Holy Crap! I wrote a book? Not only an exercise in creativity, it’s a process.

January 21st, 2014 Stephen Smith Posted in Creativity, Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

A guest post from Emily Gatrell:

I recently published my first book (Holy Crap!) On launch day my husband, Jon, took me out for brunch and Bloody Mary’s to celebrate. I couldn’t help but hit re-fresh on Facebook continuously and started receiving private messages, many asking the same question or some version of: “I didn’t know you were writing a book, how did that happen?!?!?”

So, how did I write a book?

A lot of folks have said ‘I’m going to write a book one day!’ in a moment of optimism; but, then never do. I did a long time ago, but for a myriad of reasons, I haven’t written since college. Every time I gave some serious thought to begin writing again, time, family, fear, negativity and many other reasons had thwarted my efforts.

My first action (I made sub-conscientiously) to become a person that wrote a book (I’m not ready to label myself an author yet,) was I switched my content consumption from video to the written word (I turned off the television.) I didn’t do it consciously, it just happened. One day I was watching mind-numbing TV all the time and the next I was an avid reader. I was reading 3-5 books a week and after a couple months, I started thinking about writing again; but, still held back.

Then the oddest thing happened one night—a story started to play out in my head.

I let the mental movie play for several days, gnawing and challenging my negativity and fear. Then it happened, I pulled out my tablet and starting writing in the notes application

ATTENTION: New writers please don’t do that, it is a reformatting nightmare!

The only difference between people who write and people who don’t is just that. You just have to start and keep going. In the middle of the story I was still afraid. What if people don’t like it? Am I wasting my time? Is this good practice or is there something here? I mustered the courage and shared the first couple of chapters with Jon. He really liked them and asked for the next chapter as soon as he was done. When he came upstairs and said, “What do you mean she has a crystal?” I wasn’t so afraid anymore. I didn’t stop until it was done.

So once you decided to write, you need to decide who you are going to share it with first. The first read of the book is an important milestone in the project. If you have a thoughtful first reader and kind enough to really probe and ask questions, then you are one your way to writing a book.

The Production

After the first read and seventy thousand plus words written, now what? I used my preferences in books as a guideline. What things do I not like in a book?

Most of the things I don’t like in eBooks are under developed characters, poor grammar, crappy word choice, and typos, so we decided to start with a Development Editor. A development editor helps refine mechanics of the story, challenges content, and mentors an author through the process.

Development editors can be a big choice for an author. I looked at elance, other online freelancer sites, and blogs to find mine,   Yvonne Perry. Look until you find the right one, it’s a big deal. The book would not have made it where it is without the development edit. In my case, Yvette was as much a teacher as an editor. Not only did I walk away a better writer, I my fear turned to excitement. I missed writing and I was excited to be doing it again.

Once things were wrapped up in the development process of the manuscript, I brought in two additional copy editors slash first readers. The original draft took eighteen days. Development took eight weeks and copy editing took another week each. I hired a professional for the cover (totally worth it!)

The majority of the rest of the project was administrative and done through online forms—copyright, ISBN numbers, and final formatting for the eBook. Then it was uploaded to Amazon and published, even the final formatting is done via a form at Amazon.

My six steps realizing I could publish a book:

1.Know what you want to write about and immerse yourself in content.
2.Find the confidence one day to write.
3.Decide to share your ideas early with a trusted person.
4.Edit, Edit, Edit—bring in a pro or two.
5.Don’t skimp on creative or format.
6.Be brave and publish.

I’m sure there are things I will learn over the coming weeks from my readers on how I can improve, but I don’t fear feedback now which I think is ultimately how I wrote a book in the end.

If you happen to read my book, let me know what you think.

You can purchase Emily’s book on Amazon via my affiliate link (I get a small commission at no extra cost to you!)

