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August 18, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 18: Inside

I own a number of coffee table books. While I like their covers, but for most of them it's what's INSIDE I truly love.

From The Ultimate Gardening Book by Carole McGlynn
Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Not Worth the Money: StumbleUpon Exposed

StumbleUpon Exposed
ebook
Published July 2012 by 99 cent store
Read August 2012

When I was searching for information on StumbleUpon for my Tips post a few weeks ago, I came across StumbleUpon Exposed on Barnes & Nobles website. The sample was not helpful so I passed on it. Now, I'm working on an article for Bad Redhead Media about StumbleUpon and thought I would try the book as there isn't a lot of information out there on using StumbleUpon.

Don't waste your money. It was not worth the $2.99 I spent. Most of the information I had found already through web searches. There is also a large section with general information about creating quality content, which again I already knew. Of the 10 pages that comprised the book, maybe 5 pages were about StumbleUpon.

The one good I learned about that I hadn't done much research on was the paid discovery. The author made a good point about having the page your are submitting being tailored for that campaign.

I was very disappointed that it encouraged users to violate StumbleUpon's TOS by creating multiple accounts.

I think this may be an excerpt. The closing paragraph referenced a different title.

If you are looking for info to better understand StumbleUpon, stick to web searches as this book was not useful.


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August 17, 2012

FlashFiveFriday: Graveyard

The Indie Exchange has started a new weekly meme called Flash Five Friday. You are given 5 minutes to write a blog post on the theme for that week. You can then link your post to the meme on The Indie Exchange website, while there visit 5 other blogs to see what others had to say. This should be quick and painless...so here goes.

Graveyard

When I was little (under the age of 8), we lived in Indiana. My whole extended family is there and we did a lot of holiday gatherings. Around Halloween, we would have a big bonfire at my great-grandparent's farm. After roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, we would have a hayride for all the kids. There were probably 10 - 15 of us and we would ride out to a graveyard. Every year I was too scared to get off the truck and venture into the graveyard. Well, one year I finally plucked up the courage and decided I would go. I remember one of my cousins being just as scared as me but we promised each other we would go. I remember having to climb a hill (it may have just been the embankment from the road). Anyways, as we were heading up something comes barreling down the hill at us. Of course, my cousin and I go screaming back to the truck convinced a monster or something was after us.

Later, I discovered that actually someone fell (might have been pushed) and they were rolling down the hill.


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Photo Challenge Day 17: Faces

Today was an up and down day emotionally, so I thought I would be a little creative with the theme FACES...

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Friday Fun with Laxmi Hariharan

Who is glad it's Friday? Though I only worked 4 days this week, it has felt like a very long week. My first thought every Friday when my alarm clock goes off is "Tomorrow I get to sleep in." Today, author Laxmi Hariharan shares the role sleep plays in her writing. Laxmi Hariharan is a London based writer, technophile & futurist. She is inspired by Indian mythology. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan recently won the Summer 2012 Readers’ Pick Award. See below how you can win a free copy.

What I think about, when I think about sleeping
(Title inspired by Haruki Murakami)

Tiina wakes with a start.

She does not scream, though. Save her heightened breathing and an increased pulse, nothing gives away the horror and dejection the dreams evoke. Swept along by a tide of the inevitable, she faces her destiny.


Yep! A perfect start to a novel written by a sleep obsessed me. For as long as I can recall I have needed eight hours sleep at night; not counting that I can fall asleep in moving vehicles of any kind. Trains, planes, automobiles… I’ve even been known to fall asleep in the back of London’s black cabs. Really!


Some of my deepest, most satisfying, slumbers have been on long-distance overnight train journeys across the Indian subcontinent. The constant moving, shaking, rattling and rolling provided by these esteemed denizens of the Indian Railways—from the Rajdhani’s chair cars, to the Shatabdi’s second-class, three-tier sleeper cars where I would immediately lay stake to the top berth, pretending to be on top of the world while my mum & dad peered up anxiously to make sure that I would not fall out—have lulled me to sleep on many a night as I wandered from youth-festival to festival, on various university campuses across India.


