Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Review: Chinese Recipes 500, Contributing Editor Jenni Fleetwood

by M. J. Joachim

Because I received Chinese Recipes 500 as a gift several years ago, I’ve had the unique pleasure of making several of the recipes inside, some more than once or twice. I’ve always been a big fan of oriental food, and this book makes it easy to prepare many of my favorite dishes.

The ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets. Substitution of these ingredients is relatively easy to do, without compromising taste. I use gluten free everything because I have celiac. I also substitute spicy peppers with bell peppers and sometimes, I swap out meat depending on what’s in my fridge already.

The directions are clear and extremely easy to follow, and the pictures are enough to tempt me into cooking oriental food on a fairly regular basis, much to my family’s delight.

If you enjoy oriental food, you’ll probably also really enjoy this cookbook. It’s truly wonderful and I look forward to making many more dishes as the years go by.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

by M. J. Joachim

Character development is the primary focus of Insurgent, the second book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Divergent, the first book, laid forth the groundwork, set the scene and introduced the characters, both living and deceased, introducing a sort of history, if you will, of direction, prophecy, dialog and intrigue for all concerned.

Insurgent further explores the characters, exposing how they handle grief, failure and hope for the future. It provides an in-depth view of how each character interacts with each other, and why, based on introductions to such things in the first book of the series. Readers will easily relate to being haunted by the past and those who have gone before us, as well as how we deal with our memories - both pleasant and not-so-pleasant, which guide us into our dreams for the future and how we hope to see it unfold.

So far this series has left me completely satisfied, both as a reader and a writer. It is a worthwhile study of how to meld characters and transition from one book to another, without leaving the audience shaking their heads or feeling like let down from the less than stellar ending that may or may not get readers picking up the next book in the series. I’m already reading Allegiant and look forward to reading Four, the last two books in this series.

On a more personal note, I want to thank all of you who are patiently sending books for me to review. The pile continues to grow, and I’m forging my way through it as much as time allows. Currently, I’m in transition, getting used to a new schedule which includes a variety of activities away from the computer. As a normal routine develops from this, I anticipate a much more regular blogging schedule to follow in turn. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

All my best to you,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: US Copyright Fair Use Law

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Review: Squat the Robot? by Pat Hatt

by M. J. Joachim

If you’re a fan of It’s Rhyme Time, Pat’s blog, you’ll likely enjoy Squat the Robot and its quirky characters. I scratched my head a few times, rereading as necessary to make sense of the rhyme. A robot society, an affair and oh yes, Creepy Cupid make this poem rather curious.

I’ve already expressed a few curiosities  about Pat, and with the mention of Pat and his band as a character in this book, well, I have to wonder if perhaps I really wasn’t onto something.

This is definitely an adult book, in my opinion, and it is fun to read, not as good as some of his other books. I really enjoyed Cassie and the Honk of Zagonk. I also like the Rebirth of Dino Earth. These were all children’s books, so maybe that’s the difference. At any rate, if you’re a fan of Pat Hatt like I am, you’ll probably get a kick out of Squat the Robot? Pat’s got a style all his own, and if you like it, you can’t go wrong reading this book.

Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting Writing Tips today. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Pat’s poetry and books. Please take a moment to comment and let me know you stopped by. I’ll be only too happy to come and visit your blog too.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Creating New Content through Theme Blogging

by M. J. Joachim

Theme blogging is one way to consistently have new ideas for pages on your blog. When your blog is built around a theme, it is easy to come up with new content, because as long as it relates to the theme, you can do a search if you don’t already have an idea for each page you create. Doing searches regularly is also a good idea, because it helps you produce current content on your pages, as opposed to yesterday’s news. Evergreen content, or information that won’t change over time, can be made into new pages as the idea develops and is transposed into new page content.

Quality research makes a world of difference when creating new pages for your blog. Making quality content requires due diligence, research, fact checking (preferably with an open mind) and appropriate editing and proofreading prior to publishing new pages on your blog.

Generating blog series is a limited form of theme blogging, which enables you to make multiple posts centered around a specific topic related to the overall theme of your blog. This blog is about writing tips. Consequently, I created book and movie review pages, poetry analysis and creative writing pages here, along with general writing tips which can be anything writing related. A gardening blog might include general information about gardening. Within this theme, series might include plant species, pest control, climate zones and edible gardens that might include recipes for each plant mentioned.