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The Rise of Online Fundraising

November 22nd, 2013 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle No Comments »

Raising funds for your business venture or non-profit organization is easier than ever with the rise of Social Media outlets and online communities. Online applications like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter allow you to get your message out to the world, and enables your supporters to share your message with their friends and colleagues.

Via: iContact

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Need a Creative Way to Gain Consumers? Go Mobile on Your Website!

August 1st, 2013 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, Mobile Tools, Mobility, guest post No Comments »

Has your site been losing prospects? What are you going to do about it? According to AdWeek, 72% of consumers believe it is important for brands to have a mobile-friendly site. So what does this mean? You should be going mobile, or go home! As proof, some studies show at least a third of companies don’t have a mobile-specific site, despite the fact that 67% of people say they are more likely to buy a product or service from this type of site. In this post, I will share useful tips and advice for companies late to join the mobile revolution.

What is the Mobile Revolution?

When the internet first came to be, most companies started developing their websites based on platforms desktop computers and laptops could navigate through easily. However, many modern consumers have smart phones, and with them, surf the mobile internet. Now that they have access to virtually anything in the palm of their hand, companies must get on board with this concept. Since people want the fast, inexpensive, and compatible option, joining the mobile revolution is one of the only ways you can catch the attention of prospects in your market.

It is true that any company can have a mobile site. But consumers will know right away when it is a bad mobile site. The younger generation craves a better user experience, and in order to capture their attention, you must fully understand the mobile revolution. According to a recent survey, 67% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a mobile-friendly brand. In addition, 61% of consumers are more likely to move their attention elsewhere from a NON mobile-friendly brand. Don’t turn your audience off from the get go. Instead, build a site that is responsive.

The Importance of a Responsive Web Design

Just like on an internet friendly site, a site’s web design must be responsive. This is a crucial part of the user experience. Therefore, your web developers should create a strategy in which the website is accessible on all devices. This means that the design of the website will alter itself depending on the size of the screen being used, whether it is a tiny phone screen to huge flat screen. In addition to the design aspect, the content must be relevant to the mobile user. Instead of having tons of words, a straightforward and simple message is the way to go in most cases. User behavior changes depending on the device or platform, so the site must accurately respond to these needs. For example, putting the phone number or address in the forefront of the site will give the user the information he/she most likely need now, and fast.

Here are some more tips of what to include in your responsive design:

  • With responsive web design, the experience should be clean and easy to navigate through. Along with the imagery, colors, and words, the actual pictures and text should have the ability to be altered to best suit the needs of the consumer at that specific moment.
  • Another tip to advance your presence on the mobile web is by integrating social media onto the platform. This can help you not only engage your customers better, but build your social media audience too.
  • Make it easy for people to share the content by placing a Facebook or Twitter right on the page. By doing this, you are expanding your target audience without wasting time and resources.
  • Now a days, most users are share everything with their social media connections, especially when they are reading or purchasing something that excites them. So make sure your content and products are eye catching as possible. This way, your customers won’t be able to resist sharing what they have found.
  • If you have an onsite blog, make sure to highlight it. Installing a plug-in that optimizes the blog for mobile browsers can be helpful. Doing so can allow visitors to scroll vertically and horizontally for an easier mobile experience.
  • Work on shortening “dead time” on your site, which can help eliminate “bounce rates” for a friendlier experience.

Get Started Today

Ready to join the revolution? Remember that at this moment, your consumers are online. Whether this is on their mobile devices or computers, your company must adapt to their needs. Individuals in today’s society not only want to stay connected, but want everything fast and furious. In order to satisfy these requirements, it is important to see the value in a mobile friendly site. In addition, to ensure a smooth experience for your audience, always update the platform and check for bugs. The last thing you need is to ruin your reputation due to the site crashing or freezing when in use. If you want your brand to be seen and heard, you must be future oriented. As long as you take this advice into account, you can work your way towards going mobile to not only earn trust, but business as well!

