Craigslist and Crossfit

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There are many places for you to sell your stuff. For years, Saturday mornings were for garage sales and flea markets. People always made sure to have cash on hand for that special find. You were restricted to local fads and fashion. If a particular item you wanted wasn't available in your area you were out of luck until the whole family jumped in the station wagon and you all took off for grandma's house. You gave yourself plenty of time to chase after those cardboard signs on the side of the road. You were hunting in new territory after all.

Flea markets were the best because all of those garage sales came to one place. The vendors did all of the work for you and brought those treasures down to local drive in. The fun was in the bargaining, the back and forth. Of course, there were always antique stores if you were rolling in it. They have everything all cleaned up and presentable, and you pay for that service all the way.

All of these methods were great, but left a big hole in your heart when you couldn't find the last piece to your full set of Garbage Pail Kids cards. After searching high and low, your collection still was not presentable to the world. Enter online auctions. Yahoo and eBay started out as fierce competitors. I actually preferred Yahoo for a long time. You could get better deals hands down. But eBay grew in popularity and simply had a much greater inventory. Yahoo slowly started to fade away as eBay became more and more popular.

You started by buying all of those things you had been searching for, and when your collection was either complete, or you were out of money, whichever came first, you decided, “Hey, I could do this! In fact, I could make a ton of money selling my sock monkey collection. Then I would have enough to really buy every Matchbox car ever made!” You posted your first item for sale. The pictures were crappy, taken with a 1.5 megapixel digital camera onto a floppy disk. You charged too little for shipping and realized it was a royal pain to guess the weight of the package without knowing where you were sending it yet.

But you learned and technology got better. You verified your Paypal account and didn't even realize that when eBay bought Paypal, you were getting double charged by the same company. Ebay's rates kept slowly creeping up, so you had to find things with high margins just to make a profit. It was great that there is pretty much a buyer for everything you have to sell somewhere in the world. There's always someone who wants to pay for your junk. You no longer have to waste entire Saturdays. But man, you wished you could actually keep more of what you were making. You realized you could just charge a ton for shipping to make up for your losses, until eBay caught on to that scheme and started charging you a percentage of shipping costs as well.

The big things were the killer. High shipping costs and high auction prices drove up eBay's percentage. Enter Craigslist. So you've once again limited yourself to one geographic area. But because you are online, your customer base is everyone in that area, not just the motivated people who are willing to wake up at the crack of dawn on weekends. You are still advertising for millions of people if you live in a populated area. And there are no fees. There are no Paypal processing fees or frozen funds because of a dispute. It's back to the old days of cash and carry.

Now enter the creep factor. You have no idea who you are meeting. Are they honest? Should you tell them where you live or meet in a public place? What if the item you are selling is too big to take to a public place? Do you want to give total strangers your phone number and address? The whole system is built on trust and unfortunatley the world is full of untrustworthy people. It's amazing actually that Craigslist has flourished and grown so much. Despite the drawbacks and uncertainty, people are adamant to look for the good and trust others. That's an awesome thing in this world.

On the other hand, you have to resign yourself to the fact people have no manners. They send rude emails. They don't show up for appointments. They try to talk you down in price even after you've agreed and driven halfway to meet them. But then the next guy shows up on time, pays without complaint, and thanks you. All is right again in Craigslist land and you go ahead and do it again.

I have begun a little side business selling jump boxes for plyo metric and Crossfit workouts. Because people want different sizes, I take orders and when it is done I email them back and set up a time for pick up. Unfortunately I have found that Craigslist buyers often have cash burning a hole in their pocket when they initially contact me. They agree on a price and the time it will take, but a week later when the box is done and I text them back, suddenly they don't respond. Or they do and say they are no longer interested. That money they had last week is long gone. Well now I have an unsold jump box that cost me time and money to build and no buyer. I have to go back and try to sell that particular size, hoping someone else wants it. And with Craigslist I can't really ask them to give me a deposit up front to keep them honest. There is no rating system that gives them confidence in my honesty. People choose to trust on Craigslist, but not enough to give me money in advance. I'm stuck selling for a customer who may or may not follow through.

It's frustrating, but I don't know that there is a solution. It seems things have gone full circle. I've got something in my garage I want to get rid of and I need to find someone local willing to buy it. Maybe I should put out a garage sale sign out on the corner.



