Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Trees Beneath Us--A Must Read!

http://www.amazon.com/Trees-Beneath-Us-Darren-Leo/dp/1933586737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436633448&sr=8-1&keywords=the+trees+beneath+us
I don't often review books, because basically, my reviews tend to sound like a five year old wrote them. "I liked it" or "It was okay", etc. For a writer, I have a hard time explaining what exactly works for me in a book other than---I finished it and didn't throw it across the room. However, The Trees Beneath Us by Darren R. Leo is such an amazing read, I have to say something. 

I do have to give the disclaimer that Darren is a friend of mine, which I know at times takes a way some of the credibility of a review. It shouldn't. We became friends through our writing, and we were attracted to each other because we basically liked each others work. We are more critical of each other because we can be, and therefore, my opinion should have more weight, not less. Believe me, if this book was crap, I would tell him, and wouldn't be saying anything to the world about it.

So, here's my 'official' Amazon/Goodreads/BN review, and as I said, I know, a first grader could have done better. But I don't want to give anything away in this book. It is a treasure, and everyone should read it. Everyone. 

Haunted by the unexplained death of his son and consumed by a painful, debilitating health condition, Finn has lost faith in this world. He sets off on a journey to hike the Appalachian Trail and hopes, in the process, he will be able to find some answers or at least some peace. The farther he goes on his literal journey, the more he disconnects from his life and the woman who loves him. Finding yourself may seem like a good idea, but as Finn realizes, sometimes, when you search for something, you just might find it---and it isn't always what you expected or hoped for.

This book is brilliantly written, delves into some very serious subject matter, and gives you a protagonist who is so deep and complex that you will think about him long after putting it down. Darren Leo will make you laugh, and will make you bawl like a baby.

I loved this book so much, I bought two extra copies for gifts. It will forever remain on my top ten list of favorites. 


Enjoy!

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Visit Darren's website

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When You Make it Home #giveaway #99cents @LoveClaireAshby

When You Make it HomeWhen You Make it Home  by Claire Ashby  283 pages Red Adept Publishing Published July 15, 2014 When You Make it Home Synopsis Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy. When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love. Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family? When You Make it Home When You Make it Home

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Claire Ashby Claire Ashby was born and raised in the heart of Atlanta. At a young age, she began keeping journals and over time embellished the details of her quiet days. Eventually, she let go of writing reality altogether and delved completely into the world of fiction. When she's not reading or writing, she spends her time watching extreme survival shows and taking long walks after nightfall. She has an unnatural love of high places, but still regrets the time she skydived solo. She believes some things are better left to the imagination. She resides in Austin with her family and a pack of wild dogs.

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When You Make it Home
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Friday, June 5, 2015

Authors and Self Promotion



When I was seven, my older brother and I found an advertisement in a Grit magazine to sell Christmas cards and earn prizes. We had our eyes on two bikes, but not just any bikes. Mine was pink, with a pink banana seat, large spoked wheels with lights and clickers, long handlebars with plastic fringe, a basket with pink flowers and a sissy bar twice the height of the bike itself. Basically, the Cadillac of little girls bikes, dripping in pink. Oh, I wanted it, and I wanted it bad.


Imagine-ALL PINK
We hawked Christmas cards. Our teachers, our neighbors, our relatives, our parents even took us to work with them to sell to their co-workers (back in the day when parents didn't sell FOR the kids). We went door to door. We set up at grocery stores, on the street in front of our house, at a church picnic. We not only sold our cards, we figured out how to sell ourselves. He could sing, and I thought I could dance, so if someone wasn't interested in our cards, we'd offer them a 'performance' if they would consider our offer. And we sold cards.


We may not have outsold Hallmark that year, but we sold enough to buy two deluxe kids bicycles and a few smaller things for our baby brother, who I'm sure we used at one time or another to sell cards. It didn't end there--anytime we could find something to sell, we were on it. Lemonade stands, flower seeds, cookies, I'm sure at one time or another I tried to sell my brother. And we had no shame. None. Zero. What we did have was savings accounts---and bicycles to get us to places to spend our money.

