Friday, July 25, 2014

The Return of the Friday Five 7-25-14



I'm baaack. Well, I never really left, but the Friday Five left. That's not to say it's going to be back every week. I think that's part of why it left - let's face it, some weeks, I really only have two or three things that are share-worthy. We'll play it by ear, okay? In the meantime... here's what's going on around here this week:


1. Bundle Up!

Are your kids reading this summer? WHAT? READ? But it's summer - YUK! I know, right? NOT!! READING ROCKS, and if your kids have to fill out a reading log this summer like mine do, you can now squeeze in four books all at once, and they won't even realize it. Okay - well they will, but by the time they figure it out, they'll be into it - promise. That's because for the first time, I've bundled all four Nate Rocks books together into a single book. You get the complete collection for under $5. Only from Amazon... get it  >>HERE<<


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2.  Holly's Wishes.

I know. First I promised it would be ready July 1st. Then I said it would only be delayed a short time. And here it is, July 25th and no Holly's Wishes. Well, the good news is that after MANY rounds of revisions, it is finally finished. It's now in that happy place called editing where it's getting polished and ready for the world. Soon... and I mean it this time.




3.  Awesome Kid Saying of the Week:

Ok here's the deal. I have three awesome kids. Two teens and an almost eight year old, and the stuff that comes out of their mouths is just something else. Sometimes, it's so out there, I have to write an entire blog post about it. But sometimes, it's just a little snippet. If you have kids, or are around kids, you know what I'm talking about. So every Friday Five, I'm going to pick one thing from the week that one of them said that made me just either burst out laughing or shake my head and say "Huh?"  Here's this week's...

Since my life lately has been consumed with Holly's Wishes … re-writing it over (and over and over …) my sixteen year old innocently asked me why not just stop writing it.

"Mom, just skip that one and move on."

When I explained that I couldn't because it's book 2 in a series, and you can't have a series that goes from book 1 to book 3, his response made perfect sense.

He said, "You could be like Star Wars and just release all the books out of order."

Huh. Now why didn't I think of that?  Don't worry, see #2 above.

4. Critters.

If you follow me on FACEBOOK, you know that I recently moved. It was a crazy, stressful ordeal that I'm glad is over. To try to ease the stress, a friend helped me put together a lovely little zen garden in my new backyard.


  Unfortunately, it didn't last long.  First the flowers disappeared.


  Ok, I thought, They'll grow back. But then the tomato plant got eaten. THEN, the plants were GONE. Yes, gone - dug right out of the pots by the roots!




One by one, every plant has disappeared. I'm now left with a zen garden of empty pots of soil. At the moment I have two suspects ...  Exhibit A...



and Exhibit B ... which I believe belongs to a groundhog.



It is possible they are working together. I may have to call in Christopher Robin for assistance.


5. SWAG.

So, you know how above I said I might not have 5 things to tell you every week? Well this is one of those weeks lol! So instead, I'm going to giveaway SWAG!!  Sign up for my newsletter and get a signed Whispered Wishes postcard.The first ten people who sign up will also receive a copy of Ava's Wishes. (Postcards limited to US & Canada).





Have a great weekend everyone!



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www.karenpokras.com



Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 4th+World Cup+7 Year Old=All Kinds of Confusion

photo credit: Why Tuesday? via photopin cc
One of the things that I love about my son's day camp is that it's run by a history teacher. Last year on the day before the camp closed for the July fourth holiday, the camp director did a reading of the Declaration of Independence (in a fun way) for the kids. So when I picked my seven-year-old up from camp today, I asked:

Did Rusty read the Declaration of Independence again this year for July 4th?

C: No but we did all kinds of activities for Independence Day about the war against Brazil.

Me: You mean England.


C: No Brazil.


Me: Brazil wasn't in the war. Were you talking about the World Cup maybe? (They've also been doing a lot of soccer themed stuff lately)



photo credit: bruna camargo via photopin cc

C: No it was for the war for the Declaration of Independence - like in the pool we had to pretend we were crossing the river. We were the guy on the horse.


Me: George Washington?