So You Didn’t Get a Hammock and Now You Need a Massage

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You sit at a desk all day staring at a computer, or maybe you didn't heed my sage advice and you went camping without a hammock. And now you are paying the price. Your shoulders are sore and your back aches. There's a crick in your neck that just won't go away. I guess pine cones don't make good pillows. But wait! You're one of the lucky ones. You have a spouse or significant other who is willing to give you a massage. There is nothing better. If I had the cash, I would love to support my local masseuses and would frequent them regularly. The few times I have gone for a professional massage, it was wonderful until the hard sell at the end to buy into a membership. Sorry, that isn't in the budget.

What's the worst part about getting a massage at home instead of at a spa? You don't have a face hole in your bed that's what!! Am I right? There is no way to get a proper massage of the shoulders when you have to turn your head to one side to the other just to breath. Even if you try some fancy pillow packing trick, your head will still be at an unnatural angle and you are more in danger of getting another knot than getting a relaxing massage. But we here at the green workbench don't tuck our tails between our legs and raise the white flag of surrender. No siree! We come up with a solution and try it out, that's what we do. You look at massage tables online. Holy guacamole, those things are expensive, and it's just a padded folding table with a face hole. We can build that.

I found hinges at Rockler that are used for folding tables. They lock into place. I grabbed some wood, hopefully you have some lying around from previous projects. I had some foam padding from some packages. All I needed was the vinyl. Vinyl cleans easily and doesn't soak up whatever massage oil or lotion you are using. I just grabbed whatever was on sale, which is why my table is the color of salmon puke. But I was going for cheap. I cut a face hole in the board, and with some staples and some glue, upholstered it. I made the legs adjustable and attached them. Now you can place the folding table at the edge of any bed of any height and create an instant massage table. The hole is placed so that your neck isn't tilted up at a weird angle because it's a gradual rise from your chest up. I also included a small padded “pillow” for your forehead which helps a lot. It is connected with string sewn through the vinyl, foam, and board, but it is tied loosely so it is somewhat adjustable.

Check out the video and let me know what you think in the comments. So if you have a sore aching back and shoulders or if you just want an intimate candlelit evening at home, there's no need to waste your fortune on visits to the masseuse or fancy tables, just pull the folding, adjustable massage table out from under your bed and you are ready to go.


Raise the Roof!! Or Rather, Lay the Roof.

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Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of summer, and in our area at least, the last weekend before school starts. There is always high expectation the summer will go out with a bang and we will be refreshed enough to last us through until the next holiday. Last year we took a camping trip to Neah Bay, the northwestern most point in the contiguous United States for a camping adventure that included kayaking, scuba diving, spear fishing, and playing on the beach. We went with our friends, another family, and promised to do it again next year. It was all great fun.

This year we were thinking of a more land locked adventure in the Northern Cascades, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. for our camping trip. We envisioned hikes to alpine lakes, wildlife sightings, and walks along fern strewn grounds through old growth cedar forest. We phoned our friends to make plans and finalize the location and they dropped the bomb. They desperately needed a new roof on their house and had to get it done before the rainy season starts. They couldn't spend a frivolous weekend in the woods when there was work to be done and the arrival of months of gray skies was imminent.

Well, we couldn't go camping when we knew they were home working, and we had promised to spend Labor Day weekend together anyway. So it was decided. We were having a roofing party. Now I don't have a ton of roofing experience, but I have done it in the bitter cold of winter in Utah and don't want to ever do that again! Our friends began some of the prep work during the week, but on Thursday evening a monsoon rolled in, the likes of which is rarely seen in these parts. We hoped it wasn't a precursor for the weekend!

The Thursday storm set things back and Friday after work I went over to help them tear of the two layers of old shingles until dark. We had hoped to be completed and ready to start installing by Saturday morning, but no such luck. We also needed to replace a few soft rotting boards of plywood. We didn't really start laying tar paper and shingles until noon on Saturday. Our prayers for sunshine were answered however. But be careful what you pray for! Just ask my bright red neck and my almost heat exhausted self! The bright hot sun mixed with tar paper and shingles makes for a long day.