Theme blogging is one way to ensure you never run out of ideas or content. When you have a lot of ideas and content to create, it’s easy to publish multiple pages each day. It’s helpful to have some sort of system to keep track of these ideas. This might be as easy as opening a note on your desktop and posting your ideas with a couple of reference links.

Theme blogging and producing blog series also makes it easier to organize your blog, similar to a traditional website. Once you have enough related content, you can make pages at the top of your blog and place related links on them. While this adds one more step when you create a new page, because you should publish and post the link to your new article on its page, it also makes it easier for visitors to easily find content on your blog.

Is your blog centered around a theme? Do you publish series related to that theme, in an effort to increase content and develop new ideas for your pages? Based on blogs you visit, what are some of your favorite blog themes? Do you think having a theme makes it easier or more difficult to create new content for your blog?

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. I hope I’ve inspired you to create lots of new content for your blog, and have given you a few ideas on how to create new content.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Pixabay, reverent, CCO-Public Domain

Making Web Pages on Your Blog

by M. J. Joachim

Bloggers create web pages every time they publish content. Keeping this in mind, each blogger has a unique ability to publish superior content, often capable of building their own reputation as an expert in a specific area, niche or field. Publishing often only increases this opportunity.

Blogs are informative and interactive, whereas stereotypical websites are deemed static and disengaging. Websites often use blogs to create the connection that is missing with their audience, when they create unchanging, evergreen content. Blogs can create the same type of evergreen content, keeping in mind that their pages are dynamic, often inviting comments, discussion and conversation to follow.

When you create a website, it is highly unlikely you will only publish one page at a time. Rather, you will build your website, with lots of pages, prior to publishing it as a whole, unique and interesting site intended to attract lots of visitors. Blogging starts out one page at a time, but soon evolves into dozens, then hundreds and even thousands of pages. The speed at which it does this is up to each individual blogger.

Growing your blog and its content can take as much or as little time as you want or need. Posting once a day works well for steady blog growth, while posting less frequently is adequate if one is not too worried about blog growth. However, maximum growth can easily be achieved by posting often, because the more often you post, the more search engines will ping your blog and its content, thus sending more traffic to your blog.

As you get more traffic, if your content is superior, you will also gain followers and comments on your blog, and if you monetize your blog, chances are you will also earn a few extra pennies by posting more often. Monetizing your blog does not mean hard selling to your audience, as tempting as this might be. Websites are often designed to be sales sites, whereas blogs are more informal and are meant to be a means to engage with your audience. Hard selling to your audience will likely detract from this goal, especially if every frequent post of yours is nothing less than a sales pitch camouflaged as a blog post.

Provided your content is solid and your presentation is easy to understand, posting often is not a problem for your blog. It stands to reason that if you don’t have anything worthy to post, or you don’t have time to construct a well planned and thought out blog post, you probably should skip posting until you do. If this means you don’t post every day or even a few times a week, or if this means there’s no way you can post multiple times each day, then don’t worry about it. Blogging is not the be all, end all of anyone’s life. As long as you enjoy it, and post if and when it works for you, that’s all that really matters.

I hope this information helps you in your blogging ventures. Please share your thoughts about blogging frequently in the comments. How often do you post? What are some of your blogging goals? Are you achieving your goals? Why or why not?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I always look forward to your visits.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Pixabay, Kevin King, CC0-Public Domain

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Increasing Blog Traffic by Posting More Often

by M. J. Joachim

I’ve taken to posting as often as the urge to create a blog post strikes me lately. It started out as an effort to catch up on all those books and book review requests I have, and ended up taking on a life of its own. The results so far have been pleasantly surprising.

Since I’m not posting about the same thing all the time, and I’m definitely taking my time to make posts worthwhile and informative for my readers, I’m getting more page views on my blogs. Take this blog for example. I’m posting book and movie reviews, poetry analysis, writing tips and my own creative writing. If it’s related to writing, it ends up here. There’s enough variety to keep things interesting, and enough new content to attract new visitors here.

This accidental multiple posting each day has resulted in more traffic and exposure for my blogs. I’m doing it on a couple of my other blogs too; they’ve seen the same results. I’m currently running a series of children’s program reviews on Effectively Human. When I saw how many shows I need to watch, I knew I was going to be posting as often as I finished each review. It makes perfect sense, especially if I want the category to be comprehensive and don’t want to take years to complete it.

Solid content rules when you blog. That’s how you grow your audience. That’s how you get more page views and that’s how you make friends with your followers and those who comment on your blog.

I hope this information helps you in all your blogging activities.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Pixabay, Gerald, CC0 Public Domain

Poetry: Wealth Found in the Garden

by M. J. Joachim

Garden overflowing
Riches to be had
Reminding each and all of us
Life’s never quite that bad

Tomato on the vine
First on the plants to grow
Unplanted hollyhock in corner
Royal richness it does show

The greatest of the treasures
By far from all the rest
Are the hummingbirds that take a bath
As the hose sprays on the grass

Ne’re planned, nor acquisitioned
These treasures did unfold
With the maintenance of the garden
Daily chores paying in gold

Not the gold of miners
Nor the riches of the kings
Wealth from each new moment
And the joy each garden brings

Inspiration for Poem

Today’s poem was inspired by some simple and treasured moments. I noticed my first tomato the other day and was positively thrilled. Today as I was watering my tomato plants, I gazed over at the overgrown weeds I’ve been meaning to pull for quite some time. They have lived a season - when they were green they were so pretty! Now they are brown and covered in thorns. There amidst them, back by the garden shed, was one solitary and vibrant hollyhock, flowers I haven’t planted in at least a couple of years!

I stopped and started taking pictures, because when you’re that overwhelmed with the miracle of nature, and you have your phone on you, that’s just what you do. I proceeded to water the new rhubarb plant and lonely piece of sod in our tortoise’s home. It’s something I picked up because I know Archie likes to graze. I moved onto the newly planted herb garden outside the kitchen window.

As I was wandering back to wind up the hose and turn off the water, I looked at the small, unplanned corner of grass next to the patio the dogs like to lay on, and figured I’d water it too. My eyes wandered to the other unplanned patch of grass under the mesquite tree, the one that grew because that’s where I washed and planted my herb garden in its pots.

For whatever reason, I carried the hose over there and started watering the scraggly strands, putting my thumb over the hose to make a nice spray. My eyes took in my surroundings, my mind escaped and my heart felt peace. Such a quiet, beautiful morning, not too hot, standing under the new foliage of the mesquite tree, with the hose running on dirt and a small bit of grass.

Seconds later I heard, no - felt the fly-by and buzz of our friendly little hummingbird that visits us every year. Actually, this might have been one of her babies, because this was definitely a little guy. She danced near the water, skittering near and far from my face. I whispered softly, “It’s okay little hummingbird. You can get a drink and take a bath.” She fluttered in excitement, dancing in and out of the gentle spray of water.

I did my best not to move or make another sound as I stood there holding the hose, keeping my thumb ever so securely over the nozzle, so as not to disrupt the gentle spray. She went away, but not very far. Quick as a flash there were two hummingbirds, one fluttering high above my head in the mesquite tree, while my little friend took another bath and got a drink, enticing the second one to do the same, which it happily did only seconds later.

I stood patiently, fighting off the urge to get my camera from my pocket, until they both finished and flew away. It was pure gold, one of the best garden experiences I will add to my treasure forever in my heart.

I hope you all have lovely garden experiences too. Whether you plant your own, visit friends and neighbors with them or stroll through city and rural gardens maintained for community pleasure, gardens are such a delight for anyone willing to slow down and observe what they have to offer.

Best to all,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: M. J. Joachim, my first tomato, a rogue hollyhock ©2015 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Poetry Analysis: A Prayer for a Little Home by Florence Bone

by M. J. Joachim

God send us a little home
To come back to, when we roam.

Low walls and fluted tiles,
Wide windows, a view for miles.

Red firelight and deep chairs,
Small white beds upstairs-

Great talk in little nooks,
Dim colors, rows of books.

One picture on each wall,
Not many things at all.

God send us little ground,
Tall trees stand round.

Homely flowers in brown sod,
Overhead, thy stars, O God.

God bless thee, when winds blow,
Our home, and all we know.


Home is where the heart is and Florence Bone expresses it beautifully in this poem. It is so easy to visualize the safe haven, loving family members and warmth resonating in each line. What I miss are the scents of soup, coffee, baked goods and fresh flowers on the table. I also miss the sounds and energy that aren’t meant to be expressed here. My thoughts go toward them, picturing the perfect home that ever is, will be or might have been. Still, it is nice to feel the wind and gaze up at the stars.

Taking it further, this poem makes me believe that home is more expansive than the walls we build to confine ourselves. Home seems to be defined as God’s universe and loving embrace in this poem, complete with little comforts we give ourselves, as human needs require.

What is your vision of a perfect home? How do you describe home in your own writing? Is it important to use all the senses when discussing home, or can we allude to some without mentioning them?

