Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sedona Cathedral Hideaway - A Review of Sorts

by M. J. Joachim

Valentine’s weekend was the weekend before my daughter and granddaughter moved in with us this year. The baby is sleeping, so I have a few minutes to blog today. It was also the weekend after my big 50 birthday; my husband surprised me with a wonderful getaway in Sedona, Arizona. We stayed at the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway Bed & Breakfast, a picturesque home with two grand and delightful suites for guests.

Our room was perfect for old fashioned romance. There was a small kitchenette, a huge jacuzzi tub, a fireplace and a view that was to die for. There was also a comfortable porch and patio perfect for our Arizona outdoor lifestyle.

Sedona scenery has long been hailed as some of the most beautiful to be seen. Popular for its bright red rock and spiritual rock formations, we were only minutes away from Red Rock State Park, as well as downtown Sedona. We weren’t far from Slide Rock State Park either. The reason I mention this is because as we drove through Old Town Sedona (looking for a place to park, but not really, we continued on through the crowds of Valentine and President's Day weekend and chose to enjoy the scenery of Slide Rock instead. Truly, when it comes to nature’s beauty, this is one place everyone should definitely see!

Back to our first experience staying at a bed & breakfast now…

It was da bomb, and I can’t wait to do it again!

We were spoiled rotten, with some of the most amazing breakfasts you could ever imagine! At the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway, you order the night before. Then the owners go and pick up fresh ingredients for your meal and make it to be ready at your specified time in the morning. Special orders, diets etc., no problem. I had Eggs Benedict for the first time in years - it’s not easy to get when you have celiac and are gluten free. But Kathy figured out a way to make it for me, and boy was it ever a treat!

Truly, if you are ever in the Sedona area, I highly recommend staying at the Sedona Cathedral Hideaway. Personally, I wish we’d had a few more days, because there were so many more trails to explore, sights to see and things to do. Below are a few pictures of from our weekend.

I can’t thank you enough for hanging in there with me, while I take my time adjusting to our new home environment. It’s lovely having my daughter and granddaughter home again. The baby is 5 months old now. She’s trying her best to roll over and move around on her own. She also is starting to hold and play with toys. Of course, my favorite part of being a grandma is when she lights up and smiles all the time. She truly is a very happy and easy going baby, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be her grandma!

I’ll do my best to catch up with you all again before too long. I’ve a couple of book reviews I’m working on, and I’d really like to get them posted sooner rather than later.

Best to all,

M. J. 















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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tyrean Martinson Reveals the Makings of an Everyday Writer

by Tyrean Martinson

“Yes, I still blog,” declares M. J. Joachim, ever so thankful to have received this wonderful email from her writing friend, Tyrean. Blame it on life. Blame it on turning 50 last Sunday. Blame it on beautiful weather - I did put on my bathing suit to get some sun in our 80 degree temps the other day…wasn’t brave enough to swim in the very cold pool, but did manage to catch a few rays just the same. This is the time of year to get things done in Arizona, because once the extreme heat arrives, no one wants to go outside at all. You’ll be glad your snow has melted and I’ll be patiently waiting for the fall. On that note, thanks again Tyrean, for providing me with a much needed update for my blog.

An everyday writer might wear old blue jeans and a t-shirt from a three day Christian concert festival to work at her scuffed dining room table with a giant mug of tea in a Tink cup, with her feet bare.

An everday writer might wear the same outfit, while sipping on an espresso Italian soda at her favorite coffee shop with her laptop and a notebook open in front of her while four ladies at an adjoining table play bridge, and a rowdy group that spills out from another table tells photography adventure stories.

An everyday writer might use a pen or pencil, a laptop, a tablet, or a laptop. An everyday writer might have a dog at her feet and a cat on her lap, with two kids coming in and out of the room. An everyday writer might write in the wee hours of the morning before anyone else gets up, on her coffee break at work, at lunch, in her car (when it’s stopped in a parking lot!), or late at night.

