My website was created using Joomla!, which has a very blog-like user interface. I find it easy to update my site because Joomla! stores content in ways that make sense to me. Rather than creating individual pages that remain static and must be changed individually, Joomla! creates pages on the fly by pulling the blocks of information you tell it to. A block of information could be an article, a document for download, a menu, a photograph, etc.
The other great thing about Joomla! is that it is free. Richard did the set-up but, by and large, I keep it maintained. Since Joomla! is an open source program, there are a lot of add-ons available. This means we can choose from several types of photo galleries, search functions, etc.
I spent several hours yesterday and today updating my website. I didn’t do any major overhauls, but I added new pictures to the galleries, updated the information on my appearances page, and added some new teaching materials in the photography section. Please let me know what you think. Also, if there is content you’d like to see that’s missing, please let me know.
Richard took this close-up of an amaryllis. I love the detail.
I think I’ve got it: Lyre-leaved sage. I found it on pp. 56-57 of George H. Dukes, Jr.’s The Gardener’s Guide to Mississippi Wildflowers. Then I confirmed by surfing the web for more pictures and descriptions. The scientific name is Salvia lyrata. A common name is cancer weed. Salvia is from Latin salveo, meaning to save or heal.
Here is the photo we are considering for the book.
This flower has a funnel-shaped corolla with lobes. Corolla is a collective term for petals, which may be arranged in a regular or irregular way. When regular, all the same parts of a flower are alike in size or shape and may be cut along more than one line to obtain mirror images. When irregular, the flower is either totally asymmetrical or, if cut along only one axis, will reveal bilateral symmetry. So, it seems to me that this Lyre-leaved sage is an irregular funnel-shaped corolla with two lobes on the lower part.
This is a flower from a wild potato vine. Its corolla has five fused petals and there is purple at the center of the funnel. I love these delicate flowers. I see them on my daily walk. The vines grown wild near the bridge over our neighborhood creek.
Here is another view.
Does any one of these images say one to you?
As in one petal?
Here’s our gecko in its habitat. It’s a crafty little critter. We’ve found that it stays still for a few moments, but it moves with lightning speed when it decides to move. Richard took these. We watched its tongue moving in and out as it seemed to be lapping up water droplets, but by the time Richard had repositioned the camera, it was gone. We have a few blurry images of its head and its legs.
I love seeing its coloring up close. I also like its little toes. I’ve been dousing its habitat with spring water and I moved it off of the screened porch and onto the deck so it’d have access to flying insects. Since we took these, however, I haven’t caught a glimpse of it. One of the boys found a small toad and I added it to the habitat. We haven’t seen the toad either.
I spent much of the day locating, editing, and transferring photos, and doing more research on flowers and petals. I have a few more botanical words for you: spathe, spidex, bilabiate. I think we’ll be adding a note to our definition of petal or adding another note to the notes page. The title might be “when is a petal not a petal?”
My editor has a rough layout of Growing Patterns from the art department! He went through the book and came up with a handful of questions and/or comments. I was able to answer most of them easily. He wants to see a few more photographs.
We need another example of a one-petal flower, a different photograph of an amaryllis (from a slightly different angle) and, perhaps, a different example of a four-petal flower. As I was going back through the photographs in the “Fibonacci” category in Lightroom, I came across the above photograph. I think Richard took it. I’m glad I found it. It won’t serve our needs as a flower photograph, but the bug is really cool.
Does anyone know the name of this flower? It is a wildflower and it blooms in April (or was blooming in April 2008, anyway). I’ve scoured the two books I have on Mississippi wildflowers and have come up blank.
The questions at this point in a nonfiction book’s process get very tricky, I’ve found. Once editors and writers face having something printed (that means forever, right), we start getting really nervous about having everything right, right, right. Because I am trying to write about a complex subject in a clear way, I sometimes simplify to the point of making something wrong. This is what we’re trying to avoid.
Experts can be a big help in this regard — or they can muddy the water. Before starting this project, I had no idea how many different words there are for petals (corolla, ray flowers, disc flowers). What a layperson calls a petal may actually be another part of the flower that has taken on petal-like attributes such as color. You see what I mean? At this point, it is very easy to get lost in the trees … and miss the forest. But, we’re close.
Well, it finally arrived. The first day of school. They might say it arrived too soon, but not me. G was excited because he doesn’t have to wear a uniform anymore. N and D piled into Richard’s car and G and I settled in to wait for the bus. When it didn’t get here by 8, I drove him to school. The bus did show up, finally, so I feel good about him being able to catch it tomorrow.
After basking in the quietness, having a glass of iced roobios tea, and reading a 5,000-word article online without interruptions, I started in on some work. Marketing work. In addition to maintaining a website (and maybe a blog), authors need to manage their online presence in other ways, too. For example, about a week ago, I was checking around on Amazon.com and found that Amazon had set up an author’s page for me. There was no content on the page — just an anonymous silhouette in the place of a photo and no biographical material. In order to add content, I had to create a user name and password. I was able to upload my photo and my bio, but before it went live, Amazon had to check with my publisher to make sure I was who I said I was. I was notified today that I could proceed with updating the page.
