NaNoWriMo – What is it?

NaNoWriMo is the acronym for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo, is a creative writing endeavor and social community that started way back in 1999. Over the years, it has become a global social networking sensation and artistic writing phenomenon.

For its many followers, NaNoWriMo is a motivational writing challenge that, each year, through social media, encourages writers to craft out a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th.

You can register to be an official participant here, but it’s not required. This really is a self-challenge, on-your-honor, type of contest.

With the help of the worldwide writing community, whose support and encouragement fuel the challenge, writers are often able to produce an entire novel in 30 short days.

They do this by pledging to write a certain number of words per day during the entire month of November. As an example, 50,000 words divided by 30 days is 1,667 words per day. If you challenge yourself to write 1,667 words per day during November, by the end of that month, you will have written 50,000 words, or the equivalent word count for a typical novel.

That’s pretty astounding.

I encourage my fellow writers to follow NaNoWriMo on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. You’ll see, firsthand, the enthusiasm and excitement of its many followers. It’s contagious!

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for the past three years and the motivation to write every day actually works! NaNoWriMo is a motivational tool. It motivates me to sit down and write every day during the entire month of November.

Have I ever completed a 50,000-word novel? No, I have not. Not yet. But that’s okay, because I’m still working on my novel. I haven’t given up on it and NaNoWriMo is an excellent incentive for me to continue. Forward progress is what matters most.

NaNoWriMo’s true goal is to get you writing every day for thirty days. If you don’t complete a novel, don’t fret. There is no fee to participate and there are no prizes, other than your novel. Whether you finish or just get one started, that’s your prize.

But that is quite a prize, isn’t it?

I have been working on the same novel for the past ten-plus years. I will tell you, it’s been a beast to write (and re-write). However, for the past three years, I have kept my own personal NaNoWriMo pledge to write at least 500 words per day during the month of November. Sometimes, I write more than that, other times, less. But I sit down at my computer and write every single day in November, and it feels amazing! I feel productive and motivated to continue my writing long after the last days of November have waned.

We all know that life gets in the way and interferes with our creative juices, but I urge you to take the NaNoWriMo challenge this year.

Write. Every day.

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful way to focus, if only for 30 days, on your current writing project. Don’t stress yourself out thinking you have to finish it. Just write something each day in November.

You’ll be glad you did.

Are you up for the challenge? Can you write each day in November?

I’m ready. Let’s do this.

If you’d like to read more about NaNoWriMo click here.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Thank you for visiting!

Maureen Bartone

Writer. Creator. Designer. Lover of coffee and words and music.

Maureen Bartone, Author

Maureen Bartone



Laptop Computer with Title Text

3 Tips to Secure Your WordPress Website

As a business entrepreneur, the topic of online security should always be in the forefront of your mind. This is especially true for anyone new to running an online business.

As we all know, having a website is vital to our success, and whether you’re an indie author and digital designer, like me, or whether you’re running a small business with a website to enhance your customer traffic, online security should be your top priority.

As I have discovered, it’s extremely difficult to acquire the “techie” skills needed to produce an elaborate website, while, at the same time, trying to run a business. Though it would be wonderful to have professionals set up our websites, this is extremely cost prohibitive for many of us.

So, as individual business owners, we’re often left to go-it-alone as we struggle to understand the ins-and-outs of complicated website design, while at the same time, keeping it safe from hackers. There is much to learn, and at times, it can be overwhelming.

Here are three of the most vital things I’ve learned about protecting my WordPress website.

Tip No. 1:  Keeping Your PC Protected Is the First Step in Securing Your WordPress Website.

sci-fi computer screen with a lock representing website security

Cyber Security Lock

Image: Pete Linforth, PixabayImage: Pete Linforth, Pixabay

At the global level of your online security, you’ll need a strong virus protection program installed on your computer. You should look for a product that will protect your site from:

  • viruses
  • malware and ransomware
  • identity theft and fraud, and
  • keep your online accounts protected with password encryption

After researching the most popular products, including  Norton  and  McAfee , both of which I’ve used in the past with great satisfaction, my latest choice is  Webroot Internet Security  which, not only does all of the above, but it also keeps my computer running smoothly, and as a bonus, also protects four additional devices, allowing me to protect my iPad and my family phones.