Sunday was a much needed day of rest and Monday we got right back to it. The completed roof looks so much nicer and changes the appearance of the entire house! It was a great weekend of good old fashioned work. It reminds me of the days of community barn raising where everyone pitched in to help. We had a few other guys helping us out as well, which made a big difference. And an entire family showed up on Monday and took care of picking up all of the old shingles that were just thrown from the roof. That was amazing! I made sure to get my son involved to teach him how to lay a roof, just as my dad did for me. You never know. He may have a weekend vacation on top of a friends' roof someday in his future as well. I hope we set the right example and he too will choose to raise the roof over pitching a tent!


Playing the Host Game

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I'm not talking about having people over for dinner party or serving up a better spread than the next guy. I'm not talking about making the most creative Martha Stewart center pieces. I'm talking about your website or blog. For bloggers, the two most common choices are Blogger and WordPress. There is always the option to go completely free on those services, but that means your domain name will have “” or “” which lets the entire world know you are too cheap to purchase a domain and don't take your blog seriously. The free option is for people who want to share cute stories and photos with the grandparents.

Your first step is to purchase a domain name. I did some research and followed the recommendation of other bloggers in choosing to acquire my domain from It was a very simple process and not too expensive. Once you find a domain name that no one else has registered and that is descriptive of your website identity and content, pull the plug and make the purchase. Now you have to pick a service to host your site. Godaddy offers hosting as well. I chose to go with bluehost, based on recommendations from other bloggers. They offer multiple plans and the price gets cheaper the more time you buy at once. Seeing as this was my first experience in creating a site, I decided to go month to month until I decided this whole blog thing was going to become, well, a thing. It started out at 9.99 a month, but was quickly jacked up to 11.99 a month. That is crazy expensive!! Bluehost was very easy. I installed WordPress, changed the name servers at godaddy, and I was off and running.

After a few months, I went in to bluehost to look at what it would cost to change my plan to one or two years, but there wasn't an option to do it. It said I had to call customer service. I hate calling customer service! In bluehost's defense, the one time that I did have to call them, they were very friendly and fixed my problem right away. I just don't like having to call in as a general rule.

So I started to look at other hosting services and found one with a coupon that would allow me to purchase three years of hosting for around $65! That is a great price. I googled the company and didn't find any negative reviews, so at that price, I went for it. My new hosting service is through I couldn't even get one year of bluehost for that price.

Then began the headache. I am not a software engineer or website designer. I have no idea how to design and build a website. It is my goal to someday learn. I am a pretty quick study and fairly technical, but have never had the time to really delve in. After switching to hostmetro, I decided to try and transfer my site from bluehost by myself. That was a mistake! First off, I changed the name servers prematurely, so I effectively took my site down before it was ready. When I realized that mistake, I switched them back to bluehost to give me time to make the transfer. I downloaded my site from bluehost and uploaded it into hostmetro, but I had no idea what folder to put it in or what to do with it afterward. I had a scare when I loaded a new version of WordPress on hostmetro, and it appeared I had lost all of my articles to date. That was a bad feeling!

Finally I decided to ask for help. Every time I tried to google how to do something on hostmetro, I only got results for host gator. Apparently hostmetro is new enough that there isn't much written on the web. Hostmetro has the option to chat, call in, or submit a support ticket. I decided to submit a ticket and got a response within an hour or so. I provided my bluehost login because hostmetro advertised they could transfer my site for me. Unfortunately they came back and said bluehost requires everything to be downloaded to the local machine, so I had to go and download my site from bluehost and then upload it to hostmetro via cpanel. Then hostmetro went ahead and did the rest, building out my wordpress site. They informed me when it was done and I went into godaddy to change the name servers again. It takes a couple of days for the domain to resolve to the new host, so I waited.

Finally, after two more days I started trying to access my website. I could access it via some browsers, but not with others. When it did load, it would load very slowly. I could access it on my phone, but not my tablet or laptop. Arggghhhhhh!!! I could log into WordPress, but couldn't access the admin panel. I went back to hostmetro, and was told I needed to clear my browser cache. I did, but no dice. I wrote back to complain and then suddenly everything started to work. It's quick, responsive, and works in every browser.

The saga of switching hosts lasted over a week, but in the end everything worked out. For the price, you can't beat it. Hostmetro was responsive and helpful and figured out whatever issues I was having for me, even though I probably created most of them. And now I know that I really need to find the time to buckle down and learn how to build a website and use cpanel. In the meantime, I'll keep writing. I have three years before I have to think about changing. Tell me what hosting service you use and why in the comments.


What’s a Bay Window Without a Bench?

