About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Spring Pruning and Cleaning Applies to Everyday Life

It is finally officially spring according to the calendar, and signs of it are shooting up all over. At the beginning of March I attended a pruning class with my local extension office. I learned that early spring before trees, shrubs or vines start blossoming is the ideal time to prune back deadwood, and open the plants up to optimum sunlight.

I'm often amazed at how applications for gardening or even just maintaining a yard can also reflect practices for everyday life. For instance, as a writer when I'm revising my work I'm pruning out redundancies, unnecesary backstory, and sometimes whole characters that don't help drive the plot forward. I'm doing this to open up the plot in order to prepare it for being seen by others in the same way you prune to open up the branches to your fruit tree or shrub to the sun for optimum fruit production. Both things bear fruit just in different ways. Everyday life can also be more productive if we resolve to prune out some bad habits we've developed and open ourselves up to a healthier, sunnier, future.

Spring cleaning often serves the same purpose. You open up your house to warmer and milder breezes and clean windows, curtains and floors. You're airing out your home and cleaning out the detritus that always accumulates during the winter. Both cleaning and pruning whether it's your house or garden, are all renewal processes. And spring, before the weather gets too warm to want to have windows and doors open, is the ideal time to carry out these tasks.

Even though we often set goals in January at the first of the year, winter to me has always been the planning and preparation stage of the year. Spring is when we finally welcome longer warmer days and are finally ready to carry out the goals and actions we set or planned for in winter. So, if you feel like you've veered off course from where you wanted to be, or what direction you planned to head in at the beginning of the year, fear not. It is still early. Maybe, you just needed a change in season to spring into action.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Proudly Sportin the Green

Every March 17 people around the world celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. Both Irish and non-Irish alike participate in parades, eat special food, and proudly wear the color green. Originally, this holiday commemorated the saint as a religious feast day. What few people know is that St. Patrick wasn't even Irish. He was captured as a youth and forced to work as a slave in Ireland for several years before gaining his freedom and returning to Great Britain where he was originally from. Later, after becoming a priest he returned to Ireland to convert the people to Christianity. Many people might also think that the idea of parties, parades, and such began in Ireland. But the first parades commemorating the day began in the United States. For this and many other fun facts with video clips go to this link to learn more about this unique holiday: 
http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day.

And in the spirit of celebrating all things Irish here are a few movie and book selections for you to consider...




Movies:



Photo of my personal DVD
Photo of my personal DVD



Books:

Irish author Morgan Llywelyn writes fantastic fictional novels that cover folk heroes and historical legends of Ireland such as Finn Mac Cool and Brian Boru. She also has a historical series that covers the struggles of Ireland to gain its independence and later establish itself as an independent nation starting with her novel 1916 which begins before the Easter Uprising of 1916.


 
For lovers of funny and fast paced urban fantasy with terrific characterization and world building consider trying author Kevin Hearne's Druid Chronicles series beginning with Hounded.


pic of owned copy of this book





















For younger readers check out this link that lists several fiction and nonfiction books set in Ireland or that help young readers understand and appreciate the Irish culture. 

http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/1Kids/2Lib1.html

And a Happy St. Patty's Day to you all!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Murder on Edisto is 4 Stars All the Way

A couple of weeks ago I emailed C. Hope Clark about reviewing an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of her newest mystery, Murder on Edisto. She had mentioned in her newsletter FundsforWriters that she would be willing to offer copies of her mysteries in exchange for honest reviews.

I was delighted. I hadn't done a book review in close to a year and felt it was time to get back on book reviewing horse. She accepted my offer and sent out the book in the mail first thing the following Monday.

Getting a book to read in the mail also coincided with the biggest snow fall we've gotten here in southeastern Kentucky in the over a decade. The roads were horrible, the kids were out of school for two weeks straight, and there was literally nothing much to do but wait it all out. It was heaven to escape it all and travel to a beach in South Carolina at the peak of the summer season, even if it did involve murder.


I devoured the book in less than a week. From the very first page I was drawn into the life of the main character, sympathizing with her over the loss of her infant daughter exactly one year ago. In the same few pages Callie Jean Morgan, a police detective with the Boston PD, has her life ripped apart after receiving a phone call from her husband telling her not to come home. Of course, Callie ignores this and drives home all the faster to find her home in flames and her husband nowhere to be seen among the bystanders watching it burn. Have I wetted your appetite yet? And that is just the first chapter of the book. Skip three years ahead and we find Callie and her son Jeb moving into her parent's beach house in Edisto, South Carolina. Her father has deeded Callie the house in the hopes it will help her figure out what to do with her life now that her son is getting ready to go to college and she is no longer able to work as a police detective. After her husband's death Callie became convinced the Russian Mob was after her and her son for putting the head of their organization in jail. her paranoia and fragile emotional state forced her to resign from the Boston police force. But life in Edisto proves to be anything but perfect. The first day in her new home Callie goes to visit her neighbor and long time friend only to find his house has been broken into and he's been murdered. From there the game of cat and mouse begins between Callie and the killer, as the manipulative and clever murderer tries to do everything they can to discredit Callie with her new neighbors and drive her over the edge into insanity.

