Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review: Box of Rain by Debra R. Borys

by M. J. Joachim

Capturing a sense of reality in the dangerous prospect of living on the street, engaging in the abstract sense of hope through a sense of safety confounded by betrayal, Box of Rain stimulates and intensifies a journey saddened by hardship, lies and futility. It’s not easy breaking the cycle of negative circumstances and situations in one’s life. Even when one works confoundedly hard to do just that, life has a way of ripping the rug out from under you.

Surviving is not the same thing as living. Life on the street, in gangs, bouncing from foster home to foster home and the like is about survival, not living. Kids do what they have to do, they’re faith and trust in people always tested, which often leaves them bitter, cynical and afraid. Rarely is one able to count on another person while living this type of life. When one does, it may well lead to betrayal and unexpected pain in the future.

Box of Rain is an important story for us to read. It’s an inside view of life unfolding in the shadows of our world, providing a new perspective about the challenges good people face trying to survive and live in spite of the circumstances they were born into. The odds are usually against them. Heck, society and even their own kind are usually against them, but still some of them take every ounce of courage and every bit of energy they have to fight against the odds and break the cycle in the hopes of changing their lives for the better.

Box of Rain is a well written story that captivates the reader from beginning to end with twists and turns, making this book nearly impossible to put down at times. Borys keeps us wondering, sitting on the edge of our seat, scratching our head, guessing and hoping, praying even, for certain characters to be alright, and others to be held accountable for their crimes.

No spoilers here. You’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself, and I really hope you do. This is a very well written story, offering so much more than a good book to read. This book provides new perspective, and might even inspire a bit of action on our parts, to reach out or at least look at those living in the shadows with love, compassion and the willingness to care enough to do our part to help them.

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips today. Your visits mean the world to me, and I truly enjoy engaging in the conversation with you.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Paulette Harper Shares Valuable Marketing & Writing Tips

by Paulette Harper

Writing, publishing and marketing are all important aspects to consider when writing a book. Paulette appears to tackle these tasks  head on, delving into all aspects of getting her name and books out there. It's an important conversation, one that requires forethought when deciding to write and publish a book. Thanks, Paulette, for taking time to share your experience with us today. M. J. 

When I wrote my first book, That Was Then, This Is Now, I was under the impression that my publisher was going to promote my book. I soon found out that the publisher was only going to give a fraction of the time in helping me promote and market my book. Given the limited resources I had, I believe I did a great job of breaking into the market, making people aware of my presence. Here are just a few of the things to do to get started.

1. Send review copies of your books to book clubs and to all the journal and magazines that review books in your genre. Most publishers will do this, but it never hurts to research other places that you can submit a copy of your book. There are plenty of places on-line that will review your book for “free”.

2. Create a web page for the book. Ideally, you should have a separate website with an address that features the book title. Now you can exchange links and drive traffic to the site with comments, blogs, quotes, and extracts. Be sure to show people how they can buy the book.

3. Offer sample chapter as free downloads on your website. This is an excellent way to “tease” readers to want more. Make sure the chapters you are offering are your best chapters, and turn those chapters into PDF files.

4. Offer yourself for interviews on radio. Most radio stations are eager to interview newly-published authors.

5. Plan and give workshops on topics related to your book.

Paulette Harper is an award-winning and best-selling author, speaker and ordained Elder. She is the owner of Write Now Literary Virtual Book Tours and is passionate about helping authors succeed in publishing and marketing their books. Paulette has been writing and publishing books since 2008. She writes both Christian Fiction, Non-Fiction and children’s books. She resides in Northern, California.

Thanks again for stopping by, Paulette. Good luck with all of your publishing and marketing ventures.

Your visits and comments mean the world to me. Thanks so much for taking time to read, discuss and share this post.

