Configure ScrapeAZon for WordPress

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPressConfiguring the ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress for the first time requires you to obtain an Amazon Affiliate ID and an Amazon Product Advertising API Access Key/Secret Key pair. This process can be confusing.

The following guide provides step-by-step instructions for establishing your Amazon Affiliate ID and API credentials. Additionally, this guide describes how to configure ScrapeAZon in WordPress after you have obtained your Amazon credentials.

This guide does not cover how to use the ScrapeAZon shortcode in a page or post. That topic will be covered in a separate post. Continue reading

Book Previewer Plugin for WordPress Now Available

Book Previewer Plugin

The Book Previewer Plugin for WordPress is now available for download from the WordPress Plugin Repository. Book Previewer enables you to use a shortcode to retrieve and display Google Books previews of titles you specify. The shortcode can be used on any WordPress page or post. Book Previewer supports all of the following book identifiers:

  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
  • Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)
  • Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Google Play Generated Key (GGKEY)

A preview of your title must already exist in Google Books in order to use this plugin. You can obtain more information about the Google Books/Google Play Partner programs at Google.

Book Previewer supports the following three modes of operation:

  • embedded: allows you to embed the preview directly on a page or post
  • popup: allows you to display a Google Preview button that pops up a preview of your book
  • link: allows you to display a Google Preview button that links directly to the preview of your book on Google Play/Google Books

Installing the Book Previewer Plugin

Book Previewer version 1.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download Book Previewer directly from the WordPress repository.

Supporting the Book Previewer Plugin

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of Book Previewer, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

Seeing the Book Previewer Plugin In Action

Google Previewer

A demonstration of Book Previewer’s “embedded previewer” option is available on the plugin’s page.

GoodReviews 2.0.0 Plugin Released for WordPress 3.8 And Later

Version 2.0.0 of GoodReviews Plugin for WordPress is available for download from the WordPress plugin repository. This is the most current version of the plugin. This version of GoodReviews requires WordPress version 3.8 or later.

Version 2.0.0 is a complete rewrite of the plugin that enables it to better integrate with WordPress as a whole. New features include:

  • Plugin has been completely rewritten to better integrate with the WordPress Settings API.
  • Now shows ratings count for all editions of a title.
  • Added widgets for book buying links, book information, and book reviews.
  • Added support for styling the output in a more responsive way.
  • Added support for WordPress localization (i18n).
  • Added support for HTTP retries and an exponential backoff method of dealing with throttling problems.
  • Added support for context-sensitive help on the Settings page.
  • Added support for an uninstall process that removes all settings and plugin files.
  • Added support for a shortcut parameter that disables the reviews pane.

You must have a GoodReads developer API key in order to use this plugin. You only need the developer access key to use GoodReviews, not the secret key.

Installing GoodReviews

GoodReviews version 2.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download GoodReviews directly from the WordPress repository.

Upgrading GoodReviews

You can upgrade to version 2.0.0 from any previous version of GoodReviews by using the plugin updater built into WordPress. Your current settings should remain intact.

Supporting GoodReviews Development

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of GoodReviews, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress 2.0.0 Released

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress

Version 2.0.0 of ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress is available for download from the WordPress plugin repository. This is the most current version of the plugin.

Version 2.0.0 is a complete rewrite of the plugin that enables it to better integrate with WordPress as a whole. New features include:

  • An exponential backoff routine that enables ScrapeAZon to periodically retry connections to the Amazon Product Advertising API when HTTP errors or throttling occurs.
  • A new built-in style sheet that can be enabled on sites with responsive design; the style sheet attempts to scale ScrapeAZon’s output for responsive sites, even if the Amazon Product Advertising API content cannot be directly scaled
  • An “Amazon Reviews” widget that can be accessed from the Appearance > Widgets menu within WordPress; the widget can be used in addition to or in place of the classic ScrapeAZon shortcode

ScrapeAZon Prerequisites

You must be a participant in both the Amazon.com Affiliate Program and the Amazon.com Product Advertising API in order to use this plugin.

When you sign up for the Product Advertising API, you will be able to create an Access Key and a Secret Key for your account. It is very important that you download these keys and store them in a safe place after creation because Amazon will only allow you to view the Secret Key once. You will need both the Access Key and the Secret Key in order to use ScrapeAZon.

Installing ScrapeAZon

ScrapeAZon version 2.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download ScrapeAZon directly from the WordPress repository.

Upgrading ScrapeAZon

You can upgrade to version 2.0.0 from any previous version of ScrapeAZon by using the plugin updater built into WordPress. Your current settings should remain intact.