I linked my blog to my Amazon author page and I was able to correct a problem Amazon has had with the Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator page since the book was published. They listed Richard’s name wrong (I won’t repeat the error here) and they had him listed as the illustrator. I fixed both problems. Besides having an Amazon author page, I have a page on Jacketflap, Facebook (this one is a personal page, but I am considering developing a professional page on FB), Authors Round the South, SCBWI/Southern Breeze, and I have content on teachingbooks.net.
Wolfsnail had been listed on Amazon.com for at least a year before I realized that I could create tags for my book. Tags are essentially search words that people might use when looking for a book. I added all the ones I thought were relevant to my book. I’m not web savvy enough to know how much of a difference this type of online refining makes, but I operate on the theory that every little bit helps. Does anyone else know some similar things authors can do online to make themselves easier for readers to find?
This is my first attempt to make wheat free cornbread. Three quarters of the sections were made with buttermilk; in one quarter I substituted rice milk plus some vinegar. I’m not sure why the non-dairy ones rose more, but it may have been as simple as they were filled more full. We ate the cornbread with red beans, rice, and smoked sausage. Yum! I have gone wheat free because I’ve been having some stomach problems and taking the wheat out of my diet seems to help. I haven’t done much baking yet — mostly I am just choosing other starches like rice, potatoes, quinoa. I substituted a gluten-free baking mix for the wheat flour. It worked well.
I had fun this morning reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator to the storytime crowd at the Jackson Zoo. I showed them my newest animal — the Mediterranean House Gecko. I also taught them the correct way to use a hand magnifying lens — a skill I learned at the Writing From Nature workshop, sponsored by the Highlights Foundation. (Read about my WFN experiences here and here.
G took the photographs. (He was babysitting so we brought along his two charges.) I always enjoy meeting new readers — especially those who share my interest in animals and plants. It was great to see my friend Jody there with her four children (some of whom I used to babysit). She was often the first person I celebrated with when I sold a story. One of her sons found a peacock feather so he used his turn with the magnifying lens to look at it up close.
My 14-year-old asked me earlier this summer: “Mom, why are you so obsessed with documenting everything?” I am not, I protested, obsessed … with … anything.
“Look at all the pictures you take. And, there’s your blog.”
I had to admit he had a point. Before I wrote the blog, I wrote monthly letters to my mother-in-law, great aunt, aunt, and sister-in-law. I take thousands of pictures a year — even more now that I have a digital camera. But, why am I so obsessed with documenting everything?
I read a blog post the other day by a friend from journalism school. She was writing about a painful experience; she recently spoke at a memorial service for her 37-year-old brother. “This is what I think I said,” is how she began the post. “I didn’t write anything down. All you writers out there know why – right – because if you write it down, it means it happened. I’m still waiting to wake up.”
I have that feeling a lot. If I don’t write it down or take a photograph, it didn’t happen. I spent time recently with friends who are in their 70s. They knew me from when I was born until I entered second grade. One of them asked me if I remembered my sister’s baptism in the friend’s backyard with a garden hose. “Yes,” I said immediately. But then I had to backtrack; after all, I was only three. What I may have been remembering is the photographs I have seen of the event.
The visual is so important for me. One of the reasons I like to blog is that I find it a very visual medium. I try to include a photograph with every post. I am drawn to blogs, magazines, books, etc. that include photographs, paintings, drawings, quilts, etc. I am drawn to color.
Writing isn’t color — though. So, why the writing? I think it is related to the love I have for color. In my writing, I am creating scenes. I like to record moments.
I also could answer the question by saying I come from a long line of documenters. I sat with my mother recently to teach her some Lightroom tricks. She had taken 227 photographs during an overnight stay with someone she and my dad knew in high school, but hadn’t seen for about 50 years. 227. Because of this, I have a wonderfully documented childhood.
The great-aunt I wrote to for years shared a letter with me that she wrote to her husband when he was away at war. Somewhere, we have a letter written by the father of the first of our Irish relatives to settle in America (we have this letter because one of my mother’s sisters did some digging and saving). My older sister has notebooks of clippings about her beloved Cincinnati Reds (the 70s team).
I guess I write because I don’t know any other way to live.
Update: A friend posted this photo today and I had to share it. Look at my mom taking a picture at the friend’s wedding of me, my sisters and our friend’s stepson. How about Mom’s crocheted dress (made by Dad)?
I will be at the Jackson Zoo on Tuesday, August 4, at 10 a.m. reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. The rain we’ve been having recently makes for perfect snail hunting weather. I spent time outside this morning helping my boys pick up sticks in our yard — and I saw bunches of garden snails, crickets, pill bugs, and, of course, mosquitoes. In addition to the book, I hope to have a few surprises. I hope you’ll come and see me.
Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature update: I am disappointed that the layout isn’t ready yet. I hope to see it next week. Keep your fingers crossed.