I hear authors use the phrase "shameless self promotion" a lot, and personally, I hate the term, and believe it or not, I don't particular like asking people to buy my book. Of course, I want them to, but I often feel like friends, co-workers, even the unknown faces of the internet must be rolling their eyes every time I say, "Buy my book!" And rarely do I put it out there so bluntly; I give my little performances, I make jokes, I share reviews, I write blog posts, I offer sales. But it always feels "funny" to me. My publisher does a lot of the work, but as many authors will tell you, if you aren't contributing to the effort, you're killing yourself. So we do, and we try to find different ways to say "Buy my book!" without just saying it. It's self promotion. And it's shameless. And as writers, crafters of words, it bothers us to do it, so we feel like we need to admit to our friends, readers, faceless potential customers that we know how shameless it is.
  

It's time we stop thinking like this.


If I opened a restaurant, I'd have no problem advertising it. If I were looking for a job, I'd make my resume shine, send it to however many places I needed to, and show up to interviews in my spiffy business suit ready to tell you how wonderful I am. If I wanted to de-junk my house, I'd put stuff in the driveway and tell you what a great deal you are getting on a broken Atari for $50. And yes, I would ask my friends to help me spread the word. Self promotion is shameless, and it should be. We do it in every aspect of our lives.


So why not get over it, and sell some books?
  

I've written a book. It's a good product, something you can hold in your hand and enjoy, or give as a gift. It's less expensive than a box of Christmas cards. I'd like for people to buy it and try it. If you like it, tell your friends. If not, tell me. Do you want me to tell you a joke? Fine. Do my little dance? Maybe. Throw in my brother? That could possibly be arranged.

And if I sell enough books? Maybe I'll buy another pink bike.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Write What You 'Don't' Know



Writers often live by the rule: 'Write What You Know'. In doing so, a writer is comfortable in their surroundings, knows what they are talking about, and therefore, bring a sense of reality to their writing. It kind of keeps us from looking like idiots, I guess. However, I've discovered that I have a real problem with writing what I know. And the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem...

First of all, I have to say, I adore research. I love learning about something new. For me, it's like travelling to a different world, briefly, and getting a taste of something I've never had before. Like worms. Okay, I'm not eating a worm for research, although I did eat a rock once, but I digress. The point is, research is fun. And in writing my novel, They Call Me Crazy, I did some research on worm farming so I could make one of my characters believable.

Of course, I couldn't learn all there was to know about worm farming, but I learned enough to pick out what I considered the interesting aspects of it, and that's what I included in the book. As a reader, I don't want to know all the details about it, just the parts that get my attention. As a writer, I have to remember that the ultimate goal is to interest readers.

It seems that if I were a worm farmer, I would be able to give a lot of interesting information, because I would know so much. Right? Not always. I'm not a worm farmer, but I have been a Nurse for 30 years, and although I could tell you some great stories, I find that when I write about anything medical, I tend to instruct. I give too much information and try to be as detailed as possible. The result? Boring, run-on lectures about medically related subjects, when all I really wanted was someone to get a paper cut. I've been a Nurse for so long that choosing between 'the interesting parts' and 'the important parts' has become difficult.

Yes, I had someone that knew a little bit more than me about worm farming read the book for accuracy (Yes, there are worm experts). But the medical stuff? I've found that I have to 'consult' with other medical professionals for accuracy, and non-medical readers for interest and believability. If I were writing an instruction manual, it would be different. But I'm not. I'm writing novels, with a purpose to entertain, not teach.

So write what you know...Yeah, yeah, yeah---to a certain extent. But don't be afraid to dig through some subjects that you don't know anything about. 
How else are you going to learn how earthworms mate? 
(Well, I guess you could just read my novel....)  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Letter to My Students



The end of a semester is bittersweet for me.  Although I look forward to reading a book or ten over the summer, I will miss the past few months of teaching writing, literature, humanities, and speech. I will also miss reading all the essays from my students. I'm sure my students will have nightmares about the phrase "cite your work", but in the end, I hope they learned something of value that will help on their journey. What they don't realize is, I always learn from them, and this semester, thanks to some excellent work by my students, I learned quite a bit.

As a final thank you to all of my students, and an opportunity to give them some additional bits of wisdom from someone who has 'been there, done that', I've made a list of things to consider---academically and personally. Good luck---go forth and make a difference.   