The warm embrace of the sleeping berth—probably the closest I have come to recapturing the comforting cocoon of my mother’s womb. Would it surprise you, if I were to say that I actually remember being in the womb, being clad in layer upon layer of affection shot through with strands of fear, delight and an absolute terror of the unknown. No, I didn’t really want to be born, I don’t think. No wonder, my Mum maintains to today that I never stopped crying during the entire first year of my birth.

So as I raced to complete my first novel—The Destiny of Shaitan—the last one-hundred-and-fifty pages of which were written in three weeks, it came as no surprise that my power naps were the most powerful well-spring of imagination.

My normal routine was to write fifteen pages in a spurt, at which point I would feel my life-energy leach out of me. By this stage no amount of sweetened-masala-chai would help keep my eyes open either. So then, I would use my last conscious thought to crawl down to my basement bedroom, slip in-between the covers, and setting my mind to work on the puzzle of the plot, I would let myself drift into the upper realms.

Suspended between the dimensions above and anchoring my feet firmly on the ground below I would wait…for the visions to come; the dreams from my childhood intertwined with memories past, all shot through with futuristic inklings, my instinct going into overdrive, I would sit up awake suddenly—to realise that my fifteen minute comfort snooze had taken me on a trip to outer-space from which I had returned with an Eureka! That was it! Resolution, at least for now and for this act moment. So, being a sleeper does have some advantages. Its quite helpful to just let your sub-conscience take over and help solve some particularly sticky issue with the plotline.

Growing up, as I had struggled to stay up late into the night, swotting for exams and dozing over my books, I would often want to be one of those super-people who could survive on just four or five or six hours sleep. But now in adulthood I realise that it is perhaps being able to drift almost instantly into that dark space from where I can plumb the depths of my sub-consciousness that makes me a writer after all.

Your turn: What about you? How many hours of sleep can you survive on? Are you like me, a super-sleeper who needs eight hours (twelve is ecstasy!) or are you an insomniac who can’t soul more than four. Do tell me, I really want to know.

Connect with Laxmi:
Find her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/laxmihariharan/
Visit her Website at www.laxmihariharan.com

YA epic fantasy novel The Destiny of Shaitan is a delicious blend of gods & humans, offering a glimpse into your own power. This coming of age story is painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. When Tiina accompanies Yudi on a mission to save the universe from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. Driven by greed and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying everything in his path. Tiina wants Yudi to destroy Shaitan, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Shaitan being killed by his son. But she finds that Yudi is hesitant to do so. The final showdown between Tiina, Yudi, and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight, even kill Tiina. The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan's ultimate destiny be fulfilled?
Find The Destiny of Shaitan at Goodreads and Amazon

Starting on Saturday, The Indie Exchange will be hosting a giveaway of The Destiny of Shaitan. You can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
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August 16, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 16: Food

Today's photo challenge theme is one that I like as much as I like books: FOOD. For lunch today I had chicken pot pie from The Georgia Center Courtyard Cafe.


Photo a Day is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Tips on Thursday: Redesign

Cover of "13 Going On 30 (Special Edition...
Cover of 13 Going On 30 (Special Edition)
One of my favorite movies is 13 Going on 30 starring Jennifer Garner as a 13 year old who wants to be 30 (probably the only girl to ever wish to be 30). When she becomes 30 she is an editor at her favorite magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine is being scooped by its competition.



During an editorial meeting, editor-in-chief Richard Kneeland (played by Andy Serkis) announces, "I've come off the phone with corporate and they have dropped the R word."

The staff is all in shock and disbelief, questioning the decision to redesign.

Richard declares, "Well, we either redesign and pull up our numbers or they pull the plug."

Lucy (played by Judy Greer) responds, "Richard, redesign is a death sentence."

Jennifer Garner's character counters, "No, it's not. It's a chance to have some fun."

(Thanks to Script-o-Rama for assistance with the dialogue. The dialogue tags are my own).

Why was Lucy and the rest of the staff in dismay over being told to redesign? A lot goes into building an audience and a brand: visuals play a big part in branding. If you see the "swoosh" you know it is Nike. A red can with slivery-white curlycue writing makes you think Coca-cola.

