Ritter Ames — USA TODAY Bestselling Mystery Author of the Bodies of Art Mysteries series and the Organized Mysteries series

Posts Tagged ‘organized

I’ve been trying (fruitlessly, for months) to get a particular Amazon service tied into my website. Now, I love computers, don’t get me wrong, and I love geeking out on all FP&OF memethe new bells and whistles everyone makes available. But as a one-woman business I don’t have the luxury of sitting around and reading the masses of detail sent every day to help me “market” my business–if I want to get any writing done that is. What goes through quickly gets read and used. What makes me sigh in frustration gets set aside for when I have more time (you know what that means).

So, when everyone kept talking about how authors could access the Amazon samples, tying early chapters of our books back to our websites so readers simply clicked from my webpage to start reading the first few chapters before they bought, I thought, “How cool!” Especially when I saw the format that comes up is much cleaner and more functional than the Look Inside option on the Amazon website. I happily dived into the idea.

Until I tried actually getting it to work with my web provider parameters, blog options-limits, and the other idiosyncrasies that make “It’s good, you’ll like it!” actually translate into “Do not throw your laptop out of the window!” The idea was tabled for more data.

Then yesterday, a wonderful post I read daily called The Passive Voice published a segment about something else–but which also included info on this elusive option (if you don’t already read The Passive Voice, I heartily recommend them.) By playing around with the code available through that newsletter, I finally figured out how to make my web page work so early chapters of my books are available via my website. How cool is that?

Look on my banner above and you’ll see a new option for Chapter One Excerpts. Actually the excerpts are longer than one chapter, but since I write really long chapters, only the first chapter may be complete–hence the page name with the conservative wording. I’ll be adding new links as new releases come online. Anyone can access all the early chapters of my books from the banner link (with the much nicer format I mentioned earlier) or by clicking the link below:

https://ritterames.com/take-a-sample-chapter-one-excerpts-of-my-books/

 

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Spring has officially hit the calendar, and that means we’re all ready to dig out from more than just snow under the windows.

While some people like to take their Spring Cleaning & Organizing in one big bite, I prefer little nibbles myself, so I don’t get off-track on all of the other to-do lists I have every day. If’ you’re like me, I offer my room-by-room spring cleaning and organizing ideas–but best of all, I don’t bring in anything new and costly to do the job. Look around the house and find amazing ways to re-purpose items for organization by thinking outside of the box.

I’m starting today with the Living Room with a Baker’s Dozen of tips, and I will be moving through other rooms in the house throughout the next week or so. So come back in the days ahead, and leave any springtime ideas you already use, or new ones you might think of from reading my tips 🙂

LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM/GREAT ROOM — The place of community living

Yes, the whole family uses the living room or great room, and this room always holds way more than it should. Once spring temps arrive it’s time to put away all those comfy sofa blankets and afghans we’ve used all winter. Maybe you have a closet, or use the huge Ziploc bags like me to stow them under beds. They can also be packed away in large trash bags, with the extra air all mushed out and the openings taped up to be stacked neatly somewhere. More things to do as spring arrives–

1. Wipe off the fan blades of the ceiling fan, and reverse the rotation if you had them set for winter to push down the heat that gathered near the ceiling. We live in a summer hot zone, so we want the cool breeze the fans create, but prefer the warmer air stay up at the ceiling where the spiders can enjoy it. (No, I’m not a fan of spiders, either)

2. Keep a small waste basket right by the front door (or whichever door you use the most) to throw away junk mail and unnecessary flyers before they migrate into the living room.

3. Pull out all the furniture to find the favorite pet toy, missing library book, or lost DVD. Also check between the sofa cushions for errant action figures and the wandering universal remote. A basket that stays on a table or bookshelf is great to hold items like this. Another basket or box in a corner of the room can hold all the pet toys and small children’s toys like extra Legos. For the remotes, my favorite organizing tip for those is to stick one side of a Velcro piece to the remote, and the corresponding side to the item the remote controls. Then, the remote easily stays stuck to its video or audio device until you pull to remove it again.

4. Until the world goes truly wireless, all those tangled cables behind entertainment centers are here to stay. You can buy a cable caddy that sticks onto the entertainment stand or table top, but if you don’t want to go to that expense, you can cover an empty paper towel roll with wallpaper or contact paper that coordinates with your room, and run all the cables through the tube (or two) to keep things looking a bit nicer and better organized.

5. A bin or basket on the coffee table can hold small items, cards, game pieces, pens, or anything that might get lost or broken if just left on the surface. Keep a box of coasters handy in the room to help make using them regularly a bit easier, too.