C. Hope Clark delivers a masterful thriller that grips you from the very beginning and doesn't let you go until the very last chapter. Her main character Callie is strong and brave while still being believably damaged and vulnerable from all the tragedy she's endured. Clark doesn't offer her any crutches to lean on. Even Callie's son Jeb is growing weary of bolstering his mother through her panic attacks and fears in their new home. Fears and panic he doesn't fully understand. Not only that but the grandfatherly neighbor she hoped to have long talks with there at the beach to help her put her life back together is stolen from her right as she's moving in. As the reader I was left wondering how Callie would survive the loss of yet another person dear to her. Clark doesn't sugar coat the reality of the situation she's left her main character with and Callie understandably turns to alcohol to cope with her pain. As the story progresses the killer gets bolder and more frightening in their invasion into Callie's personal space and threats against her and her son. But instead of crumbling and continuing to fall into the bottle Callie picks herself up and begins to gradually fight back.

The cast of characters Clark introduces us to in Murder on Edisto are real and fully drawn, and they all leave you wondering if they could be the villain or an accomplice. From the next door neighbor that is a yoga guru who seems to know a lot about everyone, to the itinerant local handy man who makes himself a little too welcome in his client's homes when they aren't there. Not even the local police force seems above suspicion. The reluctant acting chief of police has a dark history of his own, and the deputy of police helping him has a grudge against Callie from the first moment he meets her. Even though I had an idea about who I thought the killer was early on in the story, the motive for their actions eluded me making me second guess myself.

If you can't tell by now, I found this novel to be very engrossing with a fast paced plot and well written very sympathetic characters. The fact that Edisto Beach is a real place that C. Hope Clark is familiar with helped as well. The descriptions of the setting and details of place truly made me feel I was at the beach as I read the book. I truly hope to visit Edisto Beach someday, though I hope to find it much more relaxing than Callie Morgan does. Overall I found Murder on Edisto a very enjoyable read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery thrillers set in a realistic, contemporary setting. The book is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. C. Hope Clark also publishes a wonderful free newsletter with links to resources for writers called FundsforWriters check it out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review How To

Photo courtesy of Jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net
Once upon a time reviews of books and movies were things that could be found only in print publications. Most reviewers were people with degrees in literature or film history. Occasionally, those familiar with pop culture would publish short blurbs in the entertainment section of the newspaper grading the most recent movie releases.

With the advent of the internet, Amazon, and digital media in general the public's desire to find out information about books and movies became an almost instantaneous thing. The need to wait for them in print became smaller and smaller. Now anyone can go on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads and find a review of a book or movie and decide whether or not to spend the money on them without ever having to leave the comforts of home. Anybody these days can be a reviewer.

This is not a bad thing. It makes it very easy as a consumer to make informed decisions on how to spend our money on entertainment. Without word of mouth some authors would still be unknowns instead of the multimillionaires they've become. But for the reviewer it becomes harder and harder to stand out. You can still get paid to writer reviews on books. I know this for a fact because I've done it. I don't know as much about movie reviews because I've only published those for fun here on my blog. But in order to get publication credit and a paycheck for writing a book review you have to put as much effort into writing that review as you do any freelance article. And it doesn't hurt to begin small and build a following by reviewing books for free on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble when you first start out. You can also become of a fan of some of your favorite authors and keep track of when or if they are offering free giveaways or seeking readers willing to read an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of their work in return for an honest review.

It also helps to research the field and read professional published reviews in such places as the New York Times Book Review or the Washington Post. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the use of language, etc. of other paid reviewers. Researching the field can also help you find a niche you are passionate about in your book reviews. By developing a writing style and narrowing your focus on what types of books you like to review you can increase your chances of being noticed and taken seriously as a reviewer. This in turn can increase you odds on getting paid, either with money or in free books or ARCs of books to review. It is also important as a reviewer to stay current on upcoming releases in books so you can get those reviews out there BEFORE the book comes out. You are more likely to get paid to publish reviews on pre-released or very recently released work than on books that have been out on shelves a while.

Know the target audience you are writing the review for. If you are writing a review on a nonfiction book that contains pertinent information on child development for a parenting magazine you want to use language that is fresh and appealing to a busy parent and give them information about that book that will help them decide if it is worth their time and money. You won't write in the same style for a parenting magazine as you would for a teen magazine or an online review on Goodreads about the newest mystery thriller by your favorite author. Focusing on your audience will help you determine the length of the review, how technical you can get in language, and whether or not to include a detailed blurb on what the book you're reviewing is about. For instance, when I'm perusing reviews on a book that has caught my eye on Goodreads, I tend to skip over the ones that immediately start out giving me a regurgitation of the book blurb. If I'm interested in a book the book blurb is the first thing I read. On sites like Goodreads I don't need to have you tell me about it again at the beginning of your review. What I want to know is why you gave the book the number of stars you did, and why you loved the book or were disappointed in it.  

Be honest in your opinion but stay professional. The writing community is still a very small one on many levels. If you maliciously slander someone and manage to get that review published you are not only critiquing someone else you are also giving anyone who reads that review an impression of yourself as a writer as well. It is good to inform people about the weaknesses you might have found in a book whether fiction or nonfiction, but you can be honest about that without being nasty or mean-spirited. It is also important to keep in mind that your review is going to be read by people who may or may not have read the book. So you mustn't give away information that might spoil the book for them. Also, if you are doing the review in return for a free copy of the book you are helping that author promote their work and less people will be willing to buy a book you've given away the ending to. So avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Being a paid book reviewer is a good way to hone your skills as a freelance writer doing something you love--reading. You do have to be a voracious reader if you hope to make any appreciable income at it. You also have to be willing to accept rejection. Finding a home for you reviews requires just as much work and tenacity as any other kind of freelance writing. You have to query and query again to get published. But it is a viable market with plenty of opportunity for you to get paid to write in.

Here are some links to articles about writing book reviews and sites willing to pay for reviews with money or in free books: