Sunday, June 30, 2013

In Loving Memory...

Rest in Peace

Lee Smith

August 17, 1930 – June 30, 2013

We love you Mom. We will miss you. 

Teresa, aka M. J.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This Crazy Month of June…

by M. J. Joachim

Not what I planned or expected this June … nor could I have predicted any of its events…

I’m getting back to my routine now – as much as anyone can under the current circumstances. Mom is still in ICU – long road ahead, only God will determine its course. Prayers welcomed and appreciated for her and my entire family. Thank you all so much for your continued efforts on this behalf.

Catching up on my reading this week – several reviews promised, and I intend to do them all in the coming weeks and months.

On another note, my daughter saved a puppy from being run over on a main road the other night…in the process of trying to find its owner, if it has one.

Best to all, and thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

M. J.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Just a very brief update – My mom is not doing so well. Please keep her and our family in your prayers. Thank you. 

M. J.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blog Update

Please forgive my absence. I'm going to see my mom. Please pray for her. She is having another surgery today.

Thank you.

M. J.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ah Life…and then we smile… :)

by M. J. Joachim

Domestic is overrated
This is my fair decree
I’d much prefer to read & write
And blog hop joyfully

The dust can settle where it will
The laundry pile high
I’m off to venture in the park
To watch the birdies fly

The food doth taste delicious
When I cook it for myself
Junk food is not the answer
I need a cooking elf

Cockroaches find him helpful
He ne’re cleans up his mess
Oh God save for the dishes
I’d clean up so much less

And that my friend’s the story
Of a writer, mom and wife
A woman – blogging, cleaning
Content and happy with her life

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

Entry for dVerse Open Link Night #100 

M. J. 

Photo credit: Dirty dishes, mysid, Wiki Commons, Public Domain

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Divine Temptations by Nicki Elson

by M. J. Joachim

Community is an amazing thing requiring the essence of a delicate balance, where unique and intriguing personalities develop relationships forming the rhythm of life, as it rejuvenates itself day after day amidst mundane routine, expected trials, overwhelming joys and unexpected tragedies. Familiarity is constant for most, while belonging takes effort and a willful desire. 

It is easy to relate to Divine Temptation’s main character, Maggie, a working mom, divorced mother of two – not because I’ve ever been one, but because it is such a common occurrence in today’s society. As a cradle catholic, it was also way too easy for me to relate to the setting for Nicki’s story – I know well the large and small communities that play off each other, necessarily and unnecessarily clamoring for a brighter spotlight. The dynamics for such a setting, however, could take place almost anywhere, a large corporation, hospital, PTA etc. Politics seem to be just about everywhere in real life, which makes the backdrop of this story easy to identify with, even if one isn’t familiar with catholic communities and rituals.

Most Catholics won’t refute that guardian angels are real – it’s something we believe by faith; Maggie clearly needed hers throughout the story. She was faced with the ultimate task of dealing with way too many personal obstacles simultaneously, and in her need to feel like she belonged (a sense of community), she blurred the lines of physical and spiritual realms. It’s not unheard of, even if it isn’t commonplace. More than this, however, Maggie became vulnerable. In other words, she was an easy target.

It’s what happens when life is constantly throwing lemons at us, and we simply don’t have enough sugar to make lemonade. In our efforts to substitute with something, anything, we sometimes have the tendency to get lost by the twists and turns of the journey, ultimately making it impossible for us to see the forest through the trees. It’s a cliché, I know – but when you read the book, you’ll see why it fits so perfectly in this review. 

I wish I could say Maggie was going along minding her own business and was merely a product of circumstance, but she wasn’t. She was a messed up character determined to make readers see those less than admirable qualities in ourselves. She was a woman trying to do her best in life, all while rebuilding her life into what it might have been, should have been, could have been. And she was a “real” woman with needs and desires every real woman has.

Along comes Mr. “I don’t know my purpose, but I’m here to be a shoulder for you to cry on if you need it,” Guardian Angel, who Maggie affectionately names Evan. Friendship develops, turning into passion and lustful desires both Maggie and Evan must fight to control, and well, you can imagine how quickly things get complicated, can’t you? No, probably not, because Nicki doesn’t hold back when describing the intimacy that finally takes place between Maggie and Evan. 

Except it doesn’t…

Not really…

The ultimate battle of good against evil rears its ugly head once more, only this time, Maggie’s vulnerability has gotten her into some serious trouble – the kind that priests are willing to die for in the battle to save souls at any cost. This time Maggie must finally step up to the plate and become who she was always meant to be, a woman of substance who doesn’t blur the lines of physical and spiritual realms – a woman of humility who accepts responsibility for her actions and owns up to her human failures when things go wrong, as we all know they have a tendency to do sometimes. 