C: No. The other guy. The one about Brazil.


Me: I don't know - wait. Paul Revere?


C: Yes - he called "Brazil is coming! Brazil is coming!"


Me: Oh! You mean the BRITISH! 


Yup - you all remember learning about the American Revolution right? That one where we were trying to gain our independence from Brazil? Mystery solved.



Enjoy your 4th of July - Stay Safe!

photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc



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www.karenpokras.com



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Reader - I'm Sorry

Dear Loyal Readers,

I'm sorry.  Back in May (and again for much of June), I plastered this promo everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE):



I had the best of intentions. I wanted to provide you, my amazing readers, with some awesome romance/chick lit to read over the summer. Except there was one problem. I didn't really know *how* to write good quality romance/chick lit. You see, up until this point, I'd mostly only written middle grade children's books.(I say mostly because I do actually have one adult book out - Chasing Invisible - and while it has gotten high praise, and even won a literary award, it is far from chick lit.)

Let me assure you that these stories DO exist. In fact, I published Ava's Wishes on time on June 1st. I was so proud, and then ... I was not so proud. I received feedback from three people whom I respect greatly:

-You've lost your voice
-If I wasn't familiar with your other work, I'd never guess you'd written this, and I don't mean that in a good way, 
-It’s reading like a totally different author wrote the book, and it was a first attempt at publishing.

OUCH. These were admittedly difficult to swallow when my other books had received such high praise & several awards. I could sit here and give you excuses: I've had a crappy year ( I really have!), my heads wasn't in the game, I was pressured to put out a series quickly, etc, etc, etc... but the truth of the matter was that my writing needed to be knocked up several notches while my ego needed a swift kick down.

And then ... my guardian angels came to my rescue. A well known romance author along with one of her best beta readers decided to take me under their wings. Chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, they showed me what worked and what didn't, teaching and guiding me along the way, helping me turn Ava's Wishes into the story it was meant to be.

It is now back and something I am definitely proud of! At the same time, I am proud of the writer I have become (and am still becoming.)

But where is Holly's Wishes? It's July 1st!




Holly's Wishes IS coming, but I'd be doing you all a disservice if I published it without revising it using the same techniques I learned from my experience revising Ava's Wishes. The same holds true for Tessa's Wishes. My hope is that Holly's Wishes (and perhaps Tessa's Wishes) will be delayed only by a short period of time.

However, while you wait, Ava's Wishes is now 99 cents. I hope you will give it a read (and for those of you who may have already downloaded the original version, you should be able to now download the updated version).

I don't think I've ever worked harder on edits - but it was SO worth it. I hope you'll agree! After all, I'm not just here to write books,  I'm here to improve my craft so I can continue to put out quality books - for you - my awesome readers. The OCD in me won't let me give you anything less.

As always - thank you for your unending support.

xo


~Karen




Ava's Wishes Now Available at:






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www.karenpokras.com


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Camp: It's That Time Of Year Again

The end of June. It's that time of year when school is over and camp begins. A few years ago I wrote a series of blog posts about the *fun* of sending my kids off to overnight camp:


Camp Part One: Let the Packing Begin


Camp Part Two: The Drop Off

Camp Part Three: Letters

Camp Part Four: Pick Up Day

Well ... I decided it's time for another installment.

Camp - The Prequel: The Guilt Trip

For the past 7 (?) summers, I've dutifully made the 1.5 hour drive to camp (2+ hours if you include the wait to actually get through entrance once you approach camp). I've set up my daughter's bunk while she's off having a hugfest with her friends, and I've searched the grounds to say goodbye to her when my 20 minutes of unpacking were over, hoping to get an emotional and teary embrace, only to get a slight hug and peck with a "see ya" before getting back in the car for the 1.5 hour drive home. It's a good time.

photo credit: Scott Ableman via photopin cc

In all honesty, I really don't mind. I enjoy seeing her face light up as we get close to the entrance & I love the sound of the squeal she makes when she sees one of her friends that she hasn't seen since the previous summer.  The excitement in the air is always contagious.