I’m so glad you stopped in for a visit today. Please leave a comment and let me know stopped by,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

Book Review: Behind Bars, True Crime Stories Volume 1 by Sean Lewis

by M. J. Joachim

Based on actual cases, Behind Bars shares a rather scary story about a woman who made some really bad and stupid choices, probably based on the theory that love is blind, but ultimately based on the reality that we can convince ourselves to believe anything, especially if we try hard enough.

The story itself was interesting and told well. My biggest complaint is that it lacked editing, and consequently had too many typos and a few grammar issues. For such a short story, this didn’t work for me at all. I could just as easily watch one of those Forensic Files episodes or something, and caught the gist of the message being relayed.

Lewis’s point of this series is to help people avoid the very real possibility of facing criminal charges for being naive and not believing they can be manipulated into doing terrible things that have some very real and harsh consequences. It’s common sense, and people often put too much trust in shady individuals, ultimately kicking themselves when things turn sour for them.

Still, I’m not sure the majority of us would be stupid enough to case a bank without knowing that’s what we’re doing. It falls under the category of stupid criminals, if you ask me. Yet, I now believe there are some people just stupid enough to do things like this, without any clue at all, who end up in a lot of trouble and spend years trying to undo their stupidity!

Because it’s so short, you might really get a kick out of this one, despite the minor lack of editing. There are lessons to be learned, not so much about irresistible love, as about opening one’s eyes and making reasonable decisions, before opting out of the life we have for some ridiculous notion that changes our life forever. Think, don’t jump comes to mind. Change is good, as long as it’s positive. Beware of the con, because yes, scams and scammers do exist and no one wants to be their sucker.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. I’d love to read your thoughts on cons and scams in the comments.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: PD-US

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: The Academy by Robert Dugoni

by M. J. Joachim

Talk about an intense short story! If you like detective and crime stories, you’re bound to enjoy this little book. Of course there’s much more to it than that, as Dugoni takes on gender bias in police academies, thus the name of the story.

The Academy is a quick and intriguing account of two women who join the local police academy. A few of the big brass instructors aren’t all that thrilled to have them there, causing conflict as they train. That’s all I’m going to give you, because I know you’ll enjoy reading this one for yourself.

Transitions in this book are important to study, as is character development. It’s amazing how much characters can come to life, even when words are limited. Details make all the difference. Except these details don’t drag on and on, leaving little or nothing to the imagination. These details provide just enough information to help readers fully engage in the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and encourage you to get it for the story and to learn from Dugoni’s writing style.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. It’s always a pleasure when you stop by!

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO-Public Domain

Book Review: Alexander the Great, The Macedonian who Conquered the World by Sean Patrick

by M. J. Joachim

It’s an interesting concept to combine the biography of a famous conqueror with psychology and personal philosophy, in an attempt to teach people how to become geniuses and great in their own right. I enjoy reading historical novels and books, and the title is what caused me to read this one, which is why I never expected to begin reading about how to become a genius in the very first chapter.

It took quite a while for Patrick to get to the story of Alexander the Great in this book. It’s the same story I’m familiar with, nothing spectacular in the writing, simply an interesting story about the many wars Alexander fought, complete with victories, defeats and journeys into foreign lands. The story was shared in the center of the book, flanked on either side by personal philosophy and verbiage.

Patrick makes some valid points, but I simply can’t get away from the fact that I wanted and planned to read a book about Alexander the Great, not a personal encouragement and reprimand on how I could become great, why I haven’t already become great, what stops me from being great and how I can defeat the resistance to my becoming great. I didn’t plan on reading a self-help book, and some of the self-help in this book wasn’t helpful at all. A lot of it was the same ol’, same ol’. We’ve heard it all before, because anyone seeking to be a self-help guru repeatedly says it much more than necessary, hoping to get us to follow them, read all their books, take all their advice and become their biggest fan promoting their personal agenda.

If you are looking to read historical fiction on Alexander the Great, this is not the book for you. It is a thinly veiled misrepresented book, because the title says nothing about it being a self-help book, loosely compared with some well-known historical facts and data about Alexander the Great. I believe in truth in marketing. The title of this book is misleading and the premise of this book is unreliable.

Thanks so much for visiting Writing Tips today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Alexander the Great, Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Public Domain

Book Review: Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet!

by M. J. Joachim

Produced by The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet! provides a wealth of information to anyone dealing with gluten food related problems. “The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center is dedicated to raising awareness, increasing diagnosis rates and meeting the needs of people affected by celiac disease nationwide through education, research and advocacy.”