1. Never underestimate your ability to change the world-I've thought about this my entire life. I am one person, what could I possibly do? As I've gotten older, I've realized that my small contributions add up. I've raised two wonderful men who will make bigger contributions than I ever could. I teach others the value of education and I teach them to express themselves through writing. You don't have to feed an entire village. Teach them to grow crops, and they will feed themselves.

2. Practice reading, writing, and speaking in public-In a survey of employers conducted by Hart Research Associates, eighty percent stated they wanted grads with better oral and written communication skills. Of course, taking courses that focus on these skills is extremely important, but just like everything else, practice is the key.

3. Listen to others opinions and arguments with an open mind- You may not agree with them, but hopefully you can gain an understanding of why they feel the way they do. This is a necessary skill for compromise and is important in all aspects of life.

4. Expect the unexpected- This semester, like every semester, there have been work conflicts, illnesses, new additions to families, and deaths. You can't always prepare for these things, but they are going to happen. Prepare yourself. Remember, you can't always control 'the problem', but how you handle the problem is completely up to you.

5. Education comes in many forms- As I've said, I always learn from my students. I have learned about conflicts around the world that I knew little about, different religions, lifestyles, and public health concerns. I can tell you about the fascinating social life of a ladybug and what fracking actually is. I even learned how to heel a calf in a parking lot at College of Southern Nevada. Look at every experience as an opportunity to learn something. You will be surprised at the knowledge you will gain.

6. Continuing on number 5, you will be amazed at the things you will remember.  A lot is two words. I can thank my high school English teacher, Phyllis Abbott, for drilling that into my head.
  
7. Read and write outside of your comfort zone-It's good to get angry once in a while. When you read something that gets under your skin, stop and ask yourself why. I have a few essays I assign every semester that are meant to do just that. It always works, and students begin thinking. Additionally, you may be surprised to find that you actually enjoy reading certain things that you thought you weren't attracted to. This semester, I have had students that learned that they loved reading plays and that they connected with Langston Hughes' poetry.  Try it, you may like it.

 8. Once in a while, take the 'other side'- Really. You might learn something about the issue, the opposition, and/or about yourself.

9. Question everything-In a world where we are bombarded with information, remember, it isn't always reliable information. Don't blindly follow what others tell you. Find the answers for yourself and make your own decisions.

10. Be yourself, appreciate others, show compassion-I know that a lot of students, fresh out of high school, are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. It's a tough time, but it is also an exciting time. Be yourself. Uniqueness is a fantastic trait. Do what you love. Appreciate the uniqueness of others. Life would be boring without human variety. Show compassion. Remember the essay we read about compassion? It is one of my favorites, because after thousands of years of teaching and preaching compassion, we as humans still can't do it consistently. Try.

Thank you for another great semester!

Teachers, Instructors, Professors: What did you learn from your students this semester?


Students: What did you gain from your studies?

Friday, April 24, 2015

‘Trial Run’ #Book Tour Kick-Off + 1st $40 Amazon GC #Giveaway #romance

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Trial-Run-Ella-Medler-Happy-Geek-Media-tour-banner  
Trial Run Virtual Book tour hosted by Happy Geek Media[/caption] Trial-run-about-the-book [caption id="" align="alignright" width="396"]Trial-run-3D-book-cover Trial Run by Ella Medler[/caption] Trial Run by: Ella Medler Genres: Romance, Comedy, Adult 340 pages Release Date: October 31, 2014 “Trust me, he says. You’ll be safe with me, he says.” Amelie Watts is sick and tired of being treated like a child. She might be willowy and delicate, but she has strength of the kind that doesn’t show on the outside. Plus, she learned all she needed to know so she could cope on her own. Now, if only her big brother would finally release her inheritance! She would fly to the Bahamas and kiss the backwater she grew up in goodbye. Jason Watts is fed up with picking up the pieces of his little sister’s life. If only she would grow up already and learn to live life without stabilizers! Her latest idea is insane, and bound to be her most enormous failure to date. But how to make her understand? Enter Rob Tyson, incorrigible bachelor and Jason’s best friend. For a laugh, they make a bet. Two people, a hastily acquired boat, and a tropical paradise. What could possibly go wrong? Trial-run-divider       trial-run-purchase-links