When I started blogging, I used the generic book template Blogger has (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about - the one with rows of books). I wasn't sure if I would stick with book blogging and what direction I would take with my blogging. The theme let visitors right from the start know that the blog was about books. About 4 months in, I wanted a new theme. At the time, I was planning on only recording my views on books so looked for a journal style theme. Around the one year mark, I started growing tired of my layout, but wasn't sure what I wanted. I talked to a designer. Many people were going to graphic heavy themes that had rating systems, avatars, headers, etc. that all coordinated - great for branding. I thought of going that way, but it seemed to be more than I wanted. I stayed with my current theme.

So a year and a half after I started blogging, I'm once again contemplating a redesign. I feel my blog is going in a bit different direction. I'm hosting more authors and other books news, not to mention my popular Tips series. The theme I have doesn't allow the functionality I need or want. Also, as I move towards the publication of my book, I want a more professional look for my blog.

I must decide how much of my blog's "look" is tied to its brand. Because I've been thinking about this for a while, I created a blog button to serve as the start of a logo for my brand. I hope that by incorporating the logo into whatever theme I choose will lend continuity to my blog as I change themes. I don't want readers to come to my blog and wonder if they landed in the wrong place.

Now, I must decide what I want in a theme. Though ad revenue has been up the past month, I don't have the money to hire a professional. Thankfully, there are some very good customizable free themes. I like the look of my Twylah page. Ideally, I want a theme that sorts my posts by category on the "front" page.

As I grow, I'm finding I need to post more than once a day. I also want to make my site easier for readers to find the information they want. I think a newspaper or magazine theme would be good. Right now, a post gets less than 24 hours in the top spot on my blog. Each post would get more exposure if categories were featured. Here is a template I'm contemplating.

It looks like I will be able to add a new feature - videos. More and more books are getting trailers and I would be able to highlight those. I've also received recorded author interviews to showcase on the blog. I think it will make it easier for visitors to find the information they want - looking for the latest author guest post, just click on that category instead of scrolling through to the right day.

I think I've been resistant to changing my layout because I've had Lucy's mentality towards redesigning. But with the growth in both readership/page views and author requests, I'm leaning towards Jenna - it's time to have some fun and make my site even more accessible to visitors.

Your turn: What are your thoughts on redesign? I would love your feedback on upcoming changes to my blog. Is there something you would like to see differently or something you really like about the current layout that you hope I keep?



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August 15, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 15: Ready

As you can see, Josie and Penny are READY for dinner.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

A Favorite Series on SALE!

My all-time favorite epic fantasy series is discounted and another book in the series hits the shelves this week. Now is the time to discover a series that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages - read it together as a family!

For a limited time (sale ends Thursday), get books 1 and 2 in The Gateway Chronicles by K. B. Hoyle for $1.99 each (ebooks at Amazon only):

Read my review. Get it at Amazon

Read my review. Get it at Amazon

Available tomorrow in paperback and ebook:

See my review.

You can learn more about The Gateway Chronicles and K. B. Hoyle on her blog.

Read my niece's interview with K. B. Hoyle


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Courtney Harvey: So What Have You Learned, Dorothy? (guest post)

It is Writer Wednesday here at Girl Who Reads and I'm happy to welcome Courtney Harvey. Courtney is a K-8 Art teacher who lives in Bangor, Maine with her husband of 12 years and three daughters.  Open Window: Truth From the Shadows is her debut novel, and part of the Open Window Trilogy. You can connect with Courtney on Twitter and Facebook. 

So What Have You Learned, Dorothy?
Here I am, a 36 year old busy mom of three lovely daughters with an amazing husband.  Not long ago, I was cruising through life as an Art Teacher, not looking for a career change.  I love experiencing art in all of its forms – visual art, music, theatre, writing – it gets in my soul and makes remember why I’m alive.  I’ve always been this way - spending my time as a kid drawing pictures, begging for painting lessons or piano lessons, or writing stories and poetry.  I have notebooks filled with inspirational words and phrases, poems and stories, children’s books waiting for illustration.  I never knew it could be an option in my life, I just knew it was something I loved to do.  At the core of it all, I am an artist, in one way or another.  But with such a crazy schedule, there was little time for it all.
 
