Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Post: E.C. Stilson: Kids and Writing

Today, I have the pleasure of handing over my blog to fellow author, E.C. Stilson. Thanks so much for stopping by today Elisa! I hope you'll all show her some love.

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E.C. Stilson on Kids and Writing

A few months after I decided to quit my sewing business and pursue a writing career, my kids seemed a bit resentful.

"You're not spending as much time with us in the mornings. All you want to do is write," the Scribe (my oldest) said.

It was a hard adjustment for them because normally I'd sew during the night, but with writing, my best ideas came to me in the morning. So, after a few conversations with my husband, we came up with a plan.

One Saturday, my oldest girls woke up and saw writing supplies on the table. There were two piles, one for each of my girls.

"What's this?" the Hippie asked.

"Today, we're going to write a story together." I told them how you should know your ending first, then you can plan an opposite beginning and a logical mid-point. "If you want the person to end as a hero, then in the beginning, maybe he should be the opposite."

"That makes sense, like in fantasy books."

"Right." I nodded.

The Scribe took a deep breath. "You're really going to help us?" she asked.

"Absolutely." So, we took advantage of the perfect Saturday morning and we wrote. They had the best time imagining twists and turns, the setting and the characters. Before long we were smiling over a creation that was all our own.

"Now I know why you write," my oldest girl said. "I even get why you laugh and cry at the computer sometimes." (So that was a bit embarrassing, but at least it was progress.) "If this is your new job, can we write when you write?"

"Sure. I might not be able to help you the whole time, like I did today, but I'll always be here if you want fresh ideas or how to fix holes in the story."

We shook on it and the pact was made.

Things have been much easier since then. I've written three books (one which was just released on 11/18/11) and now I'm even raising a small army of writers--four to be exact. Writing might not always be easy, but if you work hard enough, I think it's worth it in the end.

About Elisa

E.C. Stilson has her degree through the University of Phoenix. She started writing nearly nine years ago, just before finding out her son might die. Writing became the best way for her to cope even after his death. Her recently published book, "The Golden Sky," is about the journey that ensued when she lost her son and all hope, but found that after every storm, there is a golden sky.


For more information about Elisa & The Golden Sky:
Blog: www.ecwrites.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12962555-the-golden-sky

Watch the Trailer: You Tube

Info about & Praise for The Golden Sky:
http://waymanpublishing.books.officelive.com/sitemap.aspx


Purchase Info: Amazon





Sunday, November 27, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Nate Rocks the World



It's Sunday! That means it's time for another quick peek into the world of Nate Rocks the World

In this scene, Nathan's imagination has Nate helping out a big time rock star who is not able to take the stage.... can he do it?

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"You have to take his place, Nate! You are the only one who can fill his shoes!”

I look down at my clothes. I am suddenly dressed in black leather pants and a white t-shirt. Someone pushes me up toward the front of the stage, just as the curtain starts to rise.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give it up for ……. NATE ROCKS!”



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What happens next you ask?  Pick up a copy of Nate Rocks the World and find out! Available at Amazon and most retailers - perfect for the 7-12 year old on your gift list!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Go to Sleep ... Wake up!



When my kids were little, I felt like I (along with many other parents) spent an incredible amount of energy just trying to get my children to sleep. For the most part, they fought me every step of the way. My youngest stopped napping at around eighteen months AND did not yet sleep through the night. *sigh*


photo credit: Valentina via photopin (license)


Then when each child hit five years old (give or take), things changed. I like to call these years “the slumber years.” During these years, my kids would go to bed and get up in the morning for school without argument ... 90% of the time (which I would gladly accept.) On the weekends, they’d either sleep in or get up and entertain themselves until a reasonable hour (Funny how when you are a parent, you consider 7:30-8:00a.m. sleeping in.)

As my two older kids now round the corner into the teenage years, however, “the slumber years” look more like “the hibernation years.” I’m beginning to question whether my oldest – my son – is actually part bear. It’s at this point, where, as a parent, you switch from the ‘go to sleep’ mode to the ‘wake up’ mode.

School mornings involve alarm clocks in each of their rooms, followed by, “Are you up?” yelled down the hallways at 5 minute intervals. A grumbly, “yeah” is usually the response. After a third five minutes – it’s lights on followed by, “Get Up!!” That usually does the trick.


photo credit: Despertador via photopin (license)


On the weekends, if I wake my oldest at 10:30a.m. he acts like I’ve woken him at the crack of dawn.

As I write this post it is 8:30 on a Saturday. My five-year-old has been up for an hour and my two older kids are sleeping soundly. Should we make some noise?

*****

http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Friday Five 11-25-11: Thanksgiving Edition:



Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone who celebrates here in the U.S. and abroad had a very Happy Turkey Day. I know we did – I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal in almost ten years. I believe it was a success – no one left looking hungry (or sick!) So - instead of my usual weekly post, I thought I would do something a little different in keeping with the Thanksgiving theme:

5 Things I’m Thankful For:


  • I am thankful I have a wonderful family who continues to support, love, and inspire me every single day.