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Our house has a wide open space flowing from the kitchen to the family room at the back of the house. The formal dining room is actually in the front living room, but we never use it as such because it is carpeted, and no one in their right mind with kids eats over carpet. The kitchen has enough space for a table in a sort of breakfast nook, so we eat there. It has a sliding door to the back patio so it is a little tight, but it works.

The family room is naturally divided into two separate spaces. The middle space is deeper and has a bay window. The far side has the fireplace at the end with shelves on both sides and a large window to the backyard. Since a family room is the less formal space in the house where good friends and family can hang out, lets be honest and admit it revolves around comfortable couches and the tv.

So our first dilemma was where to put the tv. The first option was on a stand in the bay window, but it is never a good idea to backlight the tv with large windows. It would be good spot because we would be able to see the tv while working in the kitchen, but we just couldn't waste a bay window like that.

The second choice was above the fireplace. Our fireplace is up off the ground with a concrete bench, so the tv would be way too high. You would need a recliner just to watch tv without straining your neck. The final option was on the inside wall of the fireplace room. You can't see the tv from the kitchen, but we could live with that. So now the tv is placed, the couches naturally went around the tv. This left the middle area open and empty. The room had no built in lighting apart from one pot light aimed at the fireplace so it was both dark and empty.

Remember, this is a rental, so I can't build anything permanent. With that in mind, one of my first projects in the house was a window bench for the bay window. I did it in one evening with a 2×4 frame and plywood base and seat. I framed it in pine and painted the whole thing. The original idea was to get foam and fabric and make a cushion for the top. Of course, this never happened, so I had an ugly plywood bench. I left the front open, which is great for books and storage, but the top needed some serious help.

I have a friend who bought an older home and they had to redo some of the hardwood floor. He let me take all of the solid oak pieces that they tore out. It was all sitting in a pile in my garage and I decided the oak would look great on my bench.

After many hours of pulling nails and sanding, I had a pile large enough to cover the top of the bench. But just covering it in oak isn't enough for me. Oh no. I wanted the bench to be a unique reading nook, so with that in mind I decided to incorporate hard bound books into the top. I went to the thrift store and found hard bound books with interesting covers.

I also couldn't just put plain old oak down either. I wanted it to be multicolored without having to buy a bunch of stain, so I made my own vinegar based stains. I'll talk more about that process in a later post. With the boards stained and prepped, I began the installation. There was a lot of mixing and matching and cutting, but in the end it came together great. Three coats of varnish later, the top was done.

Now for the face. I couldn't just leave it white. To get the books to fit on the top I had to take out extra pages until they were the right thickness. So I decided to use the extra pages and decoupage glue to cover the face of the bench. I think the hardest part was to avoid getting glue on the carpet!

In the end, I had a great looking bay window bench that is completely removable from the room. Will I take it with me? I don't know. Maybe I'll ask the next tenants if they want it, maybe I'll take it. It will be hard to let it go, but when will I ever live in a house with a bay window of the same dimensions? In the meantime, we will enjoy it. Finally, that middle room has an identity. Let me know what you think in the comments.


My Back No Longer Hates Camping

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Do you love the outdoors and love camping, waking up with the sun, the sound of birds in the morning and crickets and frogs at night? Do you find the fresh air invigorating and cold (properly filtered) mountain stream water refreshing? Did you grow up camping with your family and maybe even with a scout troop? Did you vow to teach your children the joys of camping? Did you reach a certain age, and after a night spent in a sleeping bag on top of a pad, get up to find you could barely walk from the stiffness and back pain? That could ruin anyone's motivation to continue venturing into the great outdoors.

Some of you never have and never will be phased by hard, uneven, rocky ground. My hat is off to you, though tinged with a bit of jealousy. It didn't take my back long to revolt. I don't think my back waited until I hit thirty to firmly insist I never ever try to trick it into thinking a half inch foam pad is the same as a plush memory foam or pillow top mattress. My back drove it's point home very effectively with knots and pain only a sadistic massage therapist would relish kneading out.

Just as with all problems in life, there are many solutions. For many, the back revolt coincides with a time when you are finally secure in a good job and the income is generous and steady. You are a grown-up now and worked hard to get through school and suffer through multiple job interviews. You have a mortgage, two cars, and 2.5 kids. It only make sense that you drive your new pickup truck or SUV down to the RV lot and take out essentially a second mortgage on a fifth wheel, trailer, motor home, or camper that you will use at least twice a year. Hopefully you could see the sarcasm dripping from the last few sentences, because that is just crazy. What is the point of buying a house on wheels? If you don't want to leave your house, then just stay home.

