Friday, May 30, 2014

This I know for sure...

Surprisingly these posts of things I know for sure are the hardest to write. When I first started this blog, I thought they would be the easiest. I had a whole list of things I knew for sure but I quickly exhausted them. I still have a few, but I'm not sure I'll ever post them. Those few topics can be incendiary and the point of this blog is not to start flame wars because my opinion is different than someone else's.

So for this week here are a few random things I know for sure...
  • My mom is amazing. She raised 5 of us all by herself at a time when single parenthood was unusual, not the norm, whether you were a widow or not. And coming from a "broken home" (a home without 2 parents) guaranteed you were either going to end up in prison or be a drain on society. My siblings and I are all productive members of our communities, holding down jobs and supporting our families. And not one of us has seen the inside of a jail cell.
  • A good song can do great things for my spirits. 
  •  My definition of a good movie is one that touches me whether through laughter or tears.
  • I was a huge X-Men fan long before it was popular. I've collected the comics for years. When the first movie was made and they announced some unknown Australian was going to play Wolverine, I was less than thrilled. I will admit Hugh Jackman did and continues to do a great job bringing the character to life.
  • While I love moody and broody characters in books and movies, they are too hard to live with in real life.
  • I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who serves in the military.
  • I love to make homemade bread. I find the whole kneading process very relaxing. On those extra stressful days, you'll find me in the kitchen whipping up a batch of bread.
  • I honestly can't understand how people can say they don't read or don't like to read. It's like they're speaking a foreign language. 
  • Don't let anyone talk you out of your dreams. I wasted years not writing because I was told I was wasting my time.
  • I'd rather read than do almost anything else...except maybe eat cookies. LOL
What are a few random things you know for sure?


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I apologize for the misnomer of this blog post. I have no review or recipe to post which I usually do when I haven't finished a book for review. I have a big deadline looming (September 2nd) so I'm not going to have the reading time I used to have for a while.

Rather than stressing over not having a review to put up or posting a recipe week after week, starting June 4th I'm changing Wednesdays from "What I'm Reading Wednesday" to "What's Up Wednesday" until at least the last week of August. What's Up Wednesdays will have consist of how my writing is going, news in the publishing industry that seems noteworthy, the next week's plan generally speaking, a quote of the week (I'm a huge fan of quotes, inspirational and otherwise), and anything else that might seem interesting.

Depending how things go, I may go back to posting reviews after August or not. I'll have to see how the What's Up Wednesdays go. I'll still have guests on Wednesdays as they're scheduled.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day

As you celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, please take a moment to remember the members of our military and their sacrifices that allow us to enjoy the freedoms they have fought and died for.



Friday, May 23, 2014

This I know for sure...

I have to admit I almost forgot to write this post. I've been busy getting ready for family coming in to visit during the upcoming holiday. Because I'd all but forgotten, I have nothing prepared, not even a glimmer of an idea. So...

Here is the latest photo of our apple tree plants that the boy child and I are growing from seeds from an apple he had for snack after school one day. We'll be transplanting them to regular pots sometime this weekend.

Here's a photo of a kit we purchased from Barnes & Noble. It's lavender or at least that's what the package said. We're supposed to thin them and plant them outside once they're 2 inches tall. They look too fragile, so we're going to transplant them into cups first until they're a little taller and stronger.
I have to admit I'm pretty proud of how everything's growing. I usually have a brown thumb. I'll post photos periodically so that you all can see how our apple tree experiment turns out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Please Welcome My Guest...

Please welcome my guest, J.C. McKenzie. Born and raised on the Haida Gwaii, off the West Coast of Canada, J.C. McKenzie grew up in a pristine wilderness that inspired her to dream. She writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

Today we're spotlighting her new release, Shift Happens

·        SHE NEEDS TO CLEAR HER NAME. HE NEEDS TO CHAPERONE. CAN THEY KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL?
 


BlurbAndrea McNeilly's job as a government agent is not asking questions, but then a routine assignment turns into a botched assassination of a Master Vampire's human servant. Answers become a priority. Her search to discover the truth is riddled with obstacles, the largest being an oversized Werewolf who resembles a Norse god. Andy can't afford the distraction he offers, because if she fails, she faces eternal enslavement.

Wick's job is to monitor Andy, but he prefers more intimate activities, none of them G-Rated. His choices, however, are often not his own. His ability to help Andy is limited by his bond to the Master Vampire.