This year however, I'm not able to make the trip, and I've had horrible guilt about it. I sat my daughter down the other day to let her know.

"You're not going?"

"I'm sorry."

"But, who's going to make my bed?"

You know that sound you hear when a record suddenly comes to a screeching halt? Insert that here.

"Um... What?"

 Not - I'm going to miss our final bonding moments, Mommy. Nope. So I had to make sure I heard her correctly.

"You want me to drive 3 hours to put a sheet on your bed?"

"Yes, I can never get it to stay on. The mattresses there are weird."

"Huh."   I just— I didn't— So I responded the only way I knew how:

"You know I'm going to write a blog post about this." Yup - Guilt gone.


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Now Available:

www.karenpokras.com




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Have You Heard About Nate's Sketchbook?

A while back, my friend and amazingly talented illustrator, Jessica Haight, sent me an illustration. It was a picture she drew of a scene out of Nate Rocks the School during one of Nate's adventures when he imagines his annoying classmate, Lisa Crane, has turned into the evil witch Lizetta.


Several months, and many emails later, the idea for Nate Rock's Virtual Sketchbook was born - an online sketchbook of Nate's adventures - written by me and illustrated by Jess. 

Below is the first installment, titled NATE ROCKS THE BANDITS originally published on the blog Jessica runs with her co-author Stephanie Robinson (another awesome and talented woman whom I adore!) They have a book called The Secret File of Fairday Morrow coming out in 2015 - I was lucky enough to read it, and I loved it! ... Now - onto the first installment of Nate's Sketchbook, reposted from  Fairday's Blog:




Marcus Brocket (AKA Brocket the Rocket) from The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow has teamed up with Nate Rockledge from the Nate Rocks series to bring you the Nate Rock's Virtual Sketchbook.

Hey guys! Brocket here. I'm your host for Nate's Virtual Sketchbook. Nate is amazing with a pencil, and it's awesome that I get to share his ideas with you!

Don't forget to enter the fun bonus contest at the end. Trust me, you don't want to miss out! Rock on ✌ ~ M



Nate Rock's Virtual Sketchbook
Hold onto your pants- here we go!



A giant tumbleweed nearly knocks me over, as I step out into the windy and desolate dirt road. A coyote howls in the distance. I look down. I hear the click of my spurs with each step I take. My sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers have been replaced with a leather vest, chaps, and cowboy boots. On my head is a wide brimmed Stetson hat. A giant rope lasso crosses my body. Up the road, I can make out what looks like a small town. I turn back around, but my bedroom door has disappeared. There is only barren desert behind me.

Out of nowhere, a white horse with brown patches wearing a saddle, approaches. The horse nuzzles my body with its soft nose. I place my boot into one of the stirrups and boost myself up onto the saddle.

"Giddy up," I say, taking hold of the reins. The horse breaks into a gallop, and we head into town down the dusty road.

Just as we reach the outside of the dingy saloon, a man comes crashing out of the front window, nearly hitting us as he tumbles to the ground. Glass shards and dust fly through the air. I jump off my horse and run up to him.

"Sir, are you okay?" I ask, reaching my hand out to him.
The battered man looks up at me weakly and whispers, "You better get in there cowboy, they need all the help they can get."

I adjust my lasso around my body, straighten my hat, and push open the swinging doors.
I can barely hear them creak over all the commotion. The scene is unbelievable: tables are overturned, people are screaming, chairs are getting tossed about chaotically, and women wearing long skirts are hiding behind the counter.

I spot the sheriff in the corner trying to break up a fight.

"Sheriff! What's going on?" I yell over the sound of breaking glass.

"Nate Rocks! Thank goodness you are here! Bandits are trying to take over the town. They've already captured Lady Madeline."

"Don't worry, Sheriff, we'll find her." I reach for my lasso, hold one end, and throw it up towards the ceiling. The powerful sound of the thick rope whipping through the air causes the room to momentarily stand still.

"Who wants to tell me where Lady Madeline is?" I yell into the crowd.