And then came one of the busiest falls of my life.  I was working three jobs at the time plus shuffling my girls to and from soccer practice, dance classes, theatre rehearsals.  I thought it would be a great idea to finish up a graduate degree I started 10 years earlier.  Why not?  I’ve got nothing better to do, right?  So add researching and writing a thesis on top of the already crazy schedule and you had my life in a nut shell.  So what does an artist do when she has a gazillion other things to do?  She ignores it all and creates - whether she has time to or not.  She forgets that her life had a plan, and follows her heart to learn something new about herself.  And that is when the idea for “Open Window” started haunting me.

In addition to interests in the arts, I love all things spooky.  Ghost hunting, mediums, spirit guides - I find it all fascinating.  To be honest, I have a touch of psychic ability myself, though I have little control over it and it is very sporadic.  But it is there nonetheless, and that is how the concept for “Open Window” came to me.  People always ask me about inspiration and how the story develops and what do I think before I start.  With this story, it literally came to me overnight.  The background knowledge of the paranormal was there, because I’d spent my life researching and living it, but suddenly there was a plot and some twists and characters swirling in my head.  I couldn’t focus on anything else and I had to get the story down.  I had no choice in the matter.  And once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.  It was like all the years as a kid came back to me; all the joy I had felt writing before was remembered.  I wrote it for me, and it felt great.

A year later, I had a novel.  Did I intend for it to happen?  Goodness, no.  But I feel like it was some cosmic way of waking me up again, letting me know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  Something was telling me that now, at 36 years old, I still have lots to learn about myself.

I have learned that I love writing paranormal stories, and I have many more to come.  I have gone from someone who wrote for fun when the muse struck to someone who can think of little else except writing. I have come to discover that when I write, these characters become real to me – I form a relationship with them and I understand who they are, what they want, where they are going – and I can’t write about them or for them until they settle into my understanding.  I have learned what my writing process is, how my ideas evolve, how to work through the outlines, how to let the story grow on its own when necessary, and how to fix bad habits and improve my skill.  And above all, I have learned how to teach my daughters that you can have a dream, maybe one you didn’t even know existed, and you can go for it.

Now that I have set the writer’s wheels in motion, I can’t stop.  I am finishing the second part to “Open Window” which will be out by the fall of this year, and a third in the trilogy will follow.  I thank everyone who has taken a chance on an unknown writer, for giving me tremendous feedback, and for coming along this crazy journey with me!

From Courtney Harvey comes a debut novel about Alex Wells, who from afar appears as a typical high school senior, yet whose dreams invade her mind in a way that is anything but typical. Nighttime visits from long passed relatives are commonplace. Questioning her sanity, she struggles inside self-inflicted walls, hiding her secret from the world. As she reluctantly comes to terms with her ever-increasing psychic abilities, the latest dream of a young stranger’s violent suicide has Alex spinning out of control. While attempting to take charge of her life, she is compelled to uncover his story, forcing her to face her own fears and follow him on his journey to seek redemption. As her family and friends watch her spiral into a well of despair, she refuses to give up seeking out his truth, no matter the cost. It may only be the new boy in school who can lift her from the depths of self-destruction, but he too has a secret to hide.
Open Window: Truth from the Shadows is a PG-13 Paranormal Romance. From Goodreads.com
Find Open Window: Truth from the Shadows at Goodreads and Amazon.






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August 14, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 14: Arrow

I saw this ARROW on my drive home tonight.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Blog Tour: Mocked by Destiny

Mocked by Destiny (Mocked Series #1) by Michele Richard
paperback, 345 pages
Published August 2012 by Renaissance Romance Publishing
ISBN13: 9780615673318
Read August 2012
Goodreads and Amazon

This young adult novel is an engaging read. Michele has modernized the boy meets girl story line by incorporating the very real occurrence of teenage pregnancy.

Stella Richards lives in the tourist town of Virginia Beach. With the navy base near by, there are plenty of men only spending a season there. While Stella is hoping to escape the perceived "Richards curse". For generations, the woman in her family have found themselves wooed by these short-term visitors. All would be find if it was just a vacation fling, but that is not the case. These men leave behind not just broken hearts but innocent babies. 