The following review of  Webroot by cybersecurity  expert, helped me with my decision:

“Perfect score in our malware protection test. Very good antiphishing score. Ransomware protection. Light on system resources. Fast scan, tiny size. Advanced features.

Cons: Limited lab test results due to unusual detection techniques. Missed one unique hand-modified ransomware sample in testing.

Bottom Line: Tiny, speedy Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus keeps a light touch on your system’s resources. It aces our hands-on malware protection test, and can even roll back ransomware activity.”

Article: The Best Antivirus Protection for 2019, June 27, 2019,

Webroot’s price of $39.99 was the final deciding factor for me. This virus protection software product is highly ranked by the experts, and its cost is within the budget for my small business. Investing in the security of your PC is the first step you should take when starting an online business.

Tip No. 2:  Keep Your WordPress Website Secure Using Firewall Plugins.   

Shooting red and orange flames and reflecting water

Image by MasterTux from  Pixabay

One of the biggest challenges I face as an online business entrepreneur going it alone, is keeping my WordPress website and online activities protected from hackers and viruses. I learned the hard way, that updating your website plugins is a critical part of your daily online security management.

Back in 2014, after spending numerous hours learning how to build my site (all by myself and with no website-building experience), I soon discovered my hard work had been reduced to a hideous cartoon picture of a ship with explosions coming out of it.

Seeing this actually frightened me, and I wondered how deep this damage had gone. I also struggled to understand why someone would waste their time with little-old-me. I soon learned, I was part of an extremely common mass-scanning hack-job. Beware, this could happen to you, too.

My web-host provider could do little to revive my site, except offer a high-cost specialty analysis, which I was unwilling to pay. Disgusted and defeated, I took my website down and never bothered with it again until 2019.

These types of things can break you and make you want to quit. That’s exactly what I did. I gave up. My struggles and hours of labor to make a successful attempt at an online business only to have it hacked, left me devastated and feeling frustrated and vulnerable.

Since then, I have educated myself as to what needs to be done to protect my WordPress site from malicious attacks.

One thing I failed to do back in 2014, was to regularly check into my WordPress admin page and update the plugins. Outdated plugins is a common vulnerability hackers look for and use to sneak in through the backdoor of your site.

Plugin developers are always updating their products, in many cases every few days. The main reason for the updates is usually to patch security vulnerabilities. If you don’t consistently go in to your site and apply those updates, you’re leaving it open for hackers to breach.

Checking into your admin page and updating your plugins every couple of days is essential to keeping your site clean and protected from viruses and suspicious activity.

Hand-in-hand with this routine should be the deletion of inactive plugins and themes. Outdated plugins with old code is another way to create easy access for hackers to infiltrate your site. Be sure to delete inactive plugins, making sure they’re completely gone.

Black banner with large broken letters: Cyber Security

Image by Darwin Laganzon from

An excellent security plugin I use for my WordPress site is Wordfence. It is one of the most popular security plugins available. Here is what its Founder and CEO, Mark Maunder, has to say about this product:

“We block over 2 million attacks every hour for our customers and clean hundreds of hacked websites every month. We believe in WordPress and the community behind it and are passionate about our role in making the internet safer.”

This WordPress plugin will monitor your site for malware and ping you via e-mail with any suspicious activity happening with your site. It will also alert you when an any update is required, including plugin updates.

For $99.00 per year, the premium version of Wordfence will give you in-depth protection, including a protection from IP addresses that are currently attacking WordPress sites, known as Wordfence’s Real-Time IP Blacklist. This blacklist blocks all requests from suspicious requests hackers use to gain access to your site, as well as providing you with real-time firewall and malware updates.

The premium version of Wordfence will also give you access to a team of top security experts to answer your questions and provide you with related hacking and virus technical assistance.

Tip No. 3:  Keep Your WordPress Site Secure With Password Protection And Management

Gray backround, with rolling password buttons

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay 

Cyber-attackers come in many forms. They may be politically or financially motivated, or even worse, criminally motivated. Beware of the hacker’s tricks to lure you into divulging sensitive information such as master passwords or the location of sensitive documents, the discovery of which could be digital or in-person.

