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Light Therapy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Philips goLITE BLULast time I wrote about this most inauspicious January, and I said I’d talk briefly about how I’m trying to stay more positive and have more energy (other than exercising).

Last December I finally bought a Philip BluLight from Amazon. I’d been resisting buying this product mostly because it’s not cheap and I wasn’t sure if it’d actually work. But since I got really really tired of feeling SAD and lethargic in winter, I broke down and bought it.

Despite my skepticism, I’ve been using it for close to a month now, and I think it works.

I use it at the lowest setting for about 30 minutes in the morning after breakfast. (I may try the medium intensity at some point, but the lowest setting seems to work fine for me.)

The days I use it, I don’t really need to drink coffee or anything, provided that I had at least 7 hours of sleep the night before. (And the BluLight helps with getting to sleep at night — double whammy!) I also feel less blue and depressed despite the cold and dreary weather. However, it doesn’t help my joints feel better. They ache when the weather’s bad.

I only use it once a day, but some people use it more often. It is not recommended for use in the late afternoon / evening because it might make it hard to fall asleep. Since I only use it in the morning, I haven’t felt any adverse effects. But just because I feel refreshed and more alert in the morning doesn’t mean I need less sleep.

The only time I didn’t use it is when I was deathly ill around the time Reunited in Love was released. I slept so much during that time that it didn’t make any sense to use the product (I didn’t get up until almost noon anyway).

I remember seeing some questions about the BluLight from my Tweet followers. Feel free to either @ me on Twitter or leave some comments / questions here, and I’ll be happy to answer them. :)


How Our Body Language Can Shape Who We Are

I want to share an incredibly inspiring and fascinating talk by Amy J. C. Cuddy about how our body language can shape who we are.

Most of us think that others look at our body language to judge us. But we too unconsciously are affected by our own body language and act accordingly. Our body language governs how we think and feel about ourselves.

So watch this amazing talk on body language and see how you can make yourself more confident:


Getting Your Dot Com: 1&1 Domain Registrant

1&1Most writers (that is to say, 99% of writers) are expected to have a website with a good domain name, such as http://www.mypenname.com (or .net if .com is unavailable).

There are tons of companies that offer domain registration, and out of those, I found 1&1 to be the most economical and easy to use. Their fees are pretty low — about $10/year per domain name for the most sought-after domains such as .com and .net. But the best thing about using 1&1 is that they offer free private registration.

What is free private registration?

When you register a domain, your contact information becomes public. Anybody who looks up your domain name can see your name, physical address, email address, etc. It’s actually scary how easy it is. (You just need to google “whois”!) On the other hand, private registration ensures that your information is protected. So instead of your personal information, the following is displayed instead:

Oneandone
Private Registration
1&1 Internet, Inc. - http://1and1.com/contact
701 Lee Rd. Suite 300
Chesterbrook, PA 19087
(877) 461-2631

A lot of companies (GoDaddy, for one) charge for the service. The last time I checked, it was $10/year in addition to the domain registration and renewal fees, which effectively doubles your cost if you want an extra layer of protection between you and all the kooks out there.

So my recommendation is to try 1&1. I’ve been using them for more than seven years now without any problems. And you can’t beat $10.99/year for the domain plus private registration for peace of mind and privacy.

Note: The 1&1 tech support isn’t bad for things like domain registration and transfers because you rarely, if ever, need to talk to somebody on the phone about it. However, if you need some hand-holding because you’re using them for web hosting, you may find them a bit lacking. I’ve heard people grumbling about it on Twitter, and Hero Material found them somewhat frustrating to deal with.


Back Up! Why Dropbox Is Awesome

dropboxNow that it’s almost NaNo time, I want to talk about something that’s probably one of the most important things a writer can have: backup. If your computer has ever crashed and burned and lost all your projects — or at least a big chunk of them — you probably know how important it is to back up often. (It’s happened to me too….ugh.)

But just knowing doesn’t mean you actually do it. So let’s talk about a tool that helps you back up automatically: Dropbox.