Supporting ScrapeAZon Development

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of ScrapeAZon, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

How I Spent My Summer (OK, Year-and-a-Half) Vacation

A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking. –Earl Wilson
Read more at BrainyQuote

One big problem with maintaining a blog about–well, about anything–is that you set yourself up with certain expectations about your productivity. Usually it starts with a stream of consciousness daydream that ultimately leads to this revelation: “Hey, I should write that down!”

Then you start thinking “Hey, I’ve got more stuff I think about that I should write down.”

And so you do. For a while. You spend days or weeks putting fingers to keyboard, trying to be clever, crowing a little and maybe even eating a little crow. All to the good.

Then life creeps in. Suddenly you find yourself thinking, “Ok, I really don’t have time to come up with another blog idea this week, so I’ll skip this week and put something up next week. Only two or three people read this thing and it’s mostly for me anyway.”

Then next week comes. And the next. And the next. Before you know it, July 2012 is long in the past and you begin to wonder what happened to the dude with all the ideas he wanted to post about. Where did all that energy go? You discover that you’ve taken a year-and-a-half unintended vacation from your blogging, so as far as the Interwebs is concerned, you might as well have died.

Fact is, I can’t really account for where it all went. One minute I was thinking about posting here. The next I’d forgotten all about it and was well into some other project or mundane task. However, I do take some solace in the fact that I have not been goofing off all this time. In fact, I’ve been quite busy. Here are a few things that have happened in the past year:

WordPress Plugins

I updated both my WordPress plugins (ScrapeAZon and GoodReviews) with some new features and fixes. As of this writing, I’m testing the latest versions in WordPress 3.8.

Ebook Publishing

I played a small part in ushering some writer friends (one known and one unknown) into the age of ebooks by performing some of the development end tasks for them.

Writing/Blogging

I wrote a buncha entries for Boson Software’s IT blog. I also worked on a few of my own short stories, a novella, and a little bit on a novel.

General Handiness

I finally finished building that entertainment center I’ve been wanting to finish for three years.

Mostly, I’ve been working my day job and being a family man. And that last is what matters most.

In light of my revelation that I will never, ever post to this blog more than weekly (if that), I’ve decided to make myself this promise: I will continue to blog here when it strikes me. It might not be weekly. It might not even be monthly or semi-annually. But occasionally a man needs a place to dump his head. It might as well be here. And I do plan on it not being an entire year before I blog again.

Onward!

Giving Instead of Giving Back

A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog. –Jack London

Every now and then, a person who is ordinarily wrapped up in his or her own day-to-day life and problems will see a news story, a post on Facebook, or some other information conduit that spurs him or her to action. Be it the burned down home of an struggling family, the passionate support of a political cause, or the hurtful neglect of an innocent pet, the story touches the heart and fires the soul.

It is those times that the creatives of the world are often at their best. Michael Jackson was moved by stories of drought and famine in Africa to enlist the aid of other artists in “We Are The World.” More than two decades later, musicians united to re-record the song to raise money for victims of a particularly violent earthquake in Haiti. Many times, you hear the rich and famous state that they simply wanted to give back to the people who have so blessed them.

I won’t criticize those efforts. They are meaningful and important and the right thing to do. However, I am more often moved by the giving and community service efforts of those who are not so high profile, those who cannot necessarily afford to donate large sums of cash and whose faces are not famous enough to prompt the average citizen to open their wallets for a worthy cause.

My Name Is Walter

That’s why I am particularly excited right now about the release of a new children’s book that was mostly authored by my wife, Paula, and illustrated by my 12-year-old step-daughter Laura. The book, My Name Is Walter, is based on the true story of a cocker spaniel/poodle mix who was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Nashville, Tennessee in the spring of 2012. The dog was in atrocious shape. His fur was so matted that his rescuers, a city councilman and a local dog rescue operation, were unable to determine his sex until veterinarians shaved him. He was also starving.

For two weeks, Nashvillians and the world watched on Facebook as Walter struggled to survive his abuse. The effort to save his life attracted the attention of news media, film and television star Ashley Judd, and countless people from all over the globe. Unfortunately, he eventually succumbed to the effects of the abuse and neglect. Walter went to his place of rest on May 11, 2012.

His story inspired my wife and step-daughter to collaborate on My Name Is Walter in an effort to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership and to raise money for Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue, the organization that attempted to save Walter’s life. They worked tirelessly for weeks on this project, and I am proud to say that in the first two days of its launch it has already generated an impressive amount of interest and number of sales. It is our hope that sales of the book will be able to help Snooty Giggles put the word out about Walter’s Law, which is a movement to strengthen animal cruelty laws in Tennessee.