John Boudreau, COO and Co-Founder of Astonish, has been in the insurance marketing and technology business for nearly 10 years. He works closely with local insurance agencies across the country to understand what works and what doesn’t in an attempt to increase their share of the digital landscape through online marketing tactics and a robust customer relationship marketing tool. Clients of the Astonish digital marketing system often have outstanding results as described in this Astonish results review. Before Astonish, Boudreau honed his problem-solving abilities while working as an environmental analytical chemist. He also founded Ion Marketing Group, a digital marketing company focused on the real estate industry. An avid musician, John plays the drums, the bass and the guitar.

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Creative Solutions for the “Piracy Problem”

March 19th, 2013 Stephen Smith Posted in Creativity, Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

Intro by Sarah Wenger:

Music, Movies, Programs & Piracy
Created by: www.OnlineGraduatePrograms.com

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3 Ways to Design Your Environment for Increased Productivity

March 12th, 2013 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

When people think of productivity, tools such as time management, list, mind mapping, and other kinds of apps come up. So most of us who want to be productive end up thinking that we need to download a lot of “get things done” software to help increase our dwindling productivity.

Blank paper on workspace for productive workRarely do we give attention to one of the factors that easily affects how we do our work and at what rate we finish them — our environment.

Here are three ways you can use to increase your productivity without needing to use any kind of apps. All you have to do is to pay attention to your surroundings.

1. Use natural light when you’re working in the morning and early afternoon.

Researchers studying the effects of light exposure on performance discovered that natural light significantly affects cognitive performance of workers.

According to the study, those exposed to daylight in the early afternoon were observed to be more alert as they proceeded to work in the evening compared to those exposed to artificial light, who became sleepier.

Thus, it’s actually preferable to work using natural light as it has a positive impact on alertness, mood, and behavior. In effect, using natural light can improve worker happiness and, well, happy workers tend to produce more results.

So work near windows if you can and enjoy the sunshine. You can also get up early, before sunrise, and soak up as much sunlight as you can to help you get energized.

2. Keep your workplace nice and warm.

An ergonomic study at Cornell University found that warmer temperature in offices results in fewer (typing) errors and higher productivity. On the other hand, decreased productivity and more mistakes were observed when working in colder temperatures.

A cold environment distracts people from concentrating on their work because they’re focusing their energy on trying to keep warm. This isn’t really a problem when you have control over your working environment. You can always turn up the heat.

However, there may be workplaces wherein a cold environment is necessary to “keep the computers cool.” In this case, your productivity may depend on the outfit you wear and whether or not you’re brave enough to tell show your boss this article. Or you can use a personal heating pad!

3. Move a few things every now and then.

The way your workspace is arranged is also a big factor in your productivity.

Look around.

Are important and often-used documents or equipment within reach?

When was the last time you changed something about your work area?

Do you work at home? When did you last clean your home office?

The fact is most of us become so busy that we begin to neglect our surroundings. We keep putting off cleaning or keeping things away until “we have time.”

Simple things like getting up to look for your laptop charger (and then figuring out which outlet to use) can affect the flow of work. Move a few things around with convenience in mind. Arrange your work area ergonomically. Make sure the things you constantly need and sue are within easy reach.

More importantly, it’ll help to get rid of the things you don’t need anymore because a cluttered environment results in a cluttered mind.

Increasing your productivity doesn’t have to be expensive or totally software-dependent. Warmth, light, and a little rearrangement may be all it takes. And the great things is, you can easily get started on all three right now.

Make the time for these changes and let others know about it too!

Have any tips on productivity that you think very few are aware of? Share them in the forum!