You are not the type to blow your investments and savings on a trailer, so you decide the way to continue camping and still be comfortable is to buy cots and air mattresses. They are a bit pricey, but don't require a loan officer. Of course you also need a tent large enough to accommodate the new camp furniture. These are not bad options for car camping. They take up a lot of room in your garage or storage shed, but the mattress is well worth the struggle of packing and blowing up when it's time to settle down. Hopefully you like campsites with neighbors and close quarters, because there is no way you are hiking all of that gear in. If you aren't like me, you won't end up with the loud drunk party in the site to your left and the very vocal middle of the night amorous couple in the site to your right.

You want to backpack in to your camp site while still saving your back from the horribly uncomfortable rocky ground. Therefore, you decide to look at hammocks. Your friend tells you they are a bad idea because you'll end up sleeping in a “U” shape. Your friend, of course, has never actually slept in a backpacking hammock. I vow to you here and now, if you buy a good quality backpacking hammock, it will change your life forever. You will sleep like a baby and look forward to camping to catch up on sleep.

I use a Hennessy Hammock and wouldn't trade it for the world. It is designed so you sleep at a diagonal. If you do, you can lay completely flat. You can even sleep on your side very comfortably. The HH I have uses a bottom entry Velcro system and includes mosquito netting and a rain fly. It is essentially a hanging tent. It has minimal impact on the environment because it is off the ground and the straps are safe for trees. You can buy different size straps to match the most common tree trunk sizes in your area or do as I do and use ENO slap straps which are adjustable to different size trunks. Sleeping in the HH is extremely comfortable and the nature of the material and design provides give to parts of your body that need it and support to others. It packs up nice and small and is great for backpacking. I've used mine in heat, cold, rain, and snow and have been perfectly comfortable. HH has under pads and insulation for cold weather, but I have found that using a reflective bubble type windshield screen and a small fleece blanket work really well to protect you from cold air flowing underneath the hammock.

It is also possible to make your own hammock out of parachute nylon and 550 or parachute cord. Homemade hammocks tend to use the cocoon type design to protect you from the elements. This is great, but I can't give up the built in bug and rain protection in my Hennessy Hammock.

Don't let old age and stiff muscles stop you from adventure. Try out a Heneessy Hammock and change your life. Check out their website for great information and informative videos. When you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below or feel free to ask any questions.


What Did We Plant There Again?

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If you are like me, you are gung-ho every spring to plant your garden. You go and pick up seeds for all of the good things you want to grow and grab potting soil and starts. You watch the forecast for warmer days and get all set to go. You till the earth and pull weeds making everything just perfect. Planting day finally arrives and you get your kids or spouse to come outside and help you out. You have your early plants like peas, radishes, and lettuce that you plant outside and the rest you plant in pots which you will nurture indoors or, if you are lucky, your greenhouse. This year I got a little pop-up greenhouse which has been awesome.

If you are really organized, you have Popsicle sticks or little plastic markers that you label and stick in the ground or pots to help you remember what you planted. You are feeling really good about your efforts and can't wait till they start to grow. You check everyday and take pictures when you finally see green poking out of the soil. It's still spring, so the weather changes and there are nights you are worried it will be too cold. It rains and may even snow. But finally all of your loving effort pays off and the plants start to really take hold.

It's been a few weeks now, so you are starting to forget what you planted where and in which pot. No worries, you made labels. You go to read the labels and find them blank. But you used a permanent marker! What happened? Outside happened that's what. The writing faded or washed off and now you have no idea what is where. Some plants are easy, but others not so much. If only you had done something a little more permanent! If only you had read this article first!

Go to the thrift store and buy all of the interesting looking old silverware: knives, spoons, forks, it doesn't matter. Next find an engraver. If you don't have one, which I didn't, ask around. Maybe there is one sitting on the back shelf at your office long forgotten, that you could borrow. You will be surprised. There is someone in your group of friends who has or knows someone with an engraver. If not, you can always use a Dremel or other rotary tool. What self respecting DIYer doesn't have one of those?

