life. She has virtually no family or friends, other than Aunt Catharine, who leaves as soon as she gets there. She spends the next couple of months making friends with the neighbors - a friendly teacher named Kerry and an odd cat named Arama, who she discovers is much closer to her than she could have imagined.

The story unfolds and poor Lara is miserable being forced to teach young children art class and trying to avoid the grouchy Arama, who declared her an alcoholic before he even introduced himself. She's about to leave when things start to improve. She gets a job at a local museum assisting with a restoration project that dates back to Bloody Mary, King Henry VIII's daughter...oh and of course, Arama become not so awful.

I have to be honest, contemporary fiction isn't my normal genre of choice, I am much more an action packed kind of reader. There were places that moved a little slow for me, but to be fair, this genre always does. I do read it though because I enjoy the character depth that is often not fully developed in the action-adventure reads. There were a couple things I thought were being foreshadowed that never surfaced. I don't want to give any spoilers so  not going to elude to what they are.

Characters: The characters were well developed with complex histories which we discover as the story unfolds. Their dialogue was fun and the author does a great job of sprinkling humor throughout the story. She made me feel sorry for both Lara and Arama because of their situations growing up, but also allowed me to laugh with them running the gamut of emotions as a contemporary fiction should.

Recommendation: This story goes well with hot Earl Grey tea and a rainy day due to the setting in England. The author did a great job with her description of Market Barborough, enabling the reader to transport with Lara. It was well polished with virtually no mistakes. I would recommend Artifact to readers who love contemporary fiction and romance genres with a twist.


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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Google+ 101: How do I build a page? Vol. #4

So, many of you are still FB loyalists and that's okay. The world won't pass you by yet, but the engines are warming up.

To help make your inevitable transition over to Google+, today I will teach you how to create a page, which is similar to a page in FB, except better.

Why is it better, you ask?

There are several reasons:
  • Follow versus like - It sounds the same, but in FB you can only like. When you "like", you will see the comments from that page, or will you? As we know, FB is controlling what people see, and if you are trying to get organic (non-paid) visibility, forget it. I think the last time I saw the stats, maybe 2-3%  of the people that have liked your page will actually see your posts. With Google+, when you discover a page you are interested in, you can choose to follow, or even better, you can put that page in a specific category (ie. readers, bloggers, people that like aliens, funny people when I need a laugh) -it's up to you because you can create specific circles to categorize people and places.
  • Control over who sees what posts - As I touched on above, you can categorize people into various circles. If I want to post from my page to bloggers, I can select that group and they are the only ones that will see that particular post. This allows me to duplicate the same post to various communities without making my page look like a repetitive billboard. 
  • No ad clutter - This is probably one of my favorite reasons. Refreshingly missing, is the ad clutter when viewers come to your page. There are no accidental clicks taking them away from your page because the click boundary of the ads, is actually larger than the box you see. I am constantly opening stuff by accident that I didn't click on. Google is also not trying to sell their "boost your post" advertising.
  • Enhanced SEO through Google search - If you have a Google page, you are now in the Google system. Your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will be enhanced within Google search. As I mentioned above, FB buries you if you aren't paying them for "boosting". Google, on the other hand, shines a light on you. For example, if I type "hybrid" into the Google search bar, posts that have been made on Google plus about our book Quest of the Hybrid will show up in the search results. I could conceivably discover more readers if they are searching for hybrid (for cars for example) because my book cover also shows in the search result. I'm not saying I'm going to become a best seller that way, but everything helps. Oh, and nothing shows up from my FB page for Quest of the Hybrid in the same search.
  • Google Analytics - Now, this is where it gets really exciting! If you have a Google+ page and you also have your own website domain, you can connect them and initiate Google Analytics (GA) on the dashboard of your Google+ page. GA will allow you to track more information on your website than you will ever want to know. The obvious stuff like who is visiting, where they are from, what device they use, how long they stay, etc. You can also create tracking that will allow you to monitor how successful a marketing campaign you have run is. Let's say you have a coupon out for your product, GA can track how many visitors came from that coupon ad and what sites generated the visits and if they made a purchase. You can build customized reports that also interface with the Add-on in the Google Sheets and Docs. We will go into GA much later in this series because I don't want to completely blow your mind yet. That said, there are free training classes offered by Google for those of you that want to dive deep into the trenches. See below for a sample-this is just the visitor overview. It does a "google" other things. Remember, as a kid, what is the largest number? - a google.

Okay, you sold do I create a page in Google+?

Now, to get started, open up the Google+ menu bar on the left. It looks like this.

1. Click on "pages". 

2. Click on "Get Your Page" and this screen will open up.

3. Select the appropriate business type for your page. Once you do that, another screen will open and ask you to select a name for your page and also add an external website if you have one. Click next and a screen similar to this will appear.

4. Click "edit page". It will open to the "About" section like this (there is a banner at the the top, but wanted to show you the main boxes). Click "edit" in each section to start building your page details. 



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Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review No Heaven

Flavored Reviews
by Ginger Gelsheimer

No Heaven
by Lex Allen

Click here to purchase No Heaven or read additional reviews

What in the world would people do if Jesus really did come back?

4.5 stars

Brief synopsis: Jesus has come back to Earth and has a mission to stop a religious nuclear war. He wants people to understand that all the religions are based on untruths about who he really is and if he is the true Son of God. In order to carry out his mission, he must rely on a few of his ancient friends who have been reincarnated in present day.

As one may expect, when Jesus tries to communicate who he really is, he is met with certain disbelief. It doesn’t matter that he can speak a language that everyone can understand, heal the sick and bring back the near dead.

As a writer of conspiracy theory, I love to read other authors who delve into the unknown and push the imagination far outside the box. Lex Allen did a fantastic job creating the believable and hostile environment Jesus most likely would find himself in if he came back to Earth.

Originality: I thought No Heaven was originally and clever, giving Jesus a new story, but one that could have happened and one that would be believable to many, especially those that believe we are not alone in the universe.

Characters: Jesus was well-developed and I enjoyed his persona. Though he is “special”, he is realistic and down to Earth (no pun intended, well maybe). He laughs at jokes, he is caring and considerate, but he can also be a badass if he doesn’t get what he wants. I enjoyed the main characters Beth and Jack, each on a different side of the fence about who this long-haired hippy really was. Both already non-believers but when Jesus starts performing impossible tricks, they must come to their own realization. Then there is poor Kate-hopefully she makes it out okay.

There were several “B” characters and plot lines that came into play because obviously when Jesus comes down, everyone has something at stake, rather you are highly religious or not. The ramifications of the end of the Church as people know it would turn the Earth upside down on its heels. Some things were left open-ended, but I am guessing they will come back in the sequel, No Hell.

I also thought Mr. Allen did a great job with the dialogue. It was realistic, catchy and clever.

Recommendation: This book goes well with red wine and hot bread for obvious reasons. I would highly recommend this series anyone who enjoys suspense and conspiracy.


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