Monday, October 16, 2017

Is Your Website up to ADA Standards or Is it A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen?

Our daughter went to college to learn how to do web design and media development.  She's now working at a company doing that type of work.  She mentioned that they have to be careful about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards for design.  Otherwise, they could be sued.

I said, 'what is that?' and 'what time dimension are you from?'  I NEVER heard of being sued because of a website's design.

As it turns out, it can happen.  If your website doesn't meet the Americans with Disabilities Act, it could potentially be the subject of a lawsuit.

So what does that mean?  Check out this article:  Looming ADA rules could affect millions of websites.

Here are also some more articles related to this topic:
Judges Handling ADA Lawsuits Over Websites Not Waiting On DOJ Regulations
Is Your Site ADA-Compliant ... or a Lawsuit-in-Waiting?  (this one tells even more)

If your website is difficult to read or if a blind person's reader can't figure out what a picture stands for or what's in a video, you could be sued.  It usually happens with large businesses, but it's possible for it to happen to any website.

You can check to see if your text is readable at this site:  https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/. You enter the hex background and foreground colors, and see if they work or not.

I've been working on my websites, and it's frustrating, at least.  Needless to say, this is going to be a huge undertaking for any website owner.

I can see where this might include a slippery slope to social media.  My daughter said the original bill didn't include social media, but if it's on the Internet, I can see where someone could take it on.

To be honest, I've seen things on social media that could potentially give someone seizures (check the seizure part here, under part J: Section 508 Checklist.)  Gifs that flash a lot are just annoying.  According to that Section 508:

508 STANDARDPASSFAIL
(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.No element on the page flashes at a rate of 2 to 55 cycles per second, thus reducing the risk of optically-induced seizures.One or more elements on the page flicker at a rate of 2 to 55 cycles per second, increasing the risk of optically-induced seizures.

Some of the memes really need to have the colors checked (see this page:  WebAIM: Color Contrast Checker).  For example, dark gray on black isn't good for anyone to try to read.  Putting text over a picture isn't good without a solid background color to make it more readable.

Protect yourself and see if you can fix some of these things.  Even if you work with a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, Wix, or Weebly, it's good to check to see if your website is compliant.

Good luck.
SweetTale Books


Monday, October 9, 2017

How to Think Up a Plot

I'm sure there are some people out there who think, 'how do authors get plots.'  For me, my stories are all formulated in my head when I think of one small thing and 'what if.'  I try to go outside the usual 'box' of ideas, to get creative.  Since the competition for selling books is very fierce, I tend to go even farther than I normally would.

For example, the Extreme Travel books of mine started out in my head as a circus.  Kes was a circus performer and was sent overseas to see animals used in the circus in their natural habitat.  No kidding.  Since I'm not a fan of caging animals, I morphed that into her being a reporter to report on the climate in Africa.  I found the toughest place to live--Zimbabwe--and sent her there.  Then I needed a mean antagonist and came up with her single male boss, who was out of bounds for various reasons.  One was his fiancee that was really nasty.  That's how that story started out.  I had to go outside the norm for a reporter and give them a real reason for being there--to start a coup.

I looked up story planning and found this really cool article.  How to Get Story Ideas for Fiction Writing.  It talks about thinking up nuggets, and then writing as much as possible with one of these nuggets.  It'll start to take shape into a story the more you write.

I'm inclined to agree with some of that, but I think it saves time to think in terms of scenes.  Before I write a book, I think of what the first scene should be, and then what the black moment (in a romance, it's the part right before the ending where everything falls apart for the heroine) would be.  After that, I think of the ending scene.  I now know the beginning and ending, so getting from point A to point B has to include scenes that propel the characters toward point B.  I also like considering the three-part act in a play.  For the first part, I make the main character has to choose to do something to propel him or her to stay in the story.  The second part ratchets up the tension toward the black moment, and the third part is the happy ending.  That's how I work, in my mind.  If I don't have the beginning scene, black moment, and ending, I lay down to take a nap.  I blank out the rest of the world to think about how it would show in a movie, and what would work.  That's the fun part.  I let my mind explore tons of possibilities.

If I have those three scenes, I'm good to go, since I'm a 'pantser' (I don't outline or have everything written out before I write, but just go with the flow of the story).  Sometimes, those scenes change when I actually write, but it's okay.  Many times, the characters kind of take over and it works better than I anticipated.