The only thing that makes an everyday writer is writing.

And, it’s up to the everyday writer to choose how much he/she wants to write each day. Some everyday writers write a sentence each day, minimum. Some everyday writers write a page every day. Some write 2,000 words each day. The amount is not what makes an everyday writer. The act of writing makes an everyday writer.

I’m an everyday writer. My minimum on bad days: one paragraph in my journal. My minimum on regular days: 1,000 words. I’ve met everyday writers who write a sentence each day on their calendars. That’s their minimum. And, it works. They are writers. They get to decide how much they can commit to writing each day.

Are you an everyday writer? And what does writing every day mean to you? 

Tyrean Martinson, an everyday writer, likes to write in jeans and old Christian concert t-shirts while drinking copious amounts of tea and coffee, preferably served up in her Tinkerbell or Eeyore mugs (these are 16oz mugs, not wee cups). She teaches writing classes to home-school teens once a week, and she writes fantasy, science fiction, space opera, poetry, experimental hint fiction, and writing help and curriculum books.

Her latest releases reflect her love of everyday writing: A Jumble of 500+ Writing Prompts eBook with the companion paperback, A Pocket-Sized Jumble of 500+ Writing Prompts, and the additional Jumble Journals. The eBook version is only 99 cents at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Amazon
Smashwords
B & N

Tyrean’s Blog
Tyrean’s Facebook Page
Tyrean’s Twitter Page 

I plan to post again here soon because Tyrean also recently nominated me for a pretty special blogging award, which I appreciate more than you know. As she says, "...and we are only six weeks in? seven? I'm not sure." 2015 is definitely keeping at least a few of us on our toes, and I am certainly one of them.

Here's to all of you! Thanks so much for being such a cool and wonderful part of my blogging world!

M. J. 

©2015 All Rights Reserved  Photo credit:  Tyrean Martinson, please contact her regarding rights and usage

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: Rollercoaster by Woody Weingarten

by M. J. Joachim


Breast cancer is one of those scary, taboo subjects nobody wants to talk about, despite the fact that millions of people are and have been affected by it throughout the course of history. It’s often considered a private matter, reserved for those going through it minus their loved ones and caregivers. It’s personal. Cancer always seems to be so darned personal.

For decades we’ve danced around the big C word, allowing research to progress as it will, cancer sufferers to fight as they will and caregivers and family members to cope as they will. Until now! How I wish this book had been around when my father and uncles died of cancer so many years ago! How I wish this book had been around over the years when I had two benign breast biopsies - one at 28, another in my mid 30’s where lymph nodes were removed as a precaution, drainage bag included, but more than a little thankfully, no big C and no toxic chemical treatments to follow. The only thing I had to deal with were rapidly mutating and growing lumps, taken out well before they could turn into anything that might kill me. Well that and a scar on each breast reminding me to be diligent about my breast health for the rest of my life. So far so good!

Yes, cancer is personal, which is why this book is so important and necessary for all of us to read. Weingarten is the caregiver of his wife Nancy and her breast cancer; years later, he is also the patient with cancer. Seems many of us get to deal with the big C more than once in our lives, and in various ways too. For all the research, money raised, government programs, medicines and treatments tried, things which Weingarten fully addresses in this book, we still don’t seem to find the answers we need to cure the dreaded big C. We simply learn how to (hopefully) lessen its effects and the toll it takes on family and caregivers. I say hopefully because this book doesn’t offer any false hope. Weingarten describes in scrupulous detail the evolution of cancer meds and treatments since the 70’s. It’s an important section in the book, and if I ever do get cancer, you can bet I’ll never opt to take tamoxifen, partly because of what I learned in this book.