6. Keep flat surfaces clutter free. We humans tend to toss all papers in the “kitchen or family area,” and often find them missing when we really need them. Designate a small table or desk for the area as the place for mail and any important papers that need to be signed and returned. A two drawer lateral file cabinet will work well for this, too, if you have a place in the room to store it. In our house, I have two upholstered cubes in the family room that can be used for extra seating, or if you lift the lid and turn it over, it becomes a handle occasional table to set a cup of tea and a book. But best of all, the lower inside is one big storage area. I use one cube near my favorite comfy chair to hold all the yarn for my current knitting project, and with the top on the cube everything stays neat and safe from the cat. The other cube I put near hubby’s reading chair, and that’s the one that holds mail as it comes in, and files we need for any kind of current household project. He also keeps magazines and catalogs filed there when he’s on the hunt for something new and wants to check out all of his options before purchase.

7. In the same vein, a lot of small photo frames tend to clutter a family room and makes the space sometimes go from “wonderful” to a little too much “wow” when there are more than a room can comfortably hold. Take back your table tops and walls by reducing the number of framed photos you display every day. You don’t have to take them all down, just think about displaying in a new way–like photo albums and collage frames, or digital photo frames that store hundreds of digital photos and rotate them constantly. For storing in photo boxes, organize by date or occasion and keep in a central location.

8. For “good work” pages that come home with your children and end up tossed someplace in the living room, assign a drawer just to save those items. Drawer space in the living room often works well. When the drawer starts getting full you can have a family night to decide which pages need to be saved and archived in a notebook or child’s memory box.

9. One of the saving graces in my household has always been Post-It Notes and Post-It Removable hooks. Both items can go on the wall anywhere you need to leave a list or note, or hang a small item, and are equally easy to remove when you need the wall space back in pristine condition.

10. I remember when I thought toys were going to take over every extra bit of floor space. Designate one less-used corner of a family as the toy area and transform into a mini kid zone. Yes, kids can play in their rooms, but they want to spend time with the family too. With a movable chalk board, a small bookcase and a kids’ table, toy clutter tends to stay contained and in its place. If you need a little more toy storage look at rolling bin options or cover storage boxes with pretty paper. In our house, this area morphed into our family game area as everyone got older, with an adult game table replacing the mini kids version.

11. Space behind the soft is great for storing extra blankets and pillows. We stick an extra flashlight there, too, so everyone knows where they can grab some emergency light in case of spring storms. If you use a sofa table behind yours, see if you can find an attractive box or trunk to store on the floor between the table legs for an added storage option.

12. Our family is moving away from DVDs and videos and streaming more entertainment. But if you have movies and shows you prefer to keep on hand, take a half-hour or so to sort through your collection. Make two piles: one for keeping, and another for either donating or selling online. At first we didn’t think we wanted to give any up either, but as we sorted through them each year, more and more were placed in the re-purpose/recycle pile, as new options for watching our favorites became available online.

13. Collectibles can take over a room and not only commandeer space, but create more dusting work as well. Large collections are revealed best when a smaller number of  pieces are displayed at one time. Use smaller groupings, or shadow boxes, and rotate the items to keep the look fresh. Think about doing what museums do, and how exciting it is for people to come next time and see new things, even in a permanent display. Put half of a collection in a sturdy box in a closet, and keep the other half out for viewing. Then rotate different favorite items throughout the year.

Finally, one last story. This isn’t really a tip, but it might give you some ideas on saving memories. When we built our house, my daughter was only five at the time, and while we were clearing up some of the building-mess in another room, she used her sidewalk chalk to draw a gorgeous scene on the yet un-carpeted cement floor of the family room. When we saw what she was doing the drawing was more than halfway complete, and neither my husband nor I wanted to stop her and erase the drawing. So hubby found some sealer to put over the drawing, and to this day it sits under the pad and carpet in that room. It’s just a kind of secret family thing we all know is there, and we all smile telling the story each time the carpeting is replaced 🙂

 

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]

We get so busy that sometimes we forget to hang on to things we should–things that could help us avoid stressful situation, buy additional items we shouldn’t, or even keep family members from serious medical issues.

Without getting into some of the first arguments hubby and I had, here’s a couple of tips that could save your life and definitely save budget and your relationship.

Anytime you buy anything with a manual or a written warranty, file it. Stapling the receipt that shows where and when it was purchased helps even more, but definitely file the item’s paperwork. Here’s why — it will break. Your spouse may be able to fix it, or you can order replacement parts, or one of you realize the kids shoved a plastic piece of toy where it doesn’t belong because the schematic in the manual doesn’t show that piece of plastic ever being a part of the design. If it can’t be repaired, that written warranty may prove you deserve a free replacement!

Save stress and expense by organizing ALL manuals together. If just starting out, get a three-ring notebook, and either punch holes in your manuals/warranties or buy those clear sleeves at Office Depot to slide the paperwork into, then clip the sleeves into the binder. You can sort these in sections, or not, but the big thing is to have them in one place.

We outgrew the notebook, so I have a portable Rubbermaid file box with a carry-handle that holds letter-sized hanging folders, one for each appliance. I drop each manual/warranty inside. I can easily shift hanging folders so all the paperwork from each room gets grouped together.

