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Shelfari would like to congratulate the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalists. Three finalists have been selected from among several thousand qualified writers in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest searching for the next popular novel, sponsored by Amazon.com, Inc., Penguin Group (USA), and Createspace.

Find out more about the three finalists, read short excerpts of each manuscript, and recommend your favorite to other Shelfari members by visiting the Author Pages located below. Reviews from the expert panel (including Sue Monk Kidd and Sue Grafton) are available at www.amazon.com/abna.

Voting is open until Thursday May 21st at 11:59 PM EDT. Make sure to cast your vote for the Grand Prize winner at www.amazon.com/abna.

The 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalists are:

Ian Gibson, Victoria BC, for Stuff of Legends
The author, who works at a theatre in British Columbia, developed the characters in this novel from a comic strip he created in 2003. Stuff of Legends is a comic fantasy about heroism and celebrity, where a 15-year-old boy’s fondest wish is granted and he is teamed with his idol, superhero Jordan the Red, to defeat villains, monsters and demonic armies.
James King, Wilton CT, for Bill Warrington’s Last Chance
A corporate communication specialist for the past 20 years, the author earned his master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2008 as a way to achieve his lifelong goal of writing fiction. In the novel, Bill Warrington is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and decides it’s time to reestablish ties with his estranged children. After several attempts at a reunion fail, he decides the only way to get his feuding sons and daughter talking is to kidnap his 15-year-old granddaughter.
Brandi Lynn Ryder, Napa CA, for In Malice, Quite Close
A Napa resident who grew up in the gold-mining town of Sonora, the author draws inspiration for her novel from her passions for Impressionist art and French culture. The novel opens in 1979 San Francisco, where an unlikely relationship forms between 15-year-old Karen, who longs to escape her abusive father, and wealthy art collector Tristan Mourault. Tristan gains Karen’s trust and she soon adopts a new identity as his daughter, sending the two on an extraordinary odyssey that spans 15 years and two coasts.

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This is a guest post by Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogger at QuickSprout.com. He also does consulting work for a number of major Internet properties, including TechCrunch.

When you think about growing your blog, whether it is a personal, professional or company blog, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Chances are it is something related to traffic or subscribers. Getting more traffic or subscribers is never a bad thing, but if you really want more sustainable traffic you first have to understand the people coming to your blog. If you can’t make them happy, how can you expect your traffic to grow?

Stop Assuming!

You have a vision of how you see your blog and where you want it to go. The reality is that your vision may not match up with what your readers are expecting. So instead of assuming things about your readers, start getting feedback from them.

* Feedback – Through services like Skribit your readers and customers can provide post suggestions. The feedback is posted publicly and other readers can vote on it whether they agree or disagree.
* Polls – Polling services like Poll Daddy can allow you to figure out what direction you should take your content. For example, if you have some ideas for your blog, you can create a poll and have your reader’s vote on which ideas they would like to read more about.
* Reader surveys – No matter how small or large your reader base is, you can survey them. Eric Ries, who is a big advocate of customer development, started surveying his readers when he only had 5 RSS subscribers. He asked them the following things right within his blog post:
1. On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is most likely), how likely is it that you would recommend this blog to a friend or colleague?
2. How did you hear about it?
3. What led you to become a subscriber, versus just reading an article and leaving like everybody else? (Or, if you’re not a subscriber, what would it take to convince you?)
4. What do you hope to see here in the future?

As shown above, there are many ways to get feedback from readers. Another example of getting feedback was when Michael Arrington first started TechCrunch. He began having meet ups at his house just months after starting the blog. The face-to-face feedback that he must have received proved to be valuable and effective in helping TechCrunch grow. As a result, the content on TechCrunch, which started with primarily basic company profiles, has also been expanded on and improved from there.

Track, Analyze, and Execute!

Analytics solutions like Google Analytics, Feedburner, and Lijit are great, but what’s the point of having them if you aren’t really using them? You probably log into your Google Analytics account every once in a while and look to see if your traffic is up or down, but do you ever get down into the nitty-gritty details to try and understand your readers? Do you know what changes you need to make to increase your readership and engagement levels?