Using whatever script you choose, label each piece with the name of a vegetable in your garden and use it to mark your seeds. It's permanent and Is unique. The biggest drawback is the lack of contrast between the silverware and the engraving. I tried spray painting the item and then engraving. It turned out pretty cool and was a great option.

Mystery plant problem solved! What are you waiting for? Run out to your local thrift stir and get started. Check out the video below for more details and let me know what you think in the comments.


So You Want to Write a Book, Just Like Everybody Else

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It seems everyone has aspirations to write a book. Does that mean everyone has something totally interesting and unique to say that the world needs to hear? Ummm, I think not. If the comments section of blogs and news sites are any indication, there are people who should never be allowed to type anything readable by the general public, and not just because of atrocious grammar and spelling. Some people are just ignorant. Of the people who claim they want to write a book, how many of those actually sit down and take the time to write the first chapter, or even the first page? Not many.

Have you ever been to a library and just wandered through the aisles trying to take in the sheer number of books on the shelves? Maybe your local public library isn't that impressive, but think of a university library. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on the shelves that have never been checked out. And it is probably getting worse instead of better. There is no need to check out that obscure book for a school paper when the same information is easily found on the Internet. Even if you can surmount the odds of getting your brilliant book accepted by a publisher, you and your editor may be the only two people who ever read it. Oh, and your mom. She'll read it just because you wrote it.

What are the odds of writing the Great American Novel? Let me put it in a bit of perspective. Take all of the people who claim they want to write a book and put them in a room. Now only those who actually start writing can move on to the next room. Huge drop! Now only those that actually write more than a chapter or two can move on, then only those who actually finish. From there take those who have the guts to show their work to someone, be it a publisher or just a friend. Your room gets even smaller still. Now here is where you can choose the traditional path of shotgunning your manuscript to every publisher you can find an address for or you can decide to go it on your own. That's right, self-publish.

That takes what amounts to a tiny percentage of the starting crowds and divides them even further. For the sake of this article, we'll travel down the self-publishing route. But don't get too excited. The self-publishing room is much more crowded. It's easier and allows you to publish your work, even if it sucks. There is no professional quality control or editor deciding if your book is marketable. It may just be the worst thing ever written and you can still publish. A very small percentage of the room will have the capital to self-publish a physical book. We'll let those hoity toity types go off into their gilded room. The rest of us will be milling about aimlessly in the self-published ebook room.

There was a time when ebooks were just a fad. Experts and bloggers predicted ebook readers would be the garage sale items of tomorrow. But with some powerful companies standing behind the ebook like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble their popularity has only grown. Those companies have also seen the importance of allowing their books to be read on multiple platforms, like ebook readers, tablets and computers. Gradually, e-readers have become a staple, recognized and accepted by the general population. They are easy enough to be used by grandma and hip enough to be used by the cool kids, or at least the cool kids who want people to know they read.

So what are your options in self-publishing your ebook? They are many, but I'll focus on the Barnes and Noble Nook store and the Amazon Kindle store. For both, it's actually a very simple process.

Each store has a similar process. You upload your ebook file and they convert it, B&N to an ePub file and Amazon to their proprietary Kindle format. You enter in your title and synopsis and upload your book cover. You enter all of your personal information into your account so they can send you any money you earn and also send you tax information at the end of the year. At first I uploaded my book to both, but it is now only in the Kindle store.

I'll tell you why. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers some benefits if you commit to only sell your book on Amazon, which is called KDP Select. They allow you to add your book to the Kindle Lending Library so that anyone with the popular Prime membership can borrow your book for free or buy it and lend it to their friends. You don't directly make money when someone borrows your book, but at first the important thing is to just get people to read it. If it is good and stands on its own, they will recommend it to friends and hopefully spread the word that yours is the book to read on the beach this summer. And with KDP Select, you get a piece of the KDP Select Global Fund, which basically means you get paid a percentage of the fund each month based on the number of times people borrowed your book. It is not a direct royalty per book sold, but rather a piece of the larger pie.

With KDP Select you can also manage five promotional days per quarter. You can choose which days you want your ebook to be free and Amazon automatically adjusts the price on those days. It is a great way to once again get people to read your book. I've found, at least in my own experience, that there are downsides to free books. People tend to get all of the free books they can just to add to their collection, but don't necessarily read them. There is much greater chance someone will read a book they had to pay for.