Best of all, whenever hubby asks for the millionth time where a manual is, I just point to the box. He never files the manual back, that’s too much to hope, but he does drop the manual back on top of the box when done. That’s a win in my book.

When I mentioned ‘save your life organizing,’ it wasn’t to keep from killing my spouse because he used to drive me nuts about product manuals. What I meant referred to those informational medicine pages received with prescription drugs.

Even if it’s a prescription you never expect to use again, keep the paperwork. When you’re ill, or starting a new prescription, you think you’ve paid attention what your doctor said, but if your symptoms change or become worse you may be having side effects from the very thing supposed to be making you better.

When we receive the written info from the pharmacist, I look it over, then file in a notebook holding all other paperwork like this our family has received.

If an unexpected side effect occurs, I make notes on the paper, and flag it in the notebook. If that family member is prescribed this medication again, we know what to tell the next doctor. Even if nothing bad happens, I keep the paperwork without adding notes to know the medication worked fine. We always think we’re going to remember, but even best intentions can fall short. A quick note now may save future health complications and stress.

It’s been several days since I’ve had time to blog on organization tips because I’ve been blogging so much on the new release. Anyone reading this who purchased ORGANIZED FOR MURDER, read & reviewed it, and/or blogged about it to share the news, thank you so very much. I cannot begin to put into words how much it has meant to see people like this book and help spread the news about it.

Early reviews and sales have been overwhelming. More than a hundred 5-star reviews on the online bookseller sites, and the book hit #1 on Amazon’s Cozy Crafts & Hobbies category on the first day. Right now, it’s still #4 as an Amazon Cozy, #1 on their Top Rated books, #2 in Hot New Cozy Releases, and #13 for Women Sleuths, which means that my amateur sleuth is measured against the popularity of all the other women sleuths in all the different categories of the mystery genre–what a thrill! On the B&N side, my book is currently #23 in Bestselling Mysteries–what a thrill to have the first book in my new series appear on the first page of that list! And while this is what I could call a very American cozy mystery, it’s become a pretty good hit in the U.K. as well, and by yesterday, which was Day 2 there on sales, it reach #26 in Bestselling Mystery category, and remains #1 on the U.K. Bestseller list for Cozy Crafts & Hobbies, just like the U.S.Image

While I meant to give a few more organization tips this week, the best tip I can offer today is to suggest if you have any interest in what I humbly call a good mystery, and/or like to read about ways to make your life more organized–but prefer to get the information in the midst of an intriguing cozy crime story instead of a conventional How-To book–please consider buying ORGANIZED FOR MURDER. Until the end of this week, it’s available in all ebook versions at the bargain price of 99 cents, but that price will go up to the regular pricing soon. So, if you want to save some money, get a well-reviewed mystery, and gain some organization tips along the way, please consider purchasing a copy of ORGANIZED FOR MURDER 

It’s available in print copy, too, at the Barnes & Noble site and the Amazon U.K. website, but the sale price is only for the ebook version. You can find all the easy links to buy by clicking on my page ‘Here’s Where To Buy My Books’ that you see listed just under the banner at the top of this page.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]The main character in ORGANIZED FOR MURDER is Kate McKenzie, wife, mother of twins, and small business owner. While her daily focus is on keeping her family’s and clients’ lives running efficiently and well-organized, she’s a pretty easygoing person and doesn’t feel one must go to heroic (or expensive) measures to keep life running smoothly.

In the book, she speaks at an organization workshop in the local bookstore. This is a little taste of her common sense approach to keeping a household on-track, and may give you some ideas, too.

Kate’s Notes: How to Keep a Happily Organized Home (for the organization presentation)

Unless you live alone, don’t try to organize your home by yourself. Involve the same people who helped get your disordered abode in its present state. Teamwork isn’t just more efficient time-wise, it’s critical if you want to make permanent organizational changes.

Learn as a team to clean as you go. No one is too young or too old to help in some way. Children can learn to put away one toy before taking out another, and the whole family can help load the dishwasher by rinsing and placing their own used tableware in after each meal. Hang hooks for coats and clothes, collect boxes and bins for toys, file paperwork as you’re finished with it and easily find what is needed later.

Most of all, don’t expect perfection at all times—the white glove test died with the 1950s. Ten minutes a day of family pick-up time, with everyone pitching in once a week for an hour to accomplish the big cleaning, and your house will stay comfortable for daily living and inviting when unexpected guests arrive.

ORGANIZED FOR MURDER will be released February 24th by Gemma Halliday Publishing. If you’re interested in learning more about the book, you can read early reviews at the novel’s GoodReads page. I’ll be posting the bookseller links when they go live next week.

Also, to tie-in with the release for ORGANIZED FOR MURDER, my publisher set the price on the first book in my other series COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES at a one-week bargain price of 99 cents–but that deal only lasts until Feb 22nd. You can find this special pricing in all ebook formats. Click the page above marked Here’s Where To Buy My Books to find clickable links to all online booksellers.


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