Tag Archives: amazon

In which I answer seeker’s questions

Do you know that if you are an author you can now log into your author profile on amazon.com, look at the sales information for your book by state in the US for the last month, and track the rise and fall of your kindle and paperback sales rankings over time? I am not at all sure that this is a good thing (although I would like to thank December 2010 shoppers in Vermont, California, and Washington State). It took me considerable time after my book was published to break myself of the habit of checking my Amazon sales ranking several times a day (a habit I now call Amazturbation) and googling my book name to see who was writing what about it on their blogs. After putting myself on very strict me-related internet rations, however, I’m proud to say that I can now go months without even thinking about my Amazon sales ranking, and I aim to keep this up despite the lure of those pretty colour-coded sales maps to puzzle over.

I mean, why Vermont? Although, I guess if I lived in Vermont in December I might be browsing the shelves for novels set on tropical islands too.

When I started blogging seriously earlier this year, wordpress presented me with yet another tool that has the potential to be wielded as a navel-gazing, self-stimulating, saccharine-sweet-but-ultimately-unsatisfying substitute for interaction with real people in real time that’s actually not all about me – site statistics for the blog.

Much to my relief, however, I’ve found site stats not nearly as dangerous and much more amusing than amazturbation. For example, here is a list of the all-time most popular search terms that have led people to my blog in the last year.

  1. Writing
  2. Puppies
  3. Write
  4. Dreaming
  5. Samoyed dog
  6. Lisa McKay
  7. Resilient
  8. Giant snake in laos

It’s very hard indeed to take yourself too seriously when your own name is outranked by Samoyed dog, dreaming, and puppies, and you only just beat out the giant snake in Laos.

However, the thing I really love about the search terms list is the questions. People have found my blog by asking some of the weirdest questions – questions I’m quite sure they didn’t find answered in my posts. So, today, in honour of all you question askers, I’m going to attempt to answer ten of them now.

What is that dog that looks like a big ball of fluff? This question pops up in various guises all the time. That dog is a Samoyed. That is, however, the extent of my knowledge, I’m sorry. I cannot direct you to bonsai Samoyeds, gothic Samoyeds, Samoyeds wearing helmets, or tell you what a Samoyed looks like when it’s been shaved. If any of my readers would like to chime in in the comments section with any good Samoyed related sites you’ll make a lot of searchers very happy. There are a truly remarkable number of people interested in Samoyeds out there.

Is pig fat good for fertility? Well, I’m no dietician, but I’d guess that while very small amounts aren’t going to hurt fertility, it’s not likely to do much good either (unless the fat is still on the pig, the pig is a mother pig, and you live in Ancient China – where keeping a fat mother pig at home signified fertility and wealth).

Is pepsi made of pig fat? and Is there pig blood in pepsi? To the best of my knowledge, no. There is a persistent internet rumour going around that pepsi contains pepsin and that pepsin is a chemical that contains pig blood. Every reputable site that I looked at, however, flatly denies this. 

What age do dogs start wandering? Some of my readers are professional dog trainers, so I should probably defer to them on this. But my own internet research suggests that male dogs will start wandering off in search of females in heat at about six months old.

Where can I buy Lisa McKay Pottery? There is apparently a Lisa McKay out there who makes pottery. However her site is down and I can’t find any of her pieces on sale. Sorry. If I take it up as a hobby I’ll let you know.

Does wandering have the same definition as wondering? No. Wandering refers to being mobile, migratory, and traveling around without a clear destination. Wondering refers to being inquisitive, showing curiosity or amazement, or to wish to know something.

Do you use a bridle to ride an elephant? Ah, no. That is one reason why it’s easy to fall off an elephant’s head unless you have better innate balance than I do.

What does Laotian writing look like? It’s very pretty. I can’t reproduce it here because my browser isn’t enabled for the script, but if you want to check it out you can go here.

Does Laos have rabies? Yes. But it’s not like packs of rabid animals are roaming the streets. The dogs here are mostly attached to families and relatively well behaved (if a bit mangy and flea-bitten). I have never been directly threatened by a stray dog here.

Is having two babies and two puppies too much? Look, too much is relative. But I can speak from the perspective of having one puppy and no babies and the answer for me is clear. Yes, it is.

OK, that’s it for this session of “Lisa answers questions”. But before I leave here is one final tidbit. One search term that regularly pops up has had me puzzled for quite some time. That search term is “giant snake bites electric fence.” So yesterday I went googling this myself, and if you want to see what I found you can go here (in all fairness I think this photo even beats the giant snake in Laos photo). I am warning you, though, I will take no responsibility if you follow the link and then have nightmares. None.

Until next time.

Festival of Faith and Writing

I’ve been in Michigan for most of this week, attending the Festival of Faith and Writing which is held every two years at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

The first time I attended the festival, four years ago, my book was still a year from being published and I…. Well, I was a kid in a candy store with Dad’s wallet and no budget. Except I didn’t have Dad’s wallet. And I should have had a budget.

I enjoyed it so much I came back again two years ago. And, this year, when Mike and I were trying to decide upon a timeline for our move to Laos – would he go alone first in mid April or would we go together? – the festival was one reason we put him on a plane alone last Sunday. While I’ve been shivering my way around a blustery Michigan these last few days he’s been in Vientiane in the middle of Laos New Year (which, from what I can work out from his emails, seems to involve 105 degree temperatures and a lot of Lao youth running around throwing buckets of water on random passer-byes as well as on the Buddhas in many temples). I guess Buddhas might get hot too.

Anyway, here in Michigan I’ve been doused repeatedly this week as well. Doused with ideas and passion and humour. Inspired by people’s stewardship of their talents. Refreshed by long talks with my writing BFF Nicole Baart and the vivid dance of tulips in the breeze (ok, in the biting wind). Reminded that I am looking forward to having more time to write after Mike and I arrive in Laos together in July.

There was so much to enjoy at this feast that I’m still too overwhelmed to properly sift and sort, but here were a few highlights…

Steve McCurry’s session on his photography for National Geographic. Sitting in a dark theatre for an hour while he projected some of his favorite photos onto the screen and talked about the story behind the image… wow. Talk about power in a picture.

Rhoda Janzen on memoir.

Parker Palmer on writing as a vocation.

Scott Russell Sanders on the essay as a way of discovery.

Jeanne Murray Walker, Leslie Leyland Fields, and Paul Willis on writing about great personal suffering.

Chip MacGregor on making a living as a writer.

Sara Zarr on pain in young adult fiction.

Richard Rodriguez (who I think gave the best keynote, hands down) on loneliness, memory, and intentionality in writing.

And Wally Lamb and Mary Karr on, well, mostly themselves. But they were very entertaining.

I’m publishing this from Grand Rapids airport on my way back to California and I’ll be glad to be home. Glad for some more sleep. And glad to still have time to place another big order on Amazon and pick up some more books to take to Laos. Now, if I just had Dad’s wallet…

But, on the bright side, I don’t have a budget yet either.

This issue of budget is one I am sure Mike and I will need to address at some point in the near future. But in the meantime, as Jesus once said, why borrow tomorrow’s trouble today?

And, today, there is Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by,