Never give anyone your any passwords, and especially, your master password.

These criminals often use information publicly available online, most often from posts in social media mention your travel plans, your preferred hotels or airlines, and even from your photos.

Is your house address number shown prominently in the background of your Facebook photo? Or is your work badge ID hanging from your purse? Someone could call you and pose as a hotel manager.

Be proactive in your security, and always be aware that the next cyber-criminal may be sitting next to you at the park or on the city bus. They may not target you immediately, but instead may conduct additional surveillance of you before targeting you in a phishing scheme that targets e-mail addresses, or even worse, your personal financial data.

Password management is imperative for everyone with an online presence. They protect us from hackers who often obtain information from large corporate databases, often stealing massive amounts of user names and passwords. Once they have your information, they can impersonate you, lock you out of your own sites, and even change your passwords.

Obviously, this can present a serious problem for your digital security, especially if you mistakenly use the same password for many sites.

Never use the same password more than once!

As an example, if the hacker finds your email password, and you use this same password for your bank, he now has your banking password as well. 

Do you see how dangerous this can be?

I can’t emphasize this enough. Never use the same credentials for duplicate sites. This is where the real trouble starts.

This leads to the obvious.

Password Protection is one of the most important steps you can take to secure your personal information. Selecting a strong and complicated password is your best defense against hackers.

Protect your passwords by making each one unique for each of your sites, making sure to select a strong, complicated password.

Obviously, if you learn your password has been breached, waste no time in changing it.

Never log in to sensitive accounts on a public, untrusted computer, such as those at the public library or at a hotel’s business center. These types of computers could be infected with malicious software that may work to steal your passwords.

Two-factor authentication doubly enhances your security because it requires additional information the hacker doesn’t have. I recommend using two-factor authentication for all your sites.

Be sure to store all your passwords in a safe location, and never share them with anyone.

I know many people who reuse passwords because it’s easier to remember. They say it’s impossible to keep track of that many passwords. Not true! There are many reputable password apps that store all your passwords in one convenient location.

A popular password management app I use is Dashlane. This app manages all your passwords alphabetically. You can also store secure notes.

For example, I keep track of some of my parents’ passwords in the notes section. Dashlane can even auto generate your passwords when logging into various sites from your mobile device. This makes logging in easy and gives you quick access to all your various accounts.

The free version is surprisingly ad-free and even evaluates your passwords for you, letting you know whether your chosen password is secure. It will also inform you if you are using the same password at duplicate sites.

Dashlane Premium which, at the time of this publication, was a reasonable $4.99 per month, provides unlimited password storage, and you’ll receive Dark Web monitoring across all your devices, as well as a VPN for WiFi protection.

I use the free version and so far, I have 150 passwords stored there. So if you have less than 150 passwords, the free version is right for you.

Another cool feature of Dashlane is the password generator. You can have the app generate the password for you. It tells you if its “super safe” and you can use the easy copy button to paste it into your sites. There’s no need to memorize passwords with this cool app.

As an online business entrepreneur, cyber security is crucial in protecting your business from hackers trying to steal your livelihood. Take the necessary precautions and remain diligent, so you can get to the real work of producing great products for your business.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Thank you for visiting!

Maureen Bartone

Writer. Creator. Designer. Lover of coffee and words and music.

Maureen Bartone, Author
Maureen Bartone


Formatting Your 8.5 x 11 Inch Book in Microsoft Word




This is a fast and easy tutorial on formatting the layout of your 8.5 x 11 inch book in Microsoft Word. The instructions below will put your manuscript in the correct format for an  8.5 x 11 inch book and they conform to Amazon’s KDP required formatting guidelines for an 8.5 x 11 inch book as well. Let’s begin.