Facing many trials and challenges along her path to redemption, Andy learns the value of her freedom might be set too high.

Excerpt:
A large black wolf trotted into the clearing to confront me. He had a white-tipped snout, white boots and mitts and would have looked cute had he not been the most intimidating Werewolf I’d ever seen. Standing tall and solid, power rolled off of his body. His eyes bore into mine. I sniffed the air. The strong Werewolf scent of rosemary swirled around me, strong and seductive, laced with sugar. A weird fuzzy sensation spread out from my chest. Whoa.

Alpha.
My other form growled low, demanding release, straining against my skin. The energy of the wolves built—layers upon layers of excitement and impatience. The air pulsated with anticipation. They could sense the imminent kill.
Let me out! My other form repeated, throwing her power against my built up walls, howling in defiance.
When the energy of the Werewolves surged, I finally released her. My wolf form flowed out fast, wiping out the feline in little more than a heartbeat. Smaller, weaker and the size of a natural wolf, a Shifter in this form was no match for a Werewolf, especially a dominant one. I had time to meet the eyes of the Alpha for only an instant before the pack leapt forward. My limbs shook. It went against every instinct ingrained within me, but I rolled onto my back—submissive.


Buy Links:
 Available in print and all other electronic formats on July 16th, 2014  
          
You can check out the trailer for Shift Happens here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvQ79fXVrj0


You can contact J.C. at any of the links below:

            Website: www.jcmckenzie.ca

            Blog: www.jcmckenzie.blogspot.ca
            Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/j.c.mckenzie.author
           Twitter Page: www.twitter.com/JC_McKenzie
           Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/jcmckenzie

          Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/JCMcKenzie


Monday, May 19, 2014

Finding Balance

Like most writers, I juggle writing time, promoting my published works, familial obligations, and a day job. And like most people on the planet, I like to have some down time to just breathe and be. Trying to do everything that I felt needed to be done often left me feeling like the proverbial hamster running on a wheel.

Deciding I hated feeling frazzled and exhausted by the time I fell into bed every night, I knew I needed to make a change. Something had to give or I'd end up with stress related illnesses that could have been prevented. Three Sundays ago I sat down and looked at an average day and how I spent each minute. I've always considered myself a person who was organized, sometimes to a fault. I realized that while I'm organized in terms of a place for everything and everything in its place, I'm not so great at organizing my time.

Determined to fit all those "must do's" into my day, I tried scheduling them instead of flying by the seat of my pants and thinking "I'll just fit it in." Each night before bed, I write my schedule for the next day. I block out time for the hours I'm at the day job, for writing, family, household chores, and exercise. Sundays are now computer free and writing/promo free days. It's my day to spend my time however I'd like and not think about what I should be doing. It lets me start the week fresh and stress free.

Although I've only been doing it for two weeks, I already feel a sense of accomplishment each night as I look at everything I've done that particular day. Having everything scheduled has allowed me to find the balance between writing/promotion and all of my other responsibilities. I realize there will be days that something unexpected comes up and will throw my schedule off, but I believe those days will be few and far between. And in the meantime, I'm less stressed and getting more done than I ever was before.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This I know for sure...

Spring has been a bit late coming to my corner of the US. Most of March was spent under a mountain of snow and ice. April brought weather warm enough to melt the snow, but it also brought a lot of rain. We'd have one really nice sunny 65 or 70 degree day followed by a week and a half or more of cold, rainy weather with temperatures in the mid 50's. Then May arrived.

May has been wonderful. Warm, sunny days that allowed flowers to bloom and trees to leaf, although the tree in our front yard has yet to do more than develop buds. We've had several consecutive days with temperatures in the 80's with only the occasional pop up thunderstorm.

Now that the weather has changed for the better, my sister and I have started walking every night when she gets home from work. (I get home a couple of hours before she does.) We just walk a mile and a half route in our neighborhood. It gives us a chance to chat about our day and get some exercise at the same time. We've only been doing this for about 2 weeks, but I've noticed my mood is much different than it was. I don't think it's related to the exercise because I walked all winter on the treadmill in the basement. I almost feel a lightness of spirit. I find myself wondering if my good mood is from being out in the sun, enjoying the beautiful weather. Whatever the reason, I hope it continues.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I didn't have very good luck this past week with my reading choices. I started and didn't finish 3 separate books and ended up running out of time to finish another book before this post was due to be written. To make up for it, I'm sharing my sister's recipe for the best coconut bars you'll ever taste.