There is silence. The townspeople all step to the side, leaving me face to face with the ten burly bandits. I spot one of them reaching for a pistol in his holster.
"I don't think so mister!" I shout. In the blink of an eye, I direct the lasso toward him. The lasso wraps around the bandit, swinging him through the air, as if on a wild carnival ride. With the flick of my wrist, I release the lasso, causing the defeated man to slam against the wall before he crashes down to the ground. His gun slides across the floor behind the bar. The sheriff moves quickly to grab the pistol. He handcuffs the captured outlaw, as the other bandits look on in shock.
"Anyone else want to give it a try?" I ask, staring back at the others, no longer looking so tough and confident.

The group of nine remaining bandits start to back away from me and towards the door, hoping to escape.

"Not so fast!" I say. My lasso once again flies through the air, capturing the men with one fell swoop.

"Now, let's try this again. Who wants to tell me where Lady Madeline is?" I demand. I slowly circle the group of tied up men, staring each one of them in the eye. My spurs click with every step.

"She's...she's on tracks," one of them whispers through trembling lips.

"Sheriff, quick! We need to get over to the train tracks." I yell.

"You go Nate. The boys and I need to take these criminals over to the jail where they belong."

I run out the door and jump back onto my horse. I can hear a muffled train whistle from the other side of the mountain. The horse takes off in the direction of the sound.

"Faster, boy, faster." I shout. I hit the reins along the horse's side. The horse picks up speed and races towards the train tracks.

As we get close, I can hear a woman's voice shrieking, "Help me, please! Somebody, help me!"

"I'm coming, Lady Madeline!" I yell, not sure if she can hear me. "Faster, boy! We have to get to the tracks before that train makes it over the mountain!"

"Over here! I'm over here!" Lady Madeline screams, as she sees us coming towards her.
The horse stops abruptly. I leap off and run towards the beautiful woman wearing a long, ruffled yellow dress and boots. She's tied to the train tracks with a thick rope.

"Nate Rocks! You have to save me!" Lady Madeline cries.

"Don't worry, Ma'am, everything is going to be just fine."

I try to loosen the knot on the rope, but it won't budge. I pull harder, but still nothing. I look around- I need something to use to cut the rope. The train whistles again, slightly louder this time. I can see steam from the train's engine, as it reaches the top of the mountain.

"Hurry, Nate, hurry! The train is getting closer."

I grab a nearby rock, trying to cut the rope with its edge- no luck. Time is running out quickly, as the train descends the mountain and heads towards Lady Madeline.

My spurs click together. I take a step back to try to find a larger rock. My spurs- that's it! I rip one of my sharp spurs from my cowboy boot. The train whistles again, much louder this time.

"Please Nate!" Lady Madeline pleads, with tears in her eyes. She looks at the train heading straight towards us. With my spur in one hand I rip through the rope, releasing the knot. I untie Lady Madeline quickly, and she rushes into my arms knocking us both off the tracks just as the train whizzes by, blowing its whistle one final time before disappearing over another mountain.

Coming Next Time .... Nate Rocks the Stage 

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Now Available:

www.karenpokras.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Author Spotlight: Gregory S. Slomba

It's Author Spotlight day, and today I've got the awesome Middle Grade fantasy author, Gregory S. Slomba. If you've got a middle grade reader who loves getting transported into mysterious worlds, you're definitely going to want to pick up Gregory S. Slomba's The Deliverers Series! His newest book in the series: The Golden Dragon of Ang, recently came out, and I was lucky enough to get a copy for review (see below)... but first, a little about Greg and his series:


ABOUT THE GOLDEN DRAGON OF ANG


“From the mouth thou shalt hear
The wisdom of far off lands.
The way to truth is clear
Head, then heart, then hands.
Lastly, tail will point the way
To the world’s end.
Then gold shall have its say
And foretell the doom of men.”

With his dying breath, so spoke the last Dragon’s Voice. Now, with no successor to impart the wisdom of the mythical Golden Dragon of Ang and children between the ages of 12 and 15 mysteriously disappearing, the Dragon Islands have been turned upside down.