Mocked by Destiny reads relatively fast and an interesting tale. The story is told in switching first person, so you get both Stella's and Stephen's views. This style seems to be an increasingly popular choice for authors. I'm not a huge fan of it. On occasion, it has enhanced a story for me, but I think for Mocked by Destiny I would have preferred a third person limited narrative. For me, when we switched to Stefan's point of view (particularly in the early chapters) it felt like I was reading an interview. 

I really enjoyed the first three-quarters of Mocked by Destiny. I think the story could have ended with the birth as the last quarter just felt like the story was being drawn out without a reason. Though I had no problem finishing the book.

Though meant for teenagers, I think there is enough crossover appeal for adults to enjoy the story as well. If you want to know more about the characters of Mocked by Destiny, check out the guest post Michele did for my blog last year. See what other people are saying about it at Goodreads or pickup a copy for yourself at Amazon (I receive a small affiliate fee for purchases made using this link).

Your turn: What is your favorite narrative style?



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August 13, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 13: Simple

What's for dinner? A SIMPLE jamablya with apple wood smoked chicken sausage, zucchini, yellow squash, and fire roasted tomatoes. YUM!

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Book News & Reading



News:

I participated in The Indie Exchange's new Flash Five Friday, but posted kind of late on Friday night. You can read my take on SUCCESS here.

I hosted The Indie Exchange Book Bloggers radio show Friday night. Our special guest was Heather Huffman. If you missed the show, you can listen to it on iTunes or at The Indie Exchange.

I wrote a new article for monthly column at The Indie Exchange. It has been really popular with the authors. If you want to get the most publicity out of Goodreads, check out my post.

Want to get 3 good books for a buck a piece? Check out the Dog Days of Summer Sale with Rachel Thompson, Ann Charles, and Terri Giuliano Long. There's also a gift certificate being given out for helping to promote the event. TODAY is the last day, so act NOW.


The Indie Exchange is also planning a BIG Giveaway in September. Sign-ups are going on now. If you want to get your blog involved, see what it is all about here.


The Indie Exchange: September Social Splash

There are still a few spaces on the Millicent Marie Tour with Karen Pokras Toz, you can sign up here for a review, guest post/interview, and/or giveaway. (This tour is paid for by the author). Also, today and Tuesday, her first book Nate Rocks the World is FREE on Kindle.

Also free on Kindle right now is Heather Huffman's Ring of Fire. Not sure how long the sale last, so act quick.

Finished:

Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures. From Goodreads.com
Read my review. Find Doodling at Goodreads and Amazon.

Reading:

For Stella Richards, life in the charming town of Virginia Beach is not as magical as one would think. Sun, fun, and sand only guarantee one thing: unwanted visitors. Stella learned long ago to never befriend anyone visiting the beach. They're here; then they're gone, drifting in and out as the tide ebbs and flows. She vowed to never connect with anyone vacationing in Virgina Beach - until spring break. Stefan changed everything.

Stefan Sterling lives life never knowing where he will end up next. Bouncing from one Military base to another has hampered his ability to connect to those around him. That's what happens when your father is in the military. Raised in a world of discipline, control, and strangers, Stefan never expected to find anyone he'd want to be close to - let alone love.

A family curse verses a loving abnormality promises to keep Stella and Stefan on their toes. Was it an accident or could it be destiny? Will they be able to survive their families? And, is there ever a time when you can fully let go of the person who awoke your soul?

A story of love, sacrifice, and growing up before it's time. From Goodreads.com
Find Mocked by Destiny at Goodreads and Amazon

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come. From Goodreads.com
 Find The Mine at Goodreads and Amazon.

 In Attached, Levine and Heller reveal how an understanding of adult attachment-the most advanced relationship science in existence today-can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner's ability to love them back Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

In this book Levine and Heller guide readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love. From Goodreads.com
 Find Attached at Goodreads, IndieBound, and Amazon.

This week:

Tuesday: Review of Mocked by Destiny by Michele Richard
Wednesday: Guest post by Courtney Harvey
Tips on Thursday: Redesign
Friday Fun with Laxmi Hariharan
Sunday: Review of Scribbling by Jonathan Gould


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