If so, what is the optimum price point? $.99? $1.99? $5.99? That I am still trying to figure out. I can say there is a pyschological effect when charging a higher price. People tend to think it is of greater quality if it costs more, (thinks cars or clothes) but they are unwilling to gamble on an unknown author above a certain price. Maybe $5.00 is that magic number. I don't know. You can change the cost, so feel free to test things out at different price points to see what happens.

How did I end up writing a novel? Good question, although I don't really have a great answer. I was sitting in a hotel room on an extended business trip with my laptop and I opened Word and started to type. It was really that simple. I had no plot in mind, no synopsis, none of things you learn to do in school. I started to write and it just began to flow from my fingertips. The story just came out. I started writing everyday and it just grew and grew. Now I've scared you all off from ever reading my book.

“If he didn't work for months on his plot line and character development, I'm never going to read it,” she said with her nose firmly and snootily pointing towards the sky.

Guess what, the process is not the same for everyone. My book may not appeal to you or it may be your favorite book ever. You'll never know until you try. Although I had friends and family read it to help me edit, I know there are still some small things that need editing. With KDP, I can upload a newer version and it will be pushed out to everyone who has purchased the book so they can download the latest version. It is almost impossible to catch all of your own mistakes and I have found that going back a year later, when things are not so fresh in my mind, I have found mistakes that I missed multiple times before. It's about time for me to go through the entire book and make corrections. They are small and insignificant to the story, but I want my book to look professional.

Here's my chance to throw in a pitch for my book. It's called “The Flaming Grenade.” There is the normal version which I would rate at PG-13 lite and a Teen version which is a solid PG. I created the teen version so I could comfortably let my kids read it. I am pretty conservative in what I allow the kids to read, and I would let an 11-12 yr old read the teen version. The book has action, adventure, travel, love, suspense, history, and a little sci-fi/tech. Something for everyone!

For extra incentive to my blog readers, I have set my promotion period for next week, 05-09Aug13, so you can grab it for free. If you are itching to start sooner, which I recommend, you can always go ahead and buy it!

Read my book, start writing yours, and don't forget to leave positive reviews on Amazon!! Let me know what you think in the comments.


Hey, Do We Have Any Basil? Why Yes, We Do!

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A mediocre meal becomes a masterpiece with the right balance of herbs and spices. Every herb has certain properties and flavor that when used properly, really makes the dish. Of course, on the flip side, you can't just throw in herbs willy nilly and hope they work. You can ruin a meal that way. I know lemon isn't a spice, but it used for flavoring, so I'm going to use it to make my point. Our kids were cooking spaghetti and were trying to follow our example of adding some flavoring to the canned sauce. Instead of peppers (which they don't like), onions and some select herbs, they decided to add lemon juice. They've seen me add lemon to flavor other dishes and figured, what the heck!? Commence vomiting! It was nasty!!

You can buy whatever herbs you want in expensive little bottles. The herbs are decent, but not great. It seems the bottled herbs lose a lot of flavor in the processing and packaging. If you really want to wow the dining table, you've gotta use fresh herbs. There is no comparison. You don't have enough room in your yard for a garden you say? You don't know how to manage soil ph levels, compost, bugs, watering, and fertilizer. Lame. That's right, lame. Stop being a whiner and build yourself this hanging herb planter.

I used some more of my grandpas's barn wood and some of the other materials I talked about in my barn wood mason jar wall sconce post to include the large hose clamps and mason jars. With your board hanging vertical decide how far apart you want the mason jars to hang. Nail the hose clamps on and start to prep your mason jars. Use potting soil you can get ready mixed in a bag and pick the herbs you use most. I decided to grow basil, cilantro, and chives. Plant the seeds in your jars and then secure the jars in the clamps. Figure out a way to hang your little herb garden. I used an eye bolt as you can see in the video below. Turn your jars at an angle toward the sun and all you have to do is water when it gets dry.

One note about using mason jars has to do with the watering. There is no drainage, so if you overwater or don't have a good sunny spot, you may start to get some moss and/or mold growth in the jar. You have to keep an eye on the dampness of the soil. But if your garden is hanging on your front porch anyway, you'll see it every time you walk into your house. That's so much easier than trying to remember to go into the backyard to water!

When your plants start to get too big for their britches, no problem. Go ahead and trim your plants and prep a spot in your kitchen to hang them upside down to dry. Home dried herbs can be saved and used during the cold winter months when nothing is growing, making your garden a year round affair. And home dried herbs retain much more flavor than those store bought bottled ones. As an added bonus, hanging drying herbs looks cool in your kitchen.