It is up to the Deliverers—Eric Scott, Stig the owl, Kate Endria and Hallo Tosis the dwarf—to unravel the clues they hope will lead to the missing children and the new Dragon’s Voice. Meanwhile, the Fang, leader of the renegade Denchi Assassins, has harnessed the unearthly powers of the sparkling mist and is attempting to tip the balance of power in the Islands, and perhaps shred the very fabric of the universe itself. Will the new Dragon’s Voice be revealed, or has the Golden Dragon of Ang abandoned the Islands to the Fang and the sparkling mist?


MY REVIEW


Eric, Stig, and the rest of the gang are back for Book Three of the Deliverers Series. In this book, governors who lead a group of islands wonder why the Golden Dragon of Ang did not name a child to be their new leader as is always customary. Instead, The Dragon only left them with a rhyme full of clues and chaos. As a result, children are being kidnapped by a group of assassins who are certain the new leader is among them. Eric and company are brought in to try to sort out several different mysteries that are happening at once - involving both the dragon's voice, the missing children, and a mysterious mist.

Gregory Slomba once again takes us on a wild adventure. While his books are meant for middle grade readers, I think adults will enjoy these books as well (I know I do!) I can honestly say that Book Three is my favorite so far. It is action packed and full if emotion. The books are written in such a way that you feel you are right there with the characters, trying to help them solve their mysteries. I can't wait to see where the group gets sent next.




ABOUT GREGORY S. SLOMBA



 Gregory S. Slomba grew up in Connecticut reading The Phantom Tollbooth, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings and dreaming of being a children's author. He studied English at the University of Dayton, and then worked as a banker for 20 years, taking care of other people's money. Somewhere in there he also took four years out and worked as an editor for a flooring trade magazine. He got to go to some neat places (Las Vegas, Arizona, Spain) to write about carpet, hardwood and ceramic tiles. Now he designs and writes training courses for bankers. He likes to read fantasy, historical fiction, history, middle grade and young adult literature, biographies, sports history, and anything else that seems interesting. The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book, followed closely by The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Redwall, and Harry Potter. Greg lives in Connecticut with his wife, Stephanie and his children, Christian and Abigail.  



CONNECT WITH GREGORY ONLINE:



Website: www.thedeliverersseries.com

Facebook : www.facebook.com/thedeliverers 


Twitter @GregDeliverers

PURCHASE THE DELIVERERS SERIES ON AMAZON:

http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-S.-Slomba/e/B005PFPA64/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1




OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:







 THANK YOU GREG!



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Coming Soon

www.karenpokras.com


Friday, April 11, 2014

Syndication – Good, Duplicate Content – Bad. What to Do? by Donna Huber

The following is an article written by my friend Donna Huber after I asked her about syndication ... it was originally posted on her blog. It is my first (and hopefully not last ) syndicated post and is about ... syndication ... Thank you, Donna for answering all my questions!

Syndication – Good, Duplicate Content – Bad. What to Do? by Donna Huber

Ever since Google started cracking down on blogs that had duplicate content, I have wondered how syndication played into it. In legacy media, being a syndicated columnist was a huge feat. The columnist reached greater audiences with the same content.

Then there are the news stories that play over and over on every television station and every newspaper. Even as the legacy media moved online, the practice continued. Online news sites like Huffington Post even reposts content from other sites.

I've asked around in various groups what makes syndication okay for sites like a newspaper, but not a general blog like mine? Early answers were that they were somehow exempt from Google's algorithm. Not fully understanding, I searched the web and Google's own information and all I got was some technical mumbo jumbo that all I took away from was syndication was okay but not duplicate content.

I got into another discussion yesterday with an author who read an article about the benefits of syndication, but wasn't sure how it differed from duplicate content. It got me thinking and again I went searching for answers. I ran across the most helpful article to date on the subject at Search Engine Journal.

To bottom line the article - it's all about the quality. You really should read the article for yourself, but I'll highlight a few things I took away from it and some thoughts on syndication as it applies in the book blogging world.