As someone recently diagnosed with celiac, I can affirm that this book is extremely informative and helpful. In fact, it’s one I will keep as a resource on my kindle, because not only does it offer valuable information about the disease and things like gluten intolerance associated with it, but it also contains lists of products containing gluten, gluten free recipes and a variety of resources, support groups and more to help those who need it. I personally can’t wait to try the cereal crusted chicken recipe, and the pancakes sound really good too.

Understanding celiac, gluten sensitivity and gluten allergies is necessary, because so many people are affected by them, and the affects can be extremely harsh. In some people, these effects remain silent, and are capable of causing untold damage for years. Thus the importance of this book. The chart above can be found online and in this book. I always thought celiac was a rare disease. It’s not and as we learn more about it, we will be able to help the millions of people who suffer from it.

I hope you find this post informative and valuable. If you have unresolved health problems, I hope you’ll ask your doctor about the possibility of gluten problems in your diet. I had health problems for years before being diagnosed with celiac. Once I went gluten free, many of them cleared up and went away. I’m not saying going gluten free is a miracle cure or anything, but I do know that if gluten is a problem for you, going gluten free is likely to make a world of difference. Of course, you need to determine if it’s a problem first, or you can go gluten free and see if you feel so much better like I did. Then I followed up with my doctor, and sure enough, I tested positive for celiac.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend and a Happy Easter if you celebrate,

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Review: The 7 Most Powerful Prayers That Will Change Your Life Forever, by Adam Houge

by M. J. Joachim

I’m a little torn as I write this review. It’s hard to address some of the negatives in a book about prayer. As someone with a whole lot of faith, I found this book a little hard to swallow in parts. Houge is very much entitled to his opinion, but when he said our opinions don’t count, because God’s is the only opinion that matters, I was a little taken aback.

Houge is a preacher, and this book is very preachy. There are times when I felt like Houge was yelling at me, telling me how horrible I am and demanding me to fix myself by giving my life to God. The guilt trips about my disobedience, lack of faith and willingness to go to hell were horrible.

As much as I know this wasn’t Houge’s intent or purpose for the book, his message came across very negatively at times. “God loves me but…” My response is, “God loves me and…” There are no buts about it. God loves me.

A couple of other things bothered me about this book. The prayers were quotes from the Bible, not actual prayers. They were followed by prayers Houge said with us, and these were followed by Houge’s opinion of God’s response to what preceded them. So Houge’s opinion is okay, but mine is sin. (Yes, he really did call our opinions sin in the book, and disobedience to God’s voice too.)

I can’t faithfully or otherwise recommend this book to anyone. Too many people are hurting, and some of the things in this book might only hurt them more. God is love. I don’t think He wants preachers to put the fear of God in us. I think He wants us to be open to His love and love Him in return. In doing so, there’ll be nothing to fear at all.

With thoughts of Good Friday tomorrow and wishing you all a very Happy Easter this weekend. Whether you celebrate it or not, I hope your weekend is grand!

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO-Public Domain

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: 101 Ways to Earn Money from Home by H. Jayne

by M. J. Joachim

It seems very fitting that I’m reviewing this book on April Fool’s Day. I mean, if making money from home were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and many of the things listed in this book take a lot of effort before they actually pay off. Some, like answering surveys and having garage sales, pay minimally at best, if at all. Others (and I did a few Google searches to be sure) are out and out scams, which leads me to wonder if this book isn’t a bit of a scam too.

Do people really rent their cars and personal stuff out to make money from home? How many people actually iron anymore? Cleaning houses might be an easy way to make an income, but it definitely isn’t done from the comfort of one’s home. As much as I enjoy my garden, I doubt I could sell anything I grow to the neighbors. And while I am admittedly a very good cook, you won’t find me printing fliers or offering to cook for the community to save people time.

Top it off with all the links, probably affiliate marketing of some sort, that give readers more detail about the program. I didn’t click on any of them, but the book is packed full. I would have preferred the author give us enough information to want to click on the link, instead of sending us to some website where we can likely sign up. I went for broader searches and found the pros and cons of some of the ideas listed in this book. What I found made me realize that I definitely can’t recommend this book to anyone. If you need to earn money from home that badly, it’s probably best to do your own research and skip reading a book like this one.

I hope I saved you all some time and money today. Thanks for stopping by.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: CCO Public Domain