Try it if you haven't written a book.  You'll be surprised how much fun it is to just let your mind wander.  I love it.

Have a great week!
Markee

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why do updates?

Right now, I'm updating my websites just a bit.  I'm in the middle of it right now, but it's a big task.  I was asking myself last night when I was working on it, why do I do this?  Why update any site?

Think about it this way.  What if you DIDN'T update anything.  The thing would get 'dusty' and people have no reason to go onto them.  They visit once and then forget about you.

So the goal is to keep that website updated with new books, new thoughts, and new pictures.  That'll make customers want to come back.

Have a super week!
SweetTale Books

Great Grammar Guide!

I was sent an email this past week, about a grammar guide that is spectacular.  I was so impressed, that I had to post it here.

It's here:  Grammar Education Resource Guide

It's an all-inclusive aide for grammar issues.  Check it out...it's now on my go-to grammar help links and you might want to add it to yours!

There's more to that site, too, with many other aides here:  Other Resources.  Check it out!  Very cool!

Have a great week!
Markee

Monday, September 25, 2017

What Content Management System (Website program) Do You Like?

I just finished a job working on a CMS (content management system) for a business on the West Coast.  This job used software that is used just for businesses and costs a lot of money per month.  It required knowing HTML and a few things that I knew from over the years.  It took me a while to learn the idiosyncrasies of the software, which is common for every system you pick up.

My next possible client is with another company, also on the West Coast.  They needed something for businesses, as well, that allowed the business to keep a list of clients and have a shopping cart.  Square Space was recommended.  I signed up for a free 14-day trial and made a website for the client, just to show them that it could be done.  It was a success.

If you've ever used Wix, Weebly, or WordPress, you could probably use Square Space.  It's similar to all of those CMS systems, where you plug the information in using WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get).  You don't need to know HTML, but if you want to do simple things (like change the color of the font), it's good to know how to code.  There aren't as many themes as in WordPress, but they support their themes.  Sometimes, the themes in WordPress are sent in by users and aren't supported.

It's been a fun thing to learn.  I've heard of people in NY charging $4500 for one of these websites on Square Space.  Even if I can get a quarter of that for a few hours' work, that'd be fantastic!

If you're an author, you might want to consider one of these CMS systems to promote your website.  Although they can be quirky, overall, they're easy to use and easy to learn.

Or you could just do like I do for all my personal websites, and code it yourself.  It takes longer to learn to do that, but the quirkiness is gone.

Have a great week!
Markee

Monday, September 18, 2017

Writing Accents and Slang

Our daughter and I have been watching a Scottish sitcom on Netflix, as well as a few British sitcoms.  They're all really funny, and I think funnier and better than American sitcoms.

Besides the plots, I find the accents very interesting.  We have to watch them all with the closed captioning on.  Our daughter was down the hall and heard the dialogue for the Scottish show.  She said it sounded like a foreign language to her, because she couldn't see the words at the bottom of the screen.

They might speak English but it's not the norm.  For example, in the Scottish sitcom, they might say, 'Innae ye frae doon the street?'  That means, 'Aren't you from down the street?'  They also call a woman a 'hen.'  In the British ones, I've heard words like 'chuffed' (means excited, I think), and quid (pound).  I've resorted to looking some of the words up while watching the shows, just to figure out what's going on.

When I worked on my Scottish Football Series, I did a bit of research into the language.  I didn't put a lot of the different language into my books, because I didn't think Americans would understand it, unless they'd spent time in Scotland.  Even so, the language is gorgeous to listen too all over the U.K.  I even find myself slippin' a few wee words into my brain once in a while.

So, when you're writing a different language or dialect, don't inundate your reader with difficult to understand words.  Slip them in every once in a while and your reader will thank you.

Have a great week!
Markee

Monday, September 11, 2017

Alone Again! YAY!

I love to write but many times, I get a lot of disruptions.  It's so frustrating.  Between kids, the dogs, and a small job I had, I could barely remember what I wrote in the last sentence, let alone in a whole book.

Starting today, that small job is over, the kids are all employed, and it's just the dogs and me at home.  Wow.  I'm so excited!

Have you ever had that problem, where life gets in the way of your dreams?  Welcome to my world...and welcome to some new stories that are bound to come now from SweetTale Books.

Have a great week!
SweetTale Books