Prior to the release of My Name Is Walter, my step-daughter had no widespread name recognition, nor had she any reserve of money to donate to her cause. She was just a 12-year-old who wanted to help. So she did what she does best: draw. She chose to use her creative talents to directly benefit a good cause–in the middle of final exams and other spring activities–rather than for herself.

My Name Is Walter is available for purchase from Two Peas Publishing, as well as Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com, to name a few. One hundred percent of the royalties received from sales of the book will be donated directly to Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue.

Laura chose to give because she felt she could and should, not just because she’s been blessed with a comfortable home and lifestyle. I could not be more proud.

The Never-Clean Closet

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
–Maya Angelou

The process of packing, whether for a trip or to move to a new location, often results in a mental divergence from the goal of closing the suitcase and toward the memories that are invoked by the particular objects you are packing. Perhaps it’s the subtle aroma of an old paperback book you’ve cracked open that recalls memories of reading a particularly gripping novel under the golden afternoon sun of a lazy summer day. Or maybe it’s an old photograph that prompts memories of a new and exciting time in your life that you sometimes wish you could revisit.

Then again, it could be something like a story idea list, a hastily scribbled assortment of characters, events, settings, or plots that, once upon a time, struck you as something you must write but for some reason never did. I have such a list. It is a long list. Occasionally, I rediscover it hidden among the files and folders I use every day.

At those times, I am confronted with three choices: I can despair over the fact that I’ve never forced myself to make time to flesh out those ideas, I can sit down and force myself to flesh them out, or I can strike them from the list and abandon them as bad ideas and wastes of time. I can tell you that I seldom use that last option. That is why I refer to my idea list as the never-clean closet.

Although I am not fool enough to believe that every idea is a good idea, I am optimistic enough to hope that I can take the ideas and sketches I’ve jotted down and flesh them out, if for no other reason than to see where they lead. How can you know whether your story is a good one unless you write it first? Alas, there are literally dozens of ideas on the list, which technically spans multiple files, and only so many minutes in a day that I can devote to writing for my own pleasure and edification.

Thus, the never-clean closet remains stacked full of could-bes and maybe-somedays, always with the rationale that any idea struck from it will be because I have either developed a finished story from it or because I finally attempted to do so and failed miserably. After all, the goal of the list is not to strike chores from it, but to explore the worlds that are suggested by it.

Perhaps I should add one more idea to the end of that list: sit down, shut up, and start writing.

Something Shiny!

I’ve posted a new guest blog over at amwriting.org.

Remember how technological advancement was supposed to make life so much easier? A few days ago, I sat in a restaurant watching my step-daughter work some of her amazing illustrative magic with her pencil and sketchpad while we awaited the delivery of our meals. I thought to myself, How nice it would be if I could just sit down and work like that whenever I’m waiting on something or someone else. That thought was immediately followed by that problem-solving voice in my head; the one I developed after having spent more than a decade solving other people’s information technology problems.

Why can’t you? it asked.

Read the entire post here.

Soundtracks In Your Head

Do you pick out a “soundtrack” to listen to while you write a specific type of scene? What about when you read? Would a soundtrack in an eBook be distracting? I share my thoughts on reading and writing to music in a new blog post over at amwriting.org. Here’s an excerpt.

I read an article about a New York company, BookTrack, that is developing eBooks with soundtracks. The principle is essentially the same as that of watching a movie or playing a video game: the soundtrack enhances the emotion you feel as the scene plays out in your head. Given the Web-like capabilities of eBook technology, it is perhaps a natural evolution of the platform as long as you’re not too ADD to become distracted by it.

Read the rest at amwriting.org.

New WordPress Plugin Enables Goodreads Integration

As of yesterday, my newest WordPress plugin, GoodReviews, is available for download from the official WordPress repository.

The official description appears below, and you can see the plugin in action by visiting the page for my time travel novelette, Timecast. If you use the plugin and enjoy it, you can donate to its development effort by purchasing a copy of Timecast or any other title from this publisher.

The GoodReviews plugin displays information about a specific title from Goodreads, including reader reviews. This plugin was developed mainly for authors or booksellers who want to showcase Goodreads information about specific titles on their WordPress sites. You must obtain a Goodreads API developer key in order to use this plugin. You can obtain an API key by following the instructions at goodreads.com/api.