M. J. 

©2015 All Rights Reserved  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Beyond the Blue and the Gray by Tony Verna

by M. J. Joachim

It’s the sort of slapstick comedy that makes you shake your head when an author ventures into the realm of using history as a backdrop for such an unusual fictional story. A snapshot of day to day life rolls out while President Lincoln ends the Civil War, gets assassinated, put on public display and finally laid to rest. The Civil War, Lincoln, these were newsworthy events, sort of like us talking about the pros and cons of Obama at our kitchen table over coffee.

“Beyond” in the title means exactly that. This is the story about life taking place on the streets, rolling out across the country and even riding the high seas to Hawaii. Verna takes us on a journey of life, relationships, feelings and mischief. All sorts of mischief plays out in the story, things that make you scratch your head, laugh, cringe and shrug your shoulders.

Taken as a whole, the story is quite entertaining in an odd comedy sort of way. There were times I thought of Woody Allen, and his offbeat comedy style. There were other times when Mel Brooks came to mind. Beyond the Blue and the Gray is sort of crazy like that, charming, uncanny, a bit rude and politically incorrect at times.

It’s a good read if you like this sort of thing, one to take lightly and enjoy the sights and events as they happen. This isn’t a quick read, so be prepared to take your time. Remember, you’re traveling back in history and watching daily life unfold. Crime, murder, romance and magic all play a part, as characters live and die in these pages. There’s a main cast with more than a few supporting roles, some sticking around as the story continues to develop, while other make haste with cameo appearances.

Overall, I enjoyed Beyond the Blue and the Gray, and I’m glad the editor, Jim Bessey, sent me a copy. He had a personal relationship with Tony Verna, a man who struggled with leukemia and recently lost his battle. I was still reading the book when I received Jim’s tribute to him. May he rest in peace. May all his family and friends be consoled as they feel his loss.

Thanks so much for stopping by today,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gardening, Book Reviews, YouTube Videos, Blog Hops and More…

by M. J. Joachim

January Gardening

January remains one of my favorite and busiest gardening months of the year here in Arizona. It’s a perfect time to get outside because the weather is warm enough to roll up your sleeves, but not so hot that you’re sweating to death after a few minutes. I’m currently working hard on the back planter I made a few years ago. I planted an evergreen Japanese hedge that I plan to accent with cat’s claw to cover the ugly gray wall and snapdragons to add extra color and fragrance. Snapdragons also happen to be one of my favorite flowers.

Book Reviews

Book reviews have been heavily on my list since early December. I have at least three I hope to publish before February, plus a few that were previously published on a site that no longer exist. I received Gone Girl for Christmas and literally couldn’t put it down, reading all 560 pages in less than two weeks. It’s quite the page turner, though my near future review will share a much more detailed analysis, complete with pros and cons. The other two books are requests from visitors to this blog. The one I started before Christmas is taking quite a bit of time to get through, which unfortunately isn’t faring so well for the author. The other I started last night to get a break from the first. It’s turning out to be a much better read, and might even get reviewed before the one that is taking so long to finish reading.

Making YouTube Videos

I made my very first YouTube video - a slide show I took of a praying mantis hanging out in my backyard for two days. It was so much fun that I made a second YouTube video of Arizona clouds, pictures I’ve been accumulating for more than a year. I had a third YouTube video up, but there was some issue with the music copyright, so I removed it. I plan to change the music and put it up again at some point. It seems all music given on the computer software is not free to use. Only some of it is, and I used the wrong soundtrack. A learning curve is definitely taking place as I enjoy the task of making public videos.

Blog Stats, Glitches and Blog Hops

Sayanara blog hops and blog hopping. I won’t do them anymore. We’re so careful about keeping our computers clean, avoiding glitches and fixing things when they come up, which is why I’m also being careful about giving away my links to any master list that can be edited by one or more powers that be. It makes good sense when you think about it. The only real way to improve blog traffic is to create excellent content that people want to read. Short of that, all the blog hops in the world won’t improve your stats, so why risk having someone edit your links? One of my New Year’s writing resolutions is to blog pure. I owe this to myself and all those who I follow and who follow me. We’ve got a good thing going and for my part, I want to do everything in my power to keep it on the up and up, without added worry from extra-curricular blog events, which might (or might not) take away from what we are ultimately trying to accomplish.