All the big C talk aside, Rollercoaster is a love story about a man and a woman dealing with her diagnosis, treatment and side effects of breast cancer. (Those little things no one really wants to talk about like loss of sex drive, anger and anxiety, relationship challenges, an entire myriad of fears ranging from how to deal with hair loss to night sweats and coping with nightmares, even eating to deal with stress). Twenty years later Woody & Nancy are still happily married survivors of the big C that changed and redefined their lives forever. It couldn’t be more true. Once personally touched by the big C, there’s no turning back. It’s a thread in your fabric and a part of your life forever. As such, support is necessary and vital to coping and dealing with the disease.

Marin-Man-to-Man is a drop-in, dues-free support group open to any male whose partner has or has had, breast cancer (or another life-threatening disease).” Much of this book makes reference to this excellent resource and support group for male caregivers living in the San Francisco Bay Area, a group Woody himself attends. Closing chapters in the book are full of valuable resources and books for both caregivers and cancer sufferers alike.

If you haven’t personally been touched by cancer yet, you’re lucky. I strongly recommend this book to everyone, because cancer and everything about it is very real, and this book has the ability to make the dreaded big C diagnosis a little bit easier on us all.

Thanks so much for taking time to share your story, Woody. I trust and hope many people will be extremely fortunate to read Rollercoaster and benefit from you and your wife’s experience with breast cancer.

Thanks to all of you for visiting Writing Tips today. I hope this review proves valuable to you and look forward to your comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved


Monday, February 2, 2015

Author John A. Heldt Discusses Writing Outlines and Chapter Summaries

by John A. Heldt

John A. Heldt is one of those authors who understands the true craft of writing and polishing a good story. He takes the time to satisfy his readers, focusing on even the smallest details and bringing all aspects of his books to life. Having read and reviewed The Mine a few years back, I'm eager to read and review his newest novel, September Sky. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your writing tips with us today, John. Wishing you every success with all of your writing endeavors. M. J.


E.L. Doctorow once said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I must say that, for the most part, I can’t relate. When it comes to producing novels, I'm a "plotter" and not a "pantser." A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of his (or her) pants -- a person who can reach a destination without looking too far ahead.

Writing for me is not a spontaneous process that begins by opening a blank page on my laptop. It is a process that is so clear and ordered, it’s like driving all day in sunshine on a flat, straight, traffic-free highway with my GPS navigator activated.

My outline takes the form of detailed chapter summaries that can run from twenty words to two hundred. If there’s something I want to mention in Chapter 26, I’ll leave myself a reminder. Often I will add entire quotes or passages to a summary.

By the time I’m ready to start Chapter 1, I know not only which roads I will take to get to my destination but also which ones I’ll avoid. Virtually every twist, turn, and potential obstacle will be identified well in advance.

I say virtually because, like most authors, I like to leave some room to depart from the script and do something entirely different.

When I wrote The Mine, my first novel, I added a Japanese-American character about a third of the way in. The character, a college senior named Katie, became one of the most instrumental figures in the book. In three other novels, I added two lengthy chapters after the first draft was “finished.”

I’ve found that this approach works well. By outlining a novel in advance, I reduce the chances of writing myself into a corner. By leaving myself wiggle room, I leave open the possibility of heading down a better road.

In the twentieth of his twenty-two lessons on writing, Stephen King advises writers to take a break from their finished draft. He suggests six weeks, in fact, so that they can return to their manuscript with fresh eyes and see the proverbial forest among the trees.

I think this is sound advice. Good writing is a process that requires not only discipline and perseverance but also patience and perspective. What may seem a great idea in the planning stages may seem downright dumb in the end.

As I jump into the second novel of my second series, I plan to drive during the day with a map handy. But I’m going to keep an eye on the signs. Last-minute detours can to more than make a trip more interesting. They can make it better.


As a reviewer of John's books, all I can say is he knows what he's doing when it comes to writing, so if you can follow any of his advice in this post, you'd probably be glad you did. John's blog also shares writing advice, as well as book reviews, virtual tours of places he visits and a few other interesting things. 