It’s probably one of the best tools out there for backup and syncing your projects on multiple computers and mobile devices. Furthermore, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. So no matter what kind of OS you’re running, you can use it. And the best thing about it? It costs nothing, and the free version comes with a full suite of features.

To start with, you need to create an account. The account ID is tied to your email address. A lot of services and companies are prone to spam, but not Dropbox. I’ve yet to receive a single spam message in my inbox, and I’ve been using Dropbox for over a year now.

Once you download Dropbox and install it, it will run seamlessly in the background and automatically back up all your files to a designated directory (or a folder). It’s very intelligently designed, so it updates only the files that have been changed since the last backup. This ensures that it doesn’t suck up all your computer’s processing power, so the programs you’re really interested in — such as Word or Tweetdeck (for those of you interested in social media…or maybe just procrastination) — can run as fast as possible.

In addition, Dropbox lets you automatically access the latest version of your work on other devices.

For example: Let’s say, you wrote 2,000 words on Computer #1. Then you decided that you want to continue working on the manuscript from Computer #2. Without Dropbox, you’d have to get a memory stick and transfer the manuscript file over, send it to yourself via email, etc. But with Dropbox, you can just go to Computer #2 and open up the file, so long as you have the Dropbox program on both computers.

Later, if you want to review the manuscript on your iPad, you can do so by accessing the file using the Dropbox app. See how convenient and easy this is?

If you want to share your manuscript with another person and allow them to edit, you can share only that file by putting it in the Public folder and giving them a special link for it. This can be done easily via the Dropbox web interface or by right-clicking on the file.

Finally — if you ever decide that the latest version of your file is garbage and you must get a previous version back, it can be done. Access the web interface for file history or right-click on the file on your computer for version history. Using this feature, you can even undelete files you’ve gotten rid of accidentally.

A note on pricing: The Dropbox basic plan is free and gives you up to 2GB of storage. That’s usually enough for most writers to back up their manuscripts and notes. If you need more storage space, you can always upgrade to their paid plans. The paid plans can be pricey (almost $100 per year for the cheapest plan), but you get at least 50GB.

A note on tech support: The Dropbox website is full of helpful articles to help you out, should you feel lost. (Though I doubt you will since the program is very intuitive.) Almost all of their help articles contain screenshots, which I found useful. I’ve never had to email their tech support because their web articles are just that great.

Final verdict — Give Dropbox a try to back up your data and sync your files across multiple devices. At $0.00, you can’t beat its pricing or features.


Successful Query Examples

This week, Magic and Mayhem Writers is showcasing four queries that helped us land our agents.

BTW — If you need help with your query letter, leave a comment on Sandy’s post saying so. She’s going to pick one person per ten commenters and take a look at their query.


“How to Format Your Manuscript for Kindle and Nook” on Smashwords

How to Format Your Manuscript for Kindle and Nook by Nadia LeeI’ve been getting lots of inquiries about how I convert my manuscripts to Kindle or Nook recently. So yesterday, I put up a step-by-step guide for formatting your manuscript on Kindle and Nook entitled (appropriately enough) How to Format Your Manuscript for Kindle and Nook on Smashwords. It’s an expanded version of my blog post on the same topic. Since I wrote that post, I’ve done three more conversions and learned a lot from each experience. I wanted to share lessons learned, tips, etc. to make it as easy as possible for people to follow along and create an ebook that has a cover, table of contents and so on. (I don’t like ebooks that come without a cover, though in some cases it can’t be helped.)

The guide assumes that you have some basic knowledge of HTML, such as tags for paragraphs, headings and italics. But you don’t need to code from scratch since the guide contains lots of snippets of code that you can easily copy and paste. (It’s all done for you!) This should prevent any odd errors due to typos, etc. In addition, my understanding is that Smashwords allows buyers to download updated versions for free, provided that the author replaces the old file with the new one. I wanted everyone to be able to access the latest version easily, should I make any changes. (I’m pretty sure I will as I discover new features, shortcuts, etc.)

P.S. You need a MS Windows computer to use the guide. One of the freeware programs needed to do the formatting isn’t available on Mac. Sorry, Mac users! If and when I find a suitable Mac freeware, I’ll definitely update the guide and let you know.