Environmental Design for Enhanced Productivity

This is a guest post by Glori Urban from SkilledUp.com – the leading source of reviews, ratings and deals on online courses, with over 60,000 courses from over 200 providers available in every subject. Find online courses at SkilledUp.com to get skills and get ahead, and visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Keeping Home…Home

December 4th, 2012 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

We all are doing our best to balance work and life, home and office, business and pleasure. Nowadays more people are bringing their work home with them or working permanently from home. Although this is probably the main reason we have entered an age of incredible productivity it has also created a work 24-7 sort of lifestyle. I personally try and find time everyday (usually before bed) to become a “zombie” and just enjoy some good tv. Whether it is a football game, comedy, or drama I really enjoy my popcorn and tv. Right now my favorite show is Breaking Bad. Below is a little run down of the show’s history and why you should be watching it too!

On January 20, 2008 AMC introduced Walter White at what was the biggest turning point in his life. The character was an over educated, straight laced, middle age nice guy high school chemistry teacher who had a pregnant wife, teenage son, and a brand new diagnosis of advanced lung cancer. Realizing he didn’t have much time, and knowing his family would need provision after he dies, he ends up connecting with a former student and they begin making and selling crystal meth.

Over the course of the shows seasons you see the personhood of Walter White disappear into his more villainous alter ego Heisenberg (the name Walt created for his meth dealings). The show does not seek to make a good man bad, but instead it opens up to the world of grey and the reality that none of us know what lurks just below if really pushed to our limits.

Bryan Cranston plays Walt, and his co-lead (former student) Jesse Pinkman, is played by Aaron Paul. Cranston is probably best known for his seven year run on the television series Malcom in the Middle, but also has an impressive background in theatre as well as major motion pictures like Argo. He has won numerous awards for his role on the show, including three consecutive Emmy’s. Aaron Paul is equally notable with previous acting work in movies like Mission Impossible III, as well as the HBO hit Big Love. In addition Paul has won two Emmy’s for his work on the AMC hit show.

Some of the supporting characters include his son Walter jr. played by R.J. Mitt, wife Skyler played by Anna Gunn, her on show sister Marie, played by Betsy Brandt, and Marie’s husband Hank Schrader played by actor Dean Norris. Ironically Hank is also a DEA agent who tends to unknowingly cross paths with Walt’s underworld drug dealings leading to some tense but interesting moments in the show. In addition to the main characters and the supporting roles, Breaking Bad tends to attract some amazing guest talent.

The recent news buzz for folks who like to watch Breaking Bad is the sad reality that it is entering its fifth and final season. With Walt’s terminal illness, and increasing loss of morals Bryan Cranston recently discussed in an interview that the show was coming to an end, and would likely end on a down note. Regardless of the ending, there is no doubt many will be thankful for the journey. Watch Breaking Bad to find out how everything unfolds.

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What is Cloud Computing?

October 15th, 2012 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

What Exactly is the Cloud – Used by Most Americans Understood by Few

It’s likely that cloud computing is already enhancing your personal and professional life on a daily basis. Whether you use a computer at the office, work from home or just use personal productivity tools, the cloud touches just about everyone.

For many, the term “cloud computing” has become synonymous with the internet. Strictly speaking, cloud computing can be defined as delivery of information technology services over the internet. In most cases, information is stored, processed and shared at a central location that is easily accessible from an internet browser.

Personal Productivity

Below are just a few of the ways that you may already be using cloud computing to improve your personal productivity:

  • Backup of your computer files on the internet
  • Storing and sharing of photos, music and video
  • Online Banking and Tax Filing
  • E-Mail and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP)
  • Facebook

At the Office

Of course, employees who work in information technology utilize cloud computing in a variety of ways for IT infrastructure, information processing, data management, websites, system development, etc. However, employees who work in other areas are now exposed to cloud computing applications as well:

  • Some of the business software packages that employees now use are accessed from an internet browser. Some of these packages are also hosted on servers in the cloud rather than in the local IT department.
  • Many human resources activities such as job applications, training and benefits are now accessed over the internet.
  • E-mail and related communication methods make use of the cloud.
  • On-Line meetings are now commonplace.