Start by creating a new document or opening your manuscript in Microsoft Word, and then:


  1.  Go to the Top Ribbon and click “Layout”, and then click on the tiny arrow in the lower right corner (Page Setup).                          

Microsoft Word Layout Formatting

2.  Once inside Page Setup, you will see a window with three tabs. Each tab requires adjustments. Match the items as they are noted in the diagrams below:

                      Margins Setup

Microsoft Word Margins Setup


                   Paper Size Setup


                      Layout Setup

8.5 x 11 Layout

3.  Click “Ok” and be sure to save your document.

That’s it! 

Once you have configured your document using these steps, your manuscript will be formatted for an 8.5 x 11 inch book.  If you need further information on KDP’s guidelines, you can find them here:  KDP Guidelines

Happy writing!

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Thank you for visiting!

Maureen Bartone

Writer. Creator. Designer. Lover of coffee and words and music.

Maureen Bartone, Author
Maureen Bartone





This is a fast and easy tutorial on formatting the layout of your 6 x 9 inch book in Microsoft Word. The instructions below will put your manuscript in the correct format for a  6 x 9 inch book and they conform to Amazon’s KDP required formatting guidelines for a 6 x 9 inch book as well. Let’s begin.

Start by creating a new document or opening your manuscript in Microsoft Word, and then:

  1.  Go to the Top Ribbon and click “Layout”, and then click on the tiny arrow in the lower right corner (Page Setup).                          


Microsoft Word Layout Formatting


2.  Once inside Page Setup, you will see a window with three tabs. Each tab requires adjustments. Match the items as they are noted in the diagrams below:

                      Margins Setup

Microsoft Word Margins Setup


                     Paper Size Setup

Microsoft Word Page Setup


                      Layout Setup

Microsoft Word Layout


3. Click “Ok” and be sure to save your document.

That’s it! 

Once you have configured your document using these steps, your manuscript will be formatted for a 6 x 9 inch book.  If you need further information on KDP’s guidelines, you can find them here:  KDP Guidelines

Happy writing!

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Thank you for visiting!

Maureen Bartone

Writer. Creator. Designer. Lover of coffee and words and music.

Maureen Bartone





Book Publishing For Beginners

So, you’ve written a book and you’re now ready to take that next step. The prospect is exciting, but where do you begin? What is the “next step”?

Book publishing for beginners can be a daunting task. There are many avenues from which to choose as you finalize your manuscript, making sure it’s properly formatted and ready to show to potential publishers. As you continue polishing your work, there are a few questions you must ask yourself:

  • Is your manuscript ready to present to a publisher?
  • Is your cover ready? Front and Back?
  • Is your front and back matter completed and polished?
  • Are there images needed? If so, have they been created and been given a designated spot in your book?

Before you decide how you’ll introduce your book to the masses, it must be completely finished. If it’s not, you’ll need to address those issues first. Once you can answer “yes” to all of the above, your next decision is a big one. Namely, what are your publishing options? Where do I begin?

Publishing Options

Traditional Publishing Companies  The BIG Five - Top Publishers in U.S.

The Big Five represent the top publishing companies in the United States. 

They are:

Of course, the dream of every writer is to be published by one of these top five publishing companies.

Other notable publishers include:

If you’re lucky enough to be solicited by a top publishing company, your book will be in excellent hands with all the bells and whistles, including advances in royalties and relief from the burden of costly expenses required to get your book into perfect form and ready to hit the bestseller lists.

How do you get the attention of these elite publishers?

As romantic as it sounds, getting your book accepted by the best-of-the-best, is nearly impossible, unless you’re already someone with a large platform, such as a Hollywood star. Your book must be solicited by the company, not the other way around. They do not take unsolicited manuscripts. Their message is this: do not call; do not write; and certainly, do not send us your manuscript.

One possible way to get their attention is by building your author platform via social media. The problem with this option, is it takes a long time to get enough followers for the big-time publishers to take notice, if they do at all.

Another option is to sign on with a reputable agent or publicist who may have access to someone associated with one of The Big Five. A proper agent should be your most staunch advocate, working hard to lay your manuscript in front of those who matter.

So far, things aren’t sounding very optimistic, right? Don’t give up yet!

 Your next option:

Small Press Publishing Companies (Hint: Beware)

Small Publishing Companies - Watch Out For Red Flags

There are many reputable small press publishing companies with extensive experience and success in the book publishing market. If this is a route you are considering, I recommend you search for the top companies in your area and reach out to them for their requirements.

Beware of the many fly-by-night publishing companies, often consisting of a single person making claims of great success, without results to prove it. They often use high-pressure sales, promising dream-come-true outcomes in order to entice you into signing on with them. Watch out for promises that sound too-good-to-be-true, especially if the costs are high.

No matter the route you choose, it is imperative you have someone look over any contract before signing. You’ll want to make sure you’re not giving up the rights to your book or losing potential royalties.

Beware of Red Flags When Using Small Publishing Companies

Red flags include: high fees, no advance, and one-sided contracts. Companies who push contracts on you that transfer your exclusivity rights to them and/or include questionable costs should be avoided. I’ve heard horror stories of supposed publishing companies stealing the right to their clients’ books, doing little work for their exorbitant prices, or leaving writers in the lurch, including taking years to get books ready for the market, or even worse, failing to follow through to the finish line.

Beware of costs.

Publicists can cost you thousands of dollars for marketing that essentially includes mass emails, or spamming via social media to people who don’t really care about your particular book. These marketing techniques are not worth the money. Other potentially prohibitive costs include printing and shipping costs. The last thing you want is a basement full of unsold books collecting dust.


The final publishing route, self-publishing, is highly popular, and the option most likely to work for you. Many people choose self-publishing because the first two options are simply out of reach for the average Joe.

The good news, is there are many reputable online self-publishing platforms that offer enticing book publishing packages, including professional editing, book cover design services, as well as publishing and printing/distribution services. Most also offer ebook setup and distribution.

Top Indie Publishing Platforms

The top indie publishing platforms allow authors options to do most of the “heavy lifting” to save money and time.

They include:

  • Bookbaby which offers complete publishing packages, including design, printing and promotion. Check out the “complete package” here.
  • IngramSpark which offers hardcovers, paperbacks and ebooks, with print-on-demand high quality books.
  • is a low-cost platform to create quality hardcover books, paperbacks and ebooks with a user-friendly website.

If you prefer to be more hands-on to save money, the following are your best options:

E-books and Physical Books:

 Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing):

Amazon’s KDP is by far the most popular self-publishing platform for both e-books and paperbacks. One thing to be aware of is, if you see articles regarding Amazon’s CreateSpace, you should know that that platform is no longer available.  All of Amazon’s publishing is now done via KDP.

It’s user-friendly and intuitive program produces high quality books, and of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s the largest seller in the world. In addition, you can opt in to publish your books exclusively with the KDP Select program. With this option, you can use marketing programs such as offering your e-book for free. This gives your book some attention in the saturated book market. The biggest downfall for KDP is that you are unable to publish high-end hardcover books. Paperback covers will be your only option for physical book publishing.

E-books only:

The following platforms handle e-books only:

Kobo  (Canadian e-book and audiobook seller with worldwide distribution);

Apple Books where you can publish your e-books, aka iBooks on Apple. These platforms keep a percentage for themselves and send you your royalty share.

Additional e-book distributors include Draft2Digital and Smashwords

With no upfront costs and 80-85% royalties, these two platforms are excellent options to get your e-book distributed to tons of markets. Smashwords’ requirements are a little daunting, and Draft2Digital is fairly user friendly. Those new to the publishing world will quickly learn that there are many nuances and differences between them. I recommend some additional research before making your e-book publishing selection.


Royalties vary across the board for the platforms listed in this article. As an example, Amazon KDP for self-publishing, offers 70% royalty for e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (and as available in the selected countries/territories) and 60% royalty for print-on-demand paperback books.


As you can see, there is much to learn about the book publishing industry and it can be overwhelming. Do not let this sway you from the dream of publishing your book. Take it one step at a time and you’ll be fine. Don’t rush through this stage. It’s important to educate yourself as to all the options available so you select the method that best suits you.

Stay tuned for more tips on getting your manuscript finalized and ready to publish. Feel free to leave a comment.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Thank you for visiting!

Maureen Bartone

Maureen Bartone