* Traffic sources – analyzing the traffic sources that are bringing you visitors, such as referring sites and search engine keywords can help you understand the type of people visiting your blog. If most of your traffic is coming from tech blogs, it is likely that your readers are somewhat sophisticated, which means if you geek out you may win some brownie points with them. On the other hand if you notice that most of your readers are coming from celebrity blogs or other types of non-tech sites, you probably don’t want to get too technical with your content because they may not understand what you are talking about. Additionally, with the rise of Twitter clients, URL shortening services are becoming increasingly popular, so it is important to understand how this affects your analytics and referral traffic. Referral traffic can also help you identify conversations related to your blog occurring on social media sites such as Digg, Twitter, Facebook and even forums.
* Visitor loyalty – Metrics such as time on site, bounce rate, and percentage of return visitors should give you a sense of how loyal your visitors are. You will never be able to please all of your visitors, but you should be able to please a good percentage. Dig deep and see what’s causing your high bounce rate and try to improve it.
* Internal search data – Services like Lijit and Google Analytics Site Search do a great job of tracking your internal search data. If you have a search box on your blog, they can track the number of searches per day and what keywords your users are searching for. This should help you understand what they are looking for and what you need to provide to these readers.
* Geographical data – Looking at your geographical data may actually shock you. Although most your traffic may come from the U.S you should drill down to see what worldwide cities bring you the most traffic. For me it is a few major cities in India and London. Analyzing this data helps you understand the background of your readers and what you should or shouldn’t write to grow your readership. Remember, language and religion play a big role in many people’s lives.
* RSS subscribers – Feedburner doesn’t just show you how many RSS subscribers you have, it also gives you data on what your RSS readers like and dislike reading. You can look at data such as click through rates on specific stories. This will help validate what you thought the most popular stories were. In most cases the stories that you thought were your best, aren’t your readers’ favorites. Feedburner also lets you track things like when people unsubscribe to your feed. This is a great feature because if you notice tons of people unsubscribing at once, you can try to understand why and adjust accordingly.

After you analyze the data provided by your web analytics solutions you need to take action. Whether it’s modifying your design to decrease your bounce rate or figuring out what new content topics you should be writing after looking through your Feedburner/Lijit stats, you have to take action. If you don’t, you shouldn’t even waste time tracking your stats.

Engage, Engage, and Engage!

Blogging is a two way street, you can’t expect to understand your readers if you don’t interact with them. Polls, surveys, and feedback tools are great, but that is only half the battle when it comes to engagement. Here are few ways you can engage with your audience:
1. Respond to every email – Gary Vaynerchuck spends most of his time responding to every email he gets. Just try sending him an email… he may be a bit delayed in responding to you, but no matter what, he will respond. This is the main reason he has been able to build a strong brand and a popular blog because he takes the time to listen and respond to every person that emails him.
2. Respond to every commenter – every time someone comments on your blog, you should respond to him or her. How do you expect to create a conversation and a community if people are just talking to themselves? This is a time consuming process, but if you want to develop a relationship with your customers, there is no better way. You can even use comment systems such as IntenseDebate and Disqus to help improve commenting on your blog.
3. Leverage your competition – just because someone isn’t reading your blog, doesn’t mean you can’t get to him or her. Start reading other blogs in your industry and all of your competitors’ blogs and comment on every one of their posts. Respond to the comments and win over readers.

Conclusion

If you want to grow your blog, you need to first understand your readers. Without understanding your audience you won’t know what they like and dislike. Take the next few hours and start analyzing your blog and create a game plan on how you can grow your blog. If you find yourself getting stuck, just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out. J
Lastly if you want to learn more about customer development, I highly recommend that you check out Steve Blank’s blog, he pioneered the concept of customer development and even wrote a book on it.

Swine Flu What is Swine Influenza? Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs.

Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans.

The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930. How many swine flu viruses are there? Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. Pigs can be infected by avian influenza and human influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. When influenza viruses from different species infect pigs, the viruses can reassort (i.e. swap genes) and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. Over the years, different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged.

At this time, there are four main influenza type ,A virus subtypes that have been isolated in pigs: H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. However, most of the recently isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.

Swine Flu in Humans Can humans catch swine flu? Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.

How common is swine flu infection in humans? In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported. What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How does swine flu spread? Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus.

People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. What do we know about human-to-human spread of swine flu? In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was detected. Four days before getting sick, the patient visited a county fair swine exhibition where there was widespread influenza-like illness among the swine.

In follow-up studies, 76% of swine exhibitors tested had antibody evidence of swine flu infection but no serious illnesses were detected among this group. Additional studies suggest that one to three health care personnel who had contact with the patient developed mild influenza-like illnesses with antibody evidence of swine flu infection.

How can human infections with swine influenza be diagnosed? To diagnose swine influenza A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons, especially children, may shed virus for 10 days or longer.

Identification as a swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen to CDC for laboratory testing. What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans? There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in the US for the treatment of influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. While most swine influenza viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent swine influenza viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine.

At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses. What other examples of swine flu outbreaks are there? Probably the most well known is an outbreak of swine flu among soldiers in Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1976. The virus caused disease with x-ray evidence of pneumonia in at least 4 soldiers and 1 death; all of these patients had previously been healthy. The virus was transmitted to close contacts in a basic training environment, with limited transmission outside the basic training group.