So check out the how to video below and make your own mason jar herb garden. Don't worry if you don't have barn wood. You can find a cool piece of driftwood at the beach or just use a nice looking board. No excuses!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.


So You Want to Make Money Online

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You gets ads in your email inbox all the time telling you how much money you could make online. You see guests on the daytime talk shows you watch while filling out resumes. They talk about how they make $10,000 a day online and you can too. You’ve read blog entries and tried websites. You’ve taken surveys online and have some great ideas for YouTube videos that you are sure will go viral. Well, I’m here to exhort you to enthusiastically pinch yourself awake and get a life. Can you make money online? Absolutely! Will it be quick or easy? Not a chance.

If you were starting your own business, you wouldn’t expect to show up on your first day, unlock the door to your newly rented office spaces, and have a line of customers around the block. You wouldn’t print your own diploma, put it in a nice frame and start seeing sick patients! OK, so maybe you would, but I’m hoping the majority of my audience is made up of better stuff. So why do people think going online is any different? Why do people think it takes less effort to be successful online? It’s like the Internet makes people stupid.

I am here to tell you that it takes time, energy, and hard work to make money online just like it does in real life. I am going to dedicate a series of posts to online money-making ideas because I dabble in a few. I don’t expect to make big money and I haven’t really put in the time or investment to do so. I do it more for a little extra cash now and then. Some of them could be bigger money makers if I really invested the time, but I have a good stable job and I don’t depend on my online activities to pay the bills. If I can make a few bucks doing what I enjoy, then why not!?

I will dedicate the first entry to my Zazzle store. is a website where you can submit your own designs and they will print those designs on a multitude of different items to include shirts, hats, bags, stickers, key chains, iPhone cases, speakers, coffee mugs, plates, clocks, etc, etc; you get the idea. You take your designs and manipulate them on the Zazzle template specific to each item and then post your creation for sale in your own Zazzle store. You can design and post each item separately or do a bulk creation. There are pros and cons to each. Separate creation takes time. You have to create the template for each item, choose the color, write the title, write the description, pick a store category, pick a Zazzle category, and choose tags. But each item is uniquely designed to look its best. With bulk creation, you get your design onto a lot of products quickly, but your image may not be positioned where you want it and the colors or text may not be just right. I’ve done both and greatly prefer individual creation despite the added time commitment.

You earn money by getting paid a percentage of the cost of the item. You can even choose your percentage. For example, you can increase your profits by electing to receive a higher percentage. However, the cost of the item will go up, thus potentially reducing the number of sales. Zazzle takes its cut no matter what, as it should.

The trick is to find a unique design that has wide appeal. Create a niche product so that anyone searching for your tags will be taken to your store. For example, one of my best-selling designs is of Sicily. There are a few other sellers of Sicilian themed items on Zazzle, but I spent a long time in Photoshop creating a unique and high quality graphic. Sicily may not be one of the most common search terms on Zazzle, but whenever it is typed in, my designs pop up close to the top.

Zazzle items are high quality and worth their cost. There is real money-making potential. They add new product lines all the time and it takes time to keep up. If you want your design on every available product you are going to spend hours and hours. Add a second or third design and compound your time accordingly. Zazzle submits a payment as soon as you reach the minimum threshold of $50. You will then get the money deposited by the 15th of the following month. You can also choose to keep the money in your Zazzle account or spend it on Zazzle products. Zazzle sales go up dramatically during the Christmas holiday and there are smaller peaks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, and other special occasions.

As a member you get frequent email promotions for great discounts. I have used my earnings and discount codes to buy some awesome gifts.

I’ve had a store on Zazzle for about 4 years and have made around $1500. I have, in spurts, worked on and created a few graphics, but really haven’t consistently invested that much time into my store. I’ve also spent very little time promoting my store through connections with other Zazzle retailers or through social media or websites. I’ve selected a more passive role in just letting users find my store through search terms. If I can make fifteen hundred bucks doing essentially nothing, think what I could do if I really started promoting my store!

Check out my Zazzle store, search through the products they have available in other stores, and try your hand at creating a product to sell. Who knows, with a lot of work and time, you may just beat the odds!

Tell me what you think in the comments.

See other gifts available on Zazzle.