Quality Matters

A lot of bloggers and authors are doing book blasts or sponsored giveaway posts. These posts usually only contain "canned" information. The whole point of the post is to be an advertisement. Ads = low quality. It is likely that Google will view these types of post more as duplicate content than syndication.


What is a high quality post? One that contains meaningful information is usually of high quality. Meaningful content may be timeless, usually answers a question the reader has on the subject, and/or provides insight possibly not found elsewhere. Interviews and guest articles usually are good examples of high quality content.

But content alone does not make the post high quality. It must be well written: free of grammar and spelling errors, contain clear and concise language, structured to be highly readable.

How to Syndicate

After reading this post, authors may be thinking "Great! I have that awesome post I wrote on my tour last month. I can syndicate that." Not so fast. You may be running into a rights issue. Who "owns" that content? When I developed my Submission Guidelines, I consulted literary magazines and other publications (both ones that have print issues and ones that are online only) to determine how they handled content submissions. Most had language detailing the rights and permissions. Even if money did not change hands over a post, it is still possible that a guest article you wrote belongs to the blogger. Just to avoid hard feelings if nothing else, I would advise authors to check with bloggers.

Bloggers, should you give permission to have a guest article syndicated by the author? While the decision is up to you, I would tend to say yes, you should. Again if you look at my Submission Guidelines, I state I have exclusive use rights for a certain period of time, after that time the author may reuse the article, but a link back to the original post on my blog is required. Why? Getting other sites to link to your blog is good for SEO purposes also it means that more readers will see your blog's name and since the post is of high enough quality to be reposted then it speaks well of the other content on your site.

Another option for syndication is to write an original article and then send it out to bloggers to post. You may first publish it to your own blog or you might not. Either way, make sure there is a bio and a link back to your website/blog. This option is open to more than just authors in the book writing sense. Bloggers can also have their own content syndicated. For example, most of my tips posts would make excellent content for syndication. I recommend including at the end of the article or somewhere unobtrusive, but visible, a statement to indicate it is a syndicated article. By indicating it is a syndicated article may encourage others who love the post to consider posting it on their own site.

Problems with Syndication
(or when does syndication cross the line to duplicate content)

According to Google, duplicate content is not grounds for action against a blog. So why have I been told not to post duplicate content? Mostly because there is a fine line between white hat SEO techniques and black hat SEO tricks. Did I lose you? White Hat = Good. Black Hat = Bad. Anything that attempts to manipulate search engine algorithms is bad. Duplicate content can become black hat if it looks like a linking scheme (meaning you are more interested in having a site post a link to your site than the content you are providing in the article). That's why the most important thing to remember is QUALITY.

Bloggers may be thinking "hey, I never have to write another post. I can just post syndicated articles all the time." I'm not sure if that would be a wise move. I think that the algorithm looks at the ratio between original content and duplicate content when determining if a site is trying to artificially influence search engine ranking (how high on the list a site is when someone searches for a subject).  Adding in a few original posts will also keep your readers interested. It is no secret that many book blogs share the same readers so if you only have content they can also find on another site they may stop visiting your site all together.

A third problem with using syndicated articles is related to the problem above. If 10 blogs post the same article then Google's search algorithm decides which blog gets the top billing when returning search results. A couple of things play into it. One, the site that posted the article first may get pushed higher. Two, sites with better page rank get higher billing. I'm sure there are other factors, but you get the idea. The other sites may rank higher than yours in search and therefore your blog isn't "found" by new readers.

Speaking of page rank… That is another problem you can run into with syndicated posts. If you have 10 blogs that have a lower page rank than you pointing to yours through a link then that might not be so good for you. And possibly worse you are linking to sites with lower page rank. What is page rank? It is a scoring system that Google uses to rank your site's content. The better the content the higher the rank. You linking to a site is seen as an endorsement of sorts. I don't fully understand page rank, so I'll leave it at that. An option you have is to make the links "nofollow".


Bottom line: syndicated content can be great for both bloggers and authors, if you used appropriately. Use it for good not evil by devoting the extra time to making sure that one post is worth being syndicated.




Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads and author of the how-to manual Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.



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