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Trial-Run-about-the-author Author-Ella-Medler-Trial-Run
Ella Medler is a U.K. author and editor who lives in a corner of Heaven, on the south-west coast of Ireland, overlooking the Atlantic. She writes fiction in many genres – some after her own tastes, and some to make her readers happy. Sometimes, those two happen to coincide. Whatever the genre, her books are action-driven, and well-developed characters are her forte.
A fierce supporter of genuine talent, Ella Medler founded Paper Gold Publishing because she believes there are authors out there who deserve a chance to shine, authors who would otherwise fall between the cracks of a crumbling, forever-shifting industry. Feel free to join the site to access free resources, take part in competitions and enter your work in box sets and anthology collections.
As an editor, Ella Medler has the tendency to nit-pick on plot issues while ignoring the type of rule that doesn’t allow for a sentence to be finished in a preposition. If you want to win her over, make sure your books are action-packed, your characters real, and you bring chocolate.
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Trial-run-divider 2nd Giveaway starting May 2nd
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Trial Run – the summer that inspired it
by Ella Medler

I grew up too serious. Before you ask “Why so serious?” in that tone of voice, let me tell you why that’s odd: Because I love to laugh. Unfortunately, times were tough, and my family never let me forget the sacrifices they were making for me so I could get a decent education. For that, I will forever be grateful. But really, why couldn’t they just smile about it already?

At eighteen, gratitude was not so high on my list of emotions. I was young, I was finally free of the grim nerdy high school I was forced to attend because of family expectations (one that specialized in mathematics and sciences – a path they had lined up for me since I was kicking blankets in my crib), and most of all, I was in love.

It was a hot sultry summer, and my sweetheart was back from his stint in the army as a trainee medic. His presence alone was all I needed to put a smile on my face. When he said he was reconsidering his career, and I figured I wouldn’t have to spend months alone, worrying about him, I skipped with joy. Riotous laughter bubbled up to the surface and no matter what happened – family frowning down on our youthful exuberance, lack of cash, the break-up of old friendships as people scattered to attend universities or just start up their lives – from then on, I let my happiness shine through. We decided a celebration was in order.

In a matter of hours, we were on the way to the coast. Beaches stretched as far as eye could see. Nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces. We rented a shared room with a poor local family of fishermen, but that was just so we could have somewhere to dump our bags. One night trying to sleep crossways in a double bed with three other people convinced us we had to rearrange our schedule. So we did.

Our summer of love turned into a whirlpool of night-time activity and slumber on the beaches. The weather was our friend, and so we used to nap through the day, between swimming in the sea and searching for the cheapest place that served fast food, while at night we came alive, hitching hikes to resorts up and down the coast, practicing dancing routines (which provided us with free entry to some nightclubs), and testing our stamina in all the possible ways. Yes, I’m winking here. I don’t think we left one tiny patch of sand un-ruffled in those two weeks.

As I write this, I have a big grin on my face. The relationship fizzled out, as most teen romances do, but those memories will stay with me forever. I am certain the reason why I stranded Amelie and Rob on a deserted beach in the Caribbean was partly because I was trying to give them the chance to have what I had in those fantastic moments, the summer when I was eighteen and free.

Maybe I wanted to relive those emotions through my characters, or maybe I was trying to inspire my readers. Did I manage? You can be the judge of that. When I write, I fling the gates open and let my feelings fly. My characters are reckless, living life to the full and playing with each other’s emotions, but they are young, they are real, and they are alive.

Sometimes, you have to go out and live your own life if you want to be able to breathe life into another, made-up, person. You have to say yes to every opportunity life throws your way, or else how could you know what it would feel like to experience those events? Be bold and dare to stretch outside your comfort zone. Take chances, like I did when I took a shortcut and got lost in the wilderness of a Siberian forest… but that is a story for another time, another book perhaps.

For now, enjoy Trial Run and the love story between Rob Tyson and Amelie Watts. And know that I’ve been there, done exactly that… though maybe just a little crazier.