No longer the victim, Maggie transforms into a woman with newly discovered strength that has the power to make a difference, as she acknowledges her true place in the many communities that make up her world. She accepts the consequences of her actions, recognizing how they affect so many more people than those in her immediate circle. 

Divine Temptation is definitely being added to my Recommended Reading List. This book was intense, more than a little hard to put down, even to take time out for a meal or to switch the laundry. The message was startling, real and relatable, while the fantasy kept me focused and eager to find out what happened next. From beginning to end, Divine Temptation by Nicki Elson captured my attention and let me escape into a world unknown, all the while sharing an important message (subtly hinted at and revealed in the background). It’s like the music that makes the theater come alive. You’re there for the characters, but the music touches your soul.

Please note: No part of this review may be copied or transferred in any way. Links to this post are preferred to share this review. Thank you. 

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

M. J. 

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Power of Prayer – Thank You!

Dear Friends, 

I am very happy to report that my mom is out of ICU and I was able to talk to her on the phone today and tell her I love her. She even said she loves me too. Things are starting to get much better now.

Thank you all for your prayers and kind wishes. Keep ‘em comin’! We’ve got a long road ahead of us yet. I’ll be sure and let you know the power of them as things continue to improve.

Best to all! Happy Saturday kind friends!

M. J. 

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Sliding on the Edge by C. Lee McKenzie

by M. J. Joachim

My heart nearly broke for Shawna, right from the start of the story. Sixteen years old, abandoned, left to roam the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada and make her way in the world. What kind of mother would do such a thing? What kind of mother could do such a thing to her own child?

Thankfully, Shawna’s mother left her a small bit of cash and a phone number – for a grandmother she never knew, of all things. (Did I really just write “thankfully” when describing this mother?) Shawna was not without choices, and lucky for her, she made the right ones. It didn’t take long for her to end up at her grandmother’s horse ranch near Sacramento, California. 

The transition wasn’t easy, especially since Shawna had more than a little baggage and head trash to deal with. She was self-sufficient, independent, strong willed and emotionally, let’s just say she was one tough survivor, given the circumstances, abuses and traumas she was subject to throughout her lifetime.

As if teenage years aren’t hard enough on kids, Shawna, a street kid, her mother’s caretaker and their less than law abiding, meal ticket lifestyle, is suddenly dealing with culture shock when she realizes how “real people” actually live, by choosing to make contact and live with her grandmother.

From this point on, Sliding on the Edge rapidly becomes a story of second chances. Shawna has a second chance. Her grandmother has a second chance. Kenny the ranch hand was given a second chance. Even most of the animals on the ranch were given second chances. One of the few people in the story who isn’t given a second chance is Jackie, Shawna’s mother. Somehow this feels like justice, because of everything she’s put poor Shawna through. 

I really enjoyed reading Sliding on the Edge, because it’s a good story with a solid plot, enough twists and turns to keep you turning the page, but not so fast you have to back-track and reread what you just read all the time. This brings to mind a few of the flashback scenes. They were good. Please don’t misunderstand me here. It’s just that I’d already read those lines in a few of them, so to have them restated and practically quoted from a different character’s point of view seemed redundant at times. I understand why Lee wrote the story this way, for clarity, but I feel it was a bit too much at times. It’s a very minor offense, considering how much I enjoyed the story. 

Sliding on the Edge by C. Lee McKenzie is definitely being added to my Recommended Reading page. It’s a book I’m sure many people will enjoy reading and learn a lot from too.

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

M. J. 

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

IWSG + The Story Behind Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Cassa Series

by M. J. Joachim

One of my biggest insecurities is the fear of blurring lines between being too professional and/or too personal on my blog. Because blogs are more personal by nature, it’s important to have a more relaxed and open writing style. However, publishing blogs also requires respecting and adhering to certain professional and business etiquettes within each post, and in every comment we make on other blogs we visit. It is a fine balancing act, one that proves itself in page views every single day.
And now, thank you Alex for sharing the story behind your Cassa series with us…

The idea for CassaStar sparked from a single image – that of Frank Frazetta’s Battlestar Galactica artwork. I already had ideas in my head after reading Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara and seeing movies like Star Wars. But that stark black and white image spoke to me – I could see the downed ship and two crew members stranded with the enemy bearing down on them. From that one moment, I created a story following two brothers in a war. Thirty years later I rewrote the story from scratch, changing everything but the essence of that one scene, and it became my first published book, CassaStar.
I know many see Star Wars in the story, but Battlestar Galactica (the original series) was a far greater influence. I’m also a diehard Star Trek fan, and there’s some Buck Rogers in there as well. I imagined many other adventures for Byron and Bassa involving exploration, and while those tales will never see the light of day, they influenced the course of CassaStar.