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

by M. J. Joachim

Walking out of the theater last winter, I heard someone on their cell phone excitedly sharing their experience of having just seen Gone Girl. My husband and I went to a different movie, but I remember him saying, “It was absolutely as good as the book! You simply have to see this film!” Lots of people were talking about this movie that way, and I said to my husband, “If it’s that good, I think I’ll read the book first and then see the movie.” I received the book for Christmas and quite frankly couldn’t put it down.

Gone Girl is a true page turner, filled with suspense, drama and lots of twists and turns. I was eager to see everyone get their due as the story drew to a close. I’m more eager than ever to watch the film with my daughter - she’s also reading the book at present.

I liked this book, but the ending bothered me. It wasn’t what I expected, wanted or thought should happen. If you’ve read Gone Girl, please tell me if you think I’m way off base about this…without giving it away for those who haven’t read it. I’ve held off writing this review for a while now, because I thought time might make the ending settle a bit more for me. It didn’t. I still don’t like the ending, and I know I never will.

None-the-less, Gone Girl is a really good book, and I’m sure I’ll be back to talk about the movie when I see it.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you when you do.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Gone Girl Premiere at the 52nd New York Film Festival, October 2014, aphrodite-in-nyc, cc-by-2.0 License

Book Review: You Are Not Alone by Leah Carey

by M. J. Joachim

Mixed emotions flooded me as I read this book claiming to be pro-woman. In many ways, You Are Not Alone absolutely does affirm women as valid human beings, which in my mind states the obvious. Of course we are valid human beings! Duh! The fallacy that we are not is the basis for the book, a book written by women who have been hurt and are in various stages of healing from the pain of deep wounds they carry, many of which were inflicted by men or in some cases, women who bought society’s line that women are second-class citizens.

I’m not buying it! People are people regardless of gender, race, creed, political party association or anything else. Rape is not an assault against women based on their sexuality. It is a power play that can happen to anyone. Sexual predators are sexual predators whether they are raping women or men, molesting children or using sex as a weapon in any other way, shape or form.

I’ve never believed women were powerless or the lesser sex, so I’m not comfortable with the premise of this book. This book is opinionated and, when taken as a whole, full of feminist propaganda which ultimately serves its own agenda. That’s part of why my emotions are so torn.

Yes, women deserve and should rightfully be treated with respect. Yes, they shouldn’t live in fear or be stereotyped as the lesser sex. Yes, they should value and appreciate their bodies. Yes, everyone in society should strive to treat women better in society. (We should also strive to treat men and children better, respecting everyone and treating everyone with equal dignity.) In a perfect world, but our world is not perfect.

I’ve never bought into the concept that entire groups of people are responsible for the ills of society, another fallacy clearly expressed in this book. Individuals are responsible for individual behavior, in my opinion, though I do believe in group-think mentality and realize that when people of like minds and behaviors get together, their message and actions can become undesirable and even harmful if not checked and balanced with appropriate measures. On the same token, I believe large groups of people can also work together to bring about phenomenal positive changes in our world.

It appears to me that this book was written not only by broken women, but also by a few bitter women who turned their pain into anger and resentment toward society. No one escapes being hurt in this life. It’s how we deal with our pain and wounds that defines us. So much of this book was spent explaining its mission to empower women, raise awareness about injustices against women and help women. I felt defeated as a woman when reading this book. I felt like we are living back in the stone ages, where women are still trying to overcome being objects and owned by men. I wanted to scream, “Look at us now, for crying out loud! Look at us now!”

This book defies its title and premise. It’s a book written with an agenda that clearly misses its stated objective. It’s a pity party on a mission to make men feel guilty and women live in the past. Yes, I believe in women, but this book does not promote them fairly in my opinion. It promotes a misguided notion that women have to fight to be who they are rightfully born to be, and that is a concept I find all too disturbing.

Thanks for visiting Writing Tips today. I do hope you’ll weigh in on this conversation in the comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved   Photo credit:  Oppression, Isabella Quintana, Public Domain

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