The expansion of cloud computing applications has facilitated an improvement in work/life balance for many employees who can now work from home either part-time or full-time. This is because many of the business applications that employees typically use at the office are now accessible over the internet. This greatly simplifies the technology required to establish and maintain home offices. In addition, the popularity of smart phones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices has further enhanced connectivity. “Work-At-Home” can now mean work at the café, work at the day care center or work at the beach!


Whether businesses like it or not, the accessibility of the internet at the office coupled with the proliferation of cloud based internet applications has resulted in many more employees taking care of personal business at the office. Employees can now check their bank balance, view their personal e-mail, schedule a doctor’s appointment or book a trip from their office computer. As with work-at-home, this too can enhance your work/life balance.

While most of us now take many of these conveniences for granted, the growth of cloud computing in just the last few years has substantially improved our lives. There is almost no limit to the creative ways that individuals will find to use cloud computing technologies in the future. These will continue to shape the ways that we live and work for years to come.

This post is written by Rackspace blogger Jennifer Marsh. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing, and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.

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The Evolution of 3D Technology

September 4th, 2012 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

3D technology has long been a part of film and television, but has gone through multiple stages of innovation and decline. From its early development to successes in the 1950s and 1980s, and its revival in the 2000s, 3D has been an important part of film history. 3D television, while experiencing a longer delay in making its technology more widely available, has also experienced a recent expansion in use.

Early Uses and Technological Evolution

The first stages of 3D cinema experimentation came as part of earlier developments in 19th century stereoscopy. This process involved placing two images side by side, which could then be fused by the natural binocular perspective of the eyes through a stereoscope viewer. Stereoscopes were impractical for use by audiences in theatres, however, and experiments with the technology in the 1890s and 1900s turned towards anaglyph 3D.

Using superimposed red and green film strips, and filtered glasses, anaglyph 3D was introduced as an experimental process in the 1910s and 1920s. While still primarily a novelty, 3D technology expanded in the 1930s through light polarisation techniques using filters and screens, which would become more commonly used in the 1950s.

1950s 3D

The value of 3D exhibition of films in the 1950s was created by the need for film studios and theatres to distinguish themselves against television. Polarised 3D using a ‘Natural Vision’ process with dual strip projection, and high-quality glasses, was employed for films like Bwana Devil and House of Wax in 1952 and 1953 alongside widescreen and stereophonic sound. However, the cost of the process remained difficult to sustain, as did declining interest in its novelty value.

On-going experiments in 3D did continue in the 1960s and 1970s, albeit on a smaller scale, and primarily as a way to help market low budget horror and science fiction films. A revival of 3D did, however, take place in the 1980s as film studios again looked to the technology to promote horror films and special features like Jaws 3D, as well as films in theme park rides.

In the 1990s, 3D became a key part of IMAX theatre screenings that showcased spectacular documentaries, and led to the development of digital 3D production and projection techniques. These techniques became a key source of experimentation for Hollywood studios in the 2000s.

The particular success of Avatar in 2009 demonstrated that digital 3D using circular polarisation and a single projector could produce high quality images and relative comfort for audiences. The success of Avatar helped set up the last few years of 3D as a standard option for major film releases, and particularly blockbusters.

3D Television

In terms of television, 3D technology was available as early as 1928 in demonstration formats that used stereoscopic equipment. However, the cost and difficulty of standardising 3D for homes led to only occasional experiments by the 1990s with anaglyph 3D broadcasts that made use of glasses for short periods of viewing. Digital 3D, and the promotion of Blu-Ray 3D films on DVD, has more recently boosted the potential for 3D programming.

New television sets with high definition resolutions have made 3D a key part of their appeal, and have used active shutter and polarised glasses to primarily promote live sports events and special programming.

The future of 3D television, and 3D post production however, may be driven by the development of auto stereoscopic technologies, whereby a lenticular lens is used at the front of a set to split an image for a viewer, creating a 3D effect without the use of glasses. While currently expensive, the range of options for 3D television suggests that it will expand in the future.