And yes, I imagined a woman for Byron. Athee (again with the Battlestar Galactica influence, as her name was taken from the character Athena) appears in CassaFire. Once again, their meeting was completely rewritten for the book, but the essence remains.

Which leads us to CassaStorm, set for release on September 17, 2013. I never planned beyond the first book – I was grateful that when fans requested a female character I had Athee tucked away in a short story and could build CassaFire around her and Byron. But a third book? What on earth would I write about?
I struggled for months to come up with a suitable story. I’m not sure at what point I decided Byron needed a son, but that is when it began to come together. While I enjoy writing about space battles and action, my stories are more about the people. Knowing Byron, I could see an uneasy relationship with his son, and events that would either bring them closer or pull them farther apart.

From that one image, three books have emerged. And with CassaStorm, I’ve brought the story full circle. And in between the books and their success as best sellers, I feel I’ve told the stories I wanted to tell. And I feel very blessed to have that chance.

Alex J. Cavanaugh 

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, his third book, CassaStorm, will be released September 17, 2013.

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 3, 2013

Alex J. Cavanaugh Shares His Story

by Alex J. Cavanaugh                           
(updated November 2, 2015)

MJ asked if I would share a few personal things with you. Now, a Ninja needs his secrets, but there are a few items I can reveal.

I’m a military brat and we moved around a lot, including living in several foreign countries. While the moves were difficult sometimes (more so on my older brother than me) I count it as a blessing. I got to experience so many different cultures and traditions that way. Living in different parts of the country broadened my perspective, and a worldly view helped me see the big picture. I’m also very grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in America. 

I’m not a car nut (although I do like to drive my sports car very fast) but I do have an appreciation for cars. Shows such as the BBC’s Top Gear and Counting Cars fascinate me. A Bugatti in action is a thing of beauty. So is an old restored car. I’ve played an instrument since I was a kid, but playing the guitar was always a dream. I picked it up a few years ago and now I own several guitars (including a Gibson Les Paul) and play in a band. We play Christian music and it’s one of my greatest joys.

Being an author has brought many changes and accomplishments. I began with just one book and will soon have three to my credit. (He currently has 8 books live on Amazon.) I could say the success of the first two books has been my greatest achievement, but it’s the Insecure Writer’s Support Group that matters most. Starting the IWSG has been a blessing to me and so many others. Years from now, no one will remember my books, but I hope the IWSG is still going strong. And since I should probably mention my books, I’ll note that each one came with a unique challenge.

CassaStorm (which comes out September 17, 2013) was written from three points of view (I usually write from two) and one of those was from Byron’s ten-year-old son, Bassan. I don’t have kids, and it’s been a long time since I was that age, so writing from Bassan’s point of view was challenging. Fortunately my critique partners said I nailed. I must’ve channeled my inner child well!

The only other thing is I dig Hot Tamales! Please send a case my way. Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He is he author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, his third book, CassaStorm and many other books now.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. It is with great pleasure I highlight this author for you,

M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Einstein Moment

by M. J. Joachim

It was an Einstein moment – hey they happen to the best of us, don’t they?

I was zoning out in Blog Land, taking my mind off things…

Or trying to anyway…

It’s pretty hard to take one’s mind off loved ones being in the hospital, especially when you live so far away…

There I was reading this wonderful blog about sharing the love and peace and harmony and calm and – all those good vibes I needed to tap into so bad…

And there was this blog hop opportunity – all about sharing the love…

…slowing down, relaxing…

…sharing the love…

And photos…oops, sort of didn’t clue into that part when I was slowing down and tapping into my calm and soothing center of my inner being…

So I signed up, and I shared a link to my marathon post – since when you participate, you share blog love all over the place, and then if you win, I share some extra blog love with you too…

(I was only the 2nd person to sign up, as I recall…)

After a few more people signed up, I knew something wasn’t quite right…

They all had the most gorgeous flowers in their posts…nature, photography, slow down and embrace the moment, tap into nature, be one with the universe type thing…

Obviously I wasn’t on the same planet yesterday…but I really wanted to share and feel the love…

So today I created a hollyhock post on my Effectively Human blog…this one is a good fit with the other links shared…

Writing Tip: Slow down and take your time, especially when matters of the heart and mind are tugging heavily on your emotions.

Have you ever had an Einstein moment in Blog Land? Have you ever added a link to your blog in someone else’s blog hop, only to find out it probably wasn’t the best fit for that particular hop? What other types of awkward moments have you experienced in Blog Land? Inquiring minds want to know. Please share your blogging mishaps and funniest blog moments in the comments. 

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

M. J. 

Photo credit: Albert Einstein, Sophie Delar, PD-US

©2013 All Rights Reserved