Other than all of the above, I wrote a post on Effectively Human a week or so ago explaining how January is taking me by storm. Regular and consistent blogging will resume soon, I’m thinking February, shortly after Super Bowl in AZ and my big 50 birthday coming up too fast. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading and working on those reviews I’ve got in progress, and you keep being the wonderful blogging friends I’ve come to know and love.

Wishing you only good things, dear blogging friends,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Praying mantis, ©2015 All Rights Reserved, M. J. Joachim

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lobster Award - Uh, Say What? Self Correcting Computers…UGH!

by M. J. Joachim

Annalisa Crawford was kind enough to present me with the Lobster, I mean, Liebster Award today. Unfortunately, it’s a hit and miss with my Internet since yesterday, so I’m not even sure I’m going to be able to post this and make it live.

I was able to briefly read Annalisa’s post this morning. Recipients are supposed to share information about their work in progress. These days my main task is Christmas, a holiday that never takes me by surprise, but always surprises me just the same.

Since my Internet was so bad yesterday, I turned off my computer and took care of a few things like decorating and wrapping presents. I’m about halfway through a book I’m reading for a review. I’d hoped to have it completed and the review up at least a week ago, but that was not to be. I’m eager to read the next book I have in queue…did I mention Christmas? That one will be the first book I review in 2015. 

Regarding my WIPs…I’ve a couple in the works. Two don’t have characters at all. One is in its earliest phases and I’m not sure what I want to do with the main character yet. I can tell you it’s a girl. I can also tell you the background deals with some pretty hefty social issues, and the villain is very easy to hate. I’m still working on placement for this fictional story. It wants to belong in a city, and yet the country seems to be beckoning me to make events take place there.

Everything in me wants to write a book of short stories based where I live/have lived. Yes, Annalisa, you get credit for this inspiration too. Arizona and California make nice backdrops for all sorts of short stories. I’m sure I can created some very detailed scenes for my stories in both of these states. This is a project for 2015, when everyone’s schedules change and the house gets quiet again. 

Other than that, I’m plugging away keeping up with my blogs for the most part and trying to clean them up a bit. I managed to unfollow some blogs of folks that haven’t blogged in years this week. No sense following bloggers who have long since moved on. I’ve much more to do in that regard. It will be nice to get the list of blogs I’m following up to date and current. 

The screen shots you’re seeing in this post are of various Liebster Awards. I Googled it and these are some of the images that came up. I really like the berries and the lighthouse one. Flowers and hearts are nice too. Simple works well to share the badge of honor, which I’m sharing with all of you. It’s Christmas and on that note, you’re all invited to get this award. Simply write a post about your work in progress, whatever that might be. Since I can’t get on the Internet right now, I can’t access the questions, so I’m making this a easy for you.

Take a screen shot of any or all the awards you see in this post, or get creative and make a new Liebster Award Badge, and write a post about your work in progress. How about using the Giant Lobster Sculpture as your badge, unless your computer corrects “liebster” with some other letters, or doesn’t correct it at all. It’s a screen shot too, a public domain picture taken by Andrew McMillan. I found it on Wikicommons and he grants anyone to use it for any reason.

Okay, it looks like my Internet is working right now, so I’m going to try and get this posted asap. With the busyness of the season and a strange web connection, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to post again until after Christmas. On that note,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Should I Write About Today? How to Develop New and Exciting Writing Topics

by M. J. Joachim

Choosing good topics to write about takes practice, but it’s not difficult to do. All you really need to do is think about what you already know or are learning. If you have a hobby, take the time to define it, literally. Analyze it and break it down into several different pieces. Use these detailed descriptions of intimate aspects of your subject matter to develop topics to write about.