The virus is thought to have circulated for a month and disappeared. The source of the virus, the exact time of its introduction into Fort Dix, and factors limiting its spread and duration are unknown. The Fort Dix outbreak may have been caused by introduction of an animal virus into a stressed human population in close contact in crowded facilities during the winter.

The swine influenza A virus collected from a Fort Dix soldier was named A/New Jersey/76 (Hsw1N1). Is the H1N1 swine flu virus the same as human H1N1 viruses? No. The H1N1 swine flu viruses are antigenically very different from human H1N1 viruses and, therefore, vaccines for human seasonal flu would not provide protection from H1N1 swine flu viruses. Swine Flu in Pigs How does swine flu spread among pigs?

 Swine flu viruses are thought to be spread mostly through close contact among pigs and possibly from contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs. Herds with continuous swine flu infections and herds that are vaccinated against swine flu may have sporadic disease, or may show only mild or no symptoms of infection.

What are signs of swine flu in pigs?

 Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. How common is swine flu among pigs? H1N1 and H3N2 swine flu viruses are endemic among pig populations in the United States and something that the industry deals with routinely. Outbreaks among pigs normally occur in colder weather months (late fall and winter) and sometimes with the introduction of new pigs into susceptible herds.

Studies have shown that the swine flu H1N1 is common throughout pig populations worldwide, with 25 percent of animals showing antibody evidence of infection. In the U.S. studies have shown that 30 percent of the pig population has antibody evidence of having had H1N1 infection. More specifically, 51 percent of pigs in the north-central U.S. have been shown to have antibody evidence of infection with swine H1N1.

Human infections with swine flu H1N1 viruses are rare. There is currently no way to differentiate antibody produced in response to flu vaccination in pigs from antibody made in response to pig infections with swine H1N1 influenza. While H1N1 swine viruses have been known to circulate among pig populations since at least 1930, H3N2 influenza viruses did not begin circulating among US pigs until 1998.

The H3N2 viruses initially were introduced into the pig population from humans. The current swine flu H3N2 viruses are closely related to human H3N2 viruses. Is there a vaccine for swine flu? Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza.

There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine will likely help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1 viruses.

AYURVEDIC HELP FOR EYE PROBLEMS
According to ayurvedic studies, eye problems are caused by a variety of different upsetting of one of the three doshas. For instance, the aggravation of Kapha dosha aggravates dullness of eyes. Also, the increase of the Vata dosha leads to dry eyes.

Furthermore, the pitta dosha is aggravated through smoke, stress, or pollution causes bloodshot eyes. The other cause of sore eyes is insufficient sleep. Also, weak eyes are caused by a weakening of the Alchaka Pitta.

Home Remedies
Home Remedies for Dry or Dull Eyes
Honey, Ghee, or Sesame Oil: A few drops of one of these will help moisten eyes, and return them back to the normal state.
Fennel Seeds: ½ teaspoon fennel seeds in one cup of water, until half the water evaporates. Let the substance cool, and use it as eye drops.
Home Remedies for Tense or Bloodshot Eyes
Rose water mixtures: Put three drops of rose water in the eyes. Either that, or soak a pad in rose water, milk, or aloe vera juice and lie down for 10-20 minutes.
Cucumber: Place a slice of cucumber on each eye. The cool sensation will comfort the eyes, and reduce the puffiness beneath the eyes.
Figs and Raisons: Boil 2-3 figs and one teaspoon of raisons in a cup of milk.
Remedies for Week Eyes
Almond mixture: Grind ½ cup of almonds, raw sugar, and aniseeds. Divide into 40 doses and take one a day with a cup of milk.
Other helpful hints: Rinse the eyes with water daily. Also, mix cardamom seeds with one tablespoon of honey.
Lifestyle Changes: Eat more vegetables, especially ones that contain vitamin A/Carotene. Carrots are one example. They help a person see better, especially when driving at night. Also, the person should start exercising more often, and get plenty of sleep at night. In addition, this person should eat a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and very limited amounts of meats and fatty foods.
This person should avoid excess desserts, and watch the intake of canned foods, and refined breads and sugars. In addition, an excess of strong alcoholic drinks can impair vision, so a person should drink responsibly. Furthermore, too much secondhand smoke can cause eye irritations. Try to stay away from smoke as much as possible. Also, if the person does smoke, it is best to quit as soon as possible.

Also, a person whose eyes are weakening should examine his or her life. If that person’s life is not evened out in every way, then they need to make some changes. For example, if a person works too much, that person should find a hobby, or spend more time with friends and family. If a person does not work enough, this person should find a purpose in life. Life is neither all work nor all play. A balanced life is crucial to the body’s health.