Magic Coconut Bars

1 1/3 cups crushed graham crackers
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I like to use milk chocolate ones, but she uses semi-sweet.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans (You can really use any type of nut you'd like.)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1 - 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the crushed graham crackers and the melted butter together and press on to the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Layer with the remaining ingredients in the order they're listed above. Make sure you pour the condensed milk over everything last. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until browned on top.

Makes 24 good sized bars.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Etiquette

I apologize for this post beforehand because it's a bit of a rant on etiquette or the lack thereof. Being a writer, I know how hard it is to get the word out about your book, to try and reach an audience that wants to buy and read that book. I host other romance authors on occasion for that reason. Recently, I signed up on a blog that lists bloggers who will host romance authors. We are able to specify what type of sub-genre of romance, if any, that we'd like to have as well as a heat level so authors looking for places to promote know what we're looking for, or not looking for.

The last three times I've been contacted about being a guest here have gone against some of the big no-nos I learned when I first started writing and submitting work for publication. Admittedly contacting a blogger, even a fellow writer, is a lot different than contacting an agent or editor/publishing house. However, it was impressed upon me how important it was to follow certain submission rules so that I would be deemed a professional.

One of those rules was not to send mass emails out to agents and/or editors. It was best to take the time to email each person I wanted to contact individually even if it seemed time consuming. Another rule, probably even more important than the one above, was to send a query letter first before submitting my manuscript unless the publisher's guidelines specifically stated to send a certain number of pages or chapters along with the query letter. One other rule was to make sure I did my research and contacted those agents and/or editors that represented the type of writing I did.

Those last three emails I received about guesting on my blog I mentioned above...well they broke all those rules. The first was a mass email to just about everyone on the list, the second was an erotica author looking for a place to promote. (I specifically have no erotica listed under my restrictions and the reason why.) And finally, the last person didn't even ask if I could host him/her but sent me a Sign Up Genius link where I could download an interview, guest post, etc and sign up for a date without even an introduction email as to who she/he was or asking if I would consider signing up for the promotion tour.

All three of these emails left a bad taste in my mouth so I can just imagine how an agent and/or editor might feel when they get these types of emails. I realize we all only have a limited amount of time to write new material and promote our books and that I'm just another writer out there with a blog, but the lack of professionalism in this area just grates on my nerves.



Friday, May 9, 2014

This I know for sure...

I've been an adult for some time now yet, I find myself still very attached to my mother. It could be because she's been my only parent since I lost my father when I was nine years old. It could be because she made so many sacrifices, went without so many things to ensure her children had what they needed even if she didn't. It could be that she made Christmas something to look forward to even when you knew there wasn't going to be more than 1 or 2 presents for you under the Christmas tree. And one of those presents was clothing related because you needed new shoes, or a new coat, or even new underwear.

I love the fact that my mom and I are close and enjoy each other's company. I have some friends who have nothing good to say about their mothers or look at them as just one more annoyance they have to deal with. Admittedly, I didn't have those mothers and I don't know how they brought up their children, whether they were a good parent or not, but it makes me sad when I hear friends say terrible things about their mother.

As Mother's Day approaches, it makes me realize once again how blessed I am to have the mother I do. Every year I try to do something special for Mother's Day and this year will be no different. While I try to let her know how much she means to me on a regular basis, Mother's Day gives me a chance to go that extra mile to show her how much I appreciate everything she's ever done for me.

I hope you and your loved ones have a happy Mother's Day this weekend. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week's review is Dark Bayou by Nancy K. Duplechain. This is the first book in the Dark Trilogy.

BlurbWhen Leigh Benoit returns home to Louisiana for the funeral of her brother and his wife, she becomes increasingly concerned about the welfare of her orphaned niece, Lyla. She is prompted by her grandmother, Clothilde, to move back to take care of her. Leigh has no desire to take on any responsibility, and being home again brings back painful memories.

At the funeral, Leigh’s childhood friend, Detective Lucas Castille, tells her the mysterious details of the accident that killed her brother and his wife. Lucas’ young son has dreams of a Dark Man who wishes to harm Lyla. Leigh begins to have similar dreams.