Develop Clear Focal Points

Everyone washes laundry. By itself, that’s a pretty broad topic. However, when you start to analyze all the steps involved in washing laundry, you begin to realize that there are several different things you can discuss on this topic. You can write about different types of washing machines, doing the laundry at home or in a Laundromat, sorting clothes, removing stains, pre-soaking. The list is never ending. All you have to do is pick a focal point and write about it as your topic.

Debate Pros and Cons

People love to take sides about things. Pick a topic like mowing the lawn and discuss the pros and cons of using different types of lawn mowers. You can write one article discussing electric mowers, one article discussing push mowers, and another one discussing gas mowers. Simply list the pros and cons of each type of mower and let your audience decide if they agree with your assessment or not.

Compare and Contrast

While we’re on the subject of mowers, you could compare using an electric mower against using a gas mower. You might even conduct a little experiment detailing time, energy and expense of using each to include in your article. Stress the pros and cons of each mower, and then list them to show your readers how the two items are the same and different.

Consumer Reports does this all the time. They pick several similar products and test them. Then they share the results with the public so consumers can decide how to best spend their money.

Enhance a Narrow Topic

Instead of narrowing down a broad topic, work backwards and open up a clearly defined topic. Take for instance an extremely focused article on how to make New York Style Cheesecake. You can develop topics based on the history of New York Style Cheesecake. How did it get its name? What are the origins of its ingredients? Where can you find the best recipe adaptation of it? How do you make cream cheese? And let’s not even get started on all the topics you might come up with related to New York.

Finding new topics to write about can be turned into a bit of a game. Write down a main theme in the center of your paper, and then make a web with all the different things you might be able to say about it. Once you make the first tier, expand on it, ever extending your web further out into new and different possible topics. In no time at all, you’ll have more topics to write about than you ever dreamed of. The hard part will be finding time to write all your new articles.

I’m so glad you stopped by and visited me today. I hope you find this post helpful and informative and would love to read your comments on it. Oh, and if you really, really like it, do feel free to click the share button. Thanks again for your much appreciated support of my work here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Nansoriginal, Inbound Marketing Process, CCA-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Coded Pictures, Badges and Book Covers Can Mess Up Your Blog

by M. J. Joachim

You know what they say, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch! I read a blog post over the weekend that really got me thinking about all those badges out there, and how their codes might not be so good for our blogs. The thing is, we all use different computers that interact with different blog platforms. Who’s to say how adding code to include pictures and badges on our site will affect us?

I’ve taken to the idea of making screen shots of photos, badges, blog awards, book covers and anything picture related at all lately. It prevents the unnecessary code of all things coded from messing up my blogs. If I need or want to add a link, it’s easy enough to do. I simply grab it from wherever it’s found and attach it to the photo or badge in turn.

As a woman, I know it is very necessary to clean out my purse from time to time. No harm, no foul. The darn thing just gets very full and cluttered with receipts, other people’s junk, change, pens and pencils, make-up etc. I need to clean it out periodically, because it weighs too heavy on my arm if I don’t.

The same holds true for our blogs. Added code from anywhere - photos, badges, blog hops, book cover reveals etc. weighs down our blogs as well. They run slower, don’t format correctly, get glitches and are difficult to navigate, which is why we need to keep them clean.

Oh, that and the fact that that post I read over the weekend mentioned something about spammers using badges and blog hops to steal our page views from us, or give us computer viruses and such. Spammers can write any code they want, and if we are none the wiser, we might get burned by including their code on our blogs. While this is a valid and important concern, my main thought is that I just want my blogs to run as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Here’s to keeping the blogosphere clean. Take a screen shot and leave the unnecessary code off your blog. After all, it’s your blog and you alone are responsible for how well it works and what it has or doesn’t have on it.

Thanks so much for visiting, commenting on and sharing my post today. I hope you find it helpful and informative.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Screen shot, Oh How I Miss You Blog Hop Badge