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Setting Up the Perfect At-Home Learning Space

August 28th, 2012 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle No Comments »

The perfect at-home workspace for studying can make a significant difference in a student’s academic success. As many people are obtaining higher education to advance their careers, it is becoming more important than ever for them to have an ideal area within their home that will enable them to complete assignments and study for exams. Therefore, the following ideas will help any student who is studying to advance their career to be successful in their academic endeavors.

Choosing a Space In order to study successfully, it is important for students to assess their learning style and set up an environment that will include the necessary furniture and accessories that will support the way that they learn. For most students, having a quiet space in the home that is separate from the rest of the family’s activities will be important for them to maintain their focus and concentration. It is also essential that the area that is selected should only designated for only studying in order to cut down on clutter and other distractions.

Furniture and Electronics The ideal student workspace will include a desk and a comfortable chair that will support long hours spent studying online and typing up essays and other assignments. Many students will also need a shelving unit that will enable them to store all of their textbooks and other study materials.

Additionally, a computer or laptop as well as a printer will also be important for completing assignments. For online students, a reliable computer will be essential for their academic success. It is important for the computer and other electronics to be able to display a variety of educational formats such as video lectures and online voice chats.

Other Accessories The additional items needed to complete a workspace will vary according to the subjects in which a student is studying. For example, a student who is pursuing studies in the medical field at www.sanfordbrown.edu will need to include space in which they can store notes and post charts such as on a wall or memo board. If a student will be studying in an area where there is a lot of noise, then the perfect at-home workspace will also need to include headphones so that a person will be able to hear their lessons.

Once a workspace for studying has been established, then a student can add furniture and electronic devices as needed in order to bolster their study skills. By establishing a quiet space that is only used for studying, they will immediately be ready for their assignments from the moment that they enter their workspace.

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How Creative Graphic Design Can Improve a Company Newsletter

August 7th, 2012 Stephen Smith Posted in Digital Lifestyle, guest post No Comments »

colored pencils

Photo by Horia Varlan

A company newsletter is an integral part that keeps track of all the business information, such as terms and policies, latest updates, brand promotional details, improving performance of employees, and so on. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration at the time of creating a newsletter, like to who to the letter should be sent to, what content to include, information and other topics that should be integrated. Apart from all of this, the basic idea of any company newsletter is to drive traffic, so when you think of creating a company newsletter integrate creative graphic designs into it, this could help you in getting even more traffic. Digital media agency helps in getting target traffic by creating effective and attractive newsletters that suit your business. Here are few ways that explains how graphics are important to improve a company newsletter:

  • Newsletter design: The first step to keep in mind whilst designing a newsletter is designing a cover page more effectively. That means the layout and graphics that are embedded on the cover page should resemble the entire theme of the newsletter. So research the internet to find the latest graphic tips and how to create a good impression for the clients who read your newsletter.
  • Templates: Create a proper graphic design for the page layout and have a style that brings many new readers to show interest on your newsletter. If templates are designed perfectly then more readers are likely to buy the edition and turn into regular readers.
  • Design and colour: Always try to use a simple design upon initial newsletter creation, since mostly viewers spend very little time actually reading it. So make it easy to understand by using simple designs with some descriptive elements in it.
  • Images: In newsletters images should be inserted carefully, that are appropriate to the content. Today email newsletters have become more popular because it reflects your corporate style and helps in improving existing editions and publications. Take care when using images by following certain rules and guidelines; images that are used should always give in alt text format.
  • Use typeface: This helps in achieving contrast throughout the pages, use a different type of font on typeface and with different styles within it, see which one is going to be most effective and choose one among them.
  • Graphic design elements: Use related graphic design elements in your newsletter, make them flexible by using some sharing buttons on particular posts or information or to follow RSS feeds; this helps your business to take part in viral marketing. This is one of the most effective marketing strategies.

Kate Ford is Tech writer from the UK. Catch her @thetechlegend on Twitter.

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