She struggles with her rational mind but vows to protect her niece. Soon, she finds out there is more to the story and more to her grandmother than she thought.

ReviewI was looking forward to reading this book and I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the main character, Leigh Benoit, was hard to like at times. She was snappish and rude to her grandmother for unexplained reasons. She seemed immature for her age. Throughout the book, she wanted to run back to Los Angeles and leave everything she didn't want to deal with behind her in Louisiana regardless of what would happen to her niece and grandmother.

There were misspellings i.e. "...staring to walk off" and grammar issues that at times pulled me out of the story because I had to go back and reread a sentence or paragraph. There were also other editing issues such as dialogue tags. For example, it's common practice to have a line of dialogue followed by the speaking character's name and then said, asked, etc. i.e. "Sam said." In some places, the author used, "said Clothilde" and "said Lyla."

There were also a lot of Point of View (POV) problems. Just a few examples are:
  •  "...and it showed on my face." She can't see her own expression unless she can see her reflection so how does she know her emotion/reaction is mirrored on her face?
  • "I turned to him, silent, but my eyes showed my gratitude." How does she know what her eyes are showing? She can't see her own eyes unless she can see her reflection. 
  •  "Lyla dug her face in my hip to keep from screaming out loud." How does she know that's the reason Lyla is digging her face in her hip? Considering the scene, it would be just as plausible that the young girl was hiding her face so she couldn't see what was happening.
  •  "I closed my eyes, trying to hold myself together. This alarmed Lucas even more."  First her eyes are closed, she can't see his reaction. Secondly, he doesn't do or say anything that shows he's alarmed. He just says, "I should take you home." She doesn't open her eyes until after he speaks.
There are also formatting issues with huge breaks between paragraphs, sometimes leaving half a page or more blank. There are paragraphs of different characters's dialogue, thoughts, and movements all jumbled together instead of being set out separately.

The story itself was engrossing and at times could be described as a page turner, but the editing and formatting issues became distracting.

Rating3 Stars

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Great Book

Reading is so subjective, it's hard to say what elements make a book a great one. For me, a good book is one that keeps me turning the pages, one that makes me emotionally invested in the characters, and one that makes me have to know what's going to happen next. More times than I can count, I've read way too late into the night because I need to know how things are going to turn out. And let me tell you, 5:00am comes awfully early when you don't turn the light off until after midnight. LOL.

I took an informal poll and asked my sisters and mother, who love to read as much as I do, what their criteria is for a great book. Here are their answers:
  • Sister #1 said she considers a book great if she can suspend disbelief and completely believe in the characters and the world in which the story takes place. (She reads a lot of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, and Horror.)
  • Sister #2 said her criteria for a good book is one that takes her on an emotional journey, where she can completely empathize with the main character(s). (She reads various sub-genres of Romance.)
  • Sister #3 had a hard time articulating what makes a good book for her. She said it would be one that made her hate to put it down, one that has great writing, and makes her hate to say goodbye to the characters when the book ends. (She reads a lot of Mainstream, Women's Fiction, and Romance.)
  • Sister #4 also said that the story has to be believable. A good storyline and one that has good pacing and isn't choppy in the telling of the story is important too. (She reads everything and anything that peaks her interest.)
  • My mother said the story has to hold her attention, have good pacing and isn't bogged down with too many details that make me think,"all right, already." (She reads a lot of Suspense, Thrillers, Mysteries, and Romance.)
What's your criteria for a great book?

Friday, May 2, 2014

This I know for sure...

In today's world, it seems hard to get a child interested in anything that doesn't involve a game controller or sitting in front of a computer screen of some sort. Lately, the boy child has shown an interest in how things grow. He wanted to try and grow something so we saved some apple seeds from his after school snack. I found a packet of old flower seeds left over from last year so we planted a few in plastic cups to see what would happen.

A few days later, he was all excited to see tiny green sprouts pushing through the soil. He checks the cups every day, talks to them as he positions them on the windowsill in the small amount of sun we've had recently, and waters them as necessary. He is beyond excited that we're growing apple trees. I haven't the heart to tell him we can't plant them outside. We have a very small (about 3 x 4 ft) back yard area and planting them in the front yard would be too close to the house where the tree roots could cause damage to the foundation.

Here's a picture of his plants as of this afternoon. The tallest ones are the apple seeds.