  • I am thankful for my friends who always put a smile on my face.

  • I am thankful that my RA is (semi) manageable, and I am able to live a (mostly) fulfilling life.

  • I am thankful I am able to live out my dream of becoming a  author while encouraging kids to read, dream, and be the best that they can be.


  • I am thankful to have a warm home, food to eat, and a safe environment to live in.


What are you thankful for? Let me know your Friday Five in the comments!  Next week, I’ll be back with another Friday Five to catch you up on all the week’s events. See you Friday and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I wish I were...

We’re having twelve people for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Admittedly, I haven’t cooked a Thanksgiving meal in almost ten years - - don’t worry family, I know what I’m doing! Sort of... I mean – when it comes to the food, I’ve got it covered. It’s all the other stuff. This morning, my husband asked me if we had a centerpiece for the table. (Is that a strange question for a husband to ask?) The answer is not really...

I wish I were one of those people who always have the perfect centerpiece for every occasion.

I wish I were one of those people who can cook in heels (or walk in heels for that matter) wearing a cute little apron, without a hair out of place.

I wish I were one of those people who have a beautiful mustard yellow soup tureen to perfectly compliment the pumpkin soup we will be eating or a lovely multi-tier pie rack to display the desserts on the buffet.


I wish I were one of those people who have service for twenty so that all of the table-wear matches.

I wish I were one of those people who can arrange things on the plates so beautifully that they look like the pages of a magazine.

I wish I were....

Do I really?  No – I do not. I am crazy thankful for everything I have ... today and every day.

I hope everyone who celebrates has a very happy and safe Thanksgiving and remembers those who say "I wish I were one of those people having a hot meal today."




Monday, November 21, 2011

Author Spotlight: Micheal Rivers

Congratulations to Micheal Rivers for winning the November Indie Cover Art Contest hosted by the fabulous Shannon Mayer




Edward Caulfield was not a simple man. Losing his wife early in their marriage he continued to live his life as a shrine to her. In his twilight years he encountered a troubled young woman. There were lessons to be learned from each other. With the spirit of his deceased wife by his side Edward Caulfield left behind a legacy in his words to ease a troubled heart.

About Michael

Micheal, born in 1953, is an American author. His writing genres include Fiction, Horror, Thriller and Paranormal. Micheal has been writing for several years. In the past he concentrated on Romantic Poetry. In recent years he has focused on writing Fiction and Paranormal stories.

His book titled "Ghosts of the North Carolina Shores" has been published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. Micheal also published the eBook "The Black Witch" which is the first of a series on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Micheal has over thirty years of investigating and collecting stories of the paranormal. He is the lead investigator for the Smokey Mountain Ghost Trackers of Western North Carolina. www.facebook.com/SmokeyMtnGhostTrackers

He served his country as a United States Marine during Vietnam. He is a native North Carolinian. He lived in the Chicago area in the past and furthered his education there. He served the community as an Emergency Medical Technician while living there. Micheal currently resides in the mountains of North Carolina along with his wife and his Boxer he fondly calls Dee Dee.

http://michealrivers.com/

Michealrivers.com./blog

http://bit.ly/m9WSZP

At Amazon:

The Black Witch http://amzn.to/lLHwvd

Ghosts of the North Carolina Shores http://amzn.to/rhKuCk

Moonlight on the Nantahala http://amzn.to/nbwYyI


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Calling All Elementary Teachers and Librarians

A while back, I received an email from an elementary school art teacher expressing interest in my book, Nate Rocks the World, as part of the curriculum for her art class. For those who do not know, Nate Rocks the World is about 10 year old Nathan Rockledge. On the outside, he is your ordinary 4th grader. On the inside, however, he has an imagination that has no limits. Give Nathan a piece of paper and a pencil and watch as he transforms himself through his drawings from Nathan Rockledge to the heroic and unstoppable Nate Rocks.

You may be surprised to learn that Nate Rocks the World is not a graphic novel. In fact, other than the cover, there are no pictures at all. As the author, I wanted the reader to experience each of Nate’s adventures the same exact way that Nathan does – through the sole use of his imagination.

So where does Nate Rocks the World fit into your programs and curriculum?


The art teacher’s idea – which I love – was to read the first few pages of Nate Rocks the World (which contains his first adventure as Nate Rocks) to her class. She would then ask her class to draw their own adventures. I’m hoping she sends me photos of the pictures – I would love to see them and hopefully will post some on my website.

As much as I love the art teacher’s idea, I wanted to take it a step further and include a writing element. How fun would it be to then take those drawings back to the child’s main classroom and write the adventures down on paper? The teacher could then compile all of the drawings and stories together into a comic book for the entire class to enjoy. It could even be called:

“Mrs./Mr. ________’s 3rd Grade Class Rocks the World”

Of course, I would hope that the students would want to read more than the first few pages – after all, I wrote this book in hopes of giving children a fun and enjoyable book to read. Encouraging our children to read is one of the greatest gifts we can give to them.

So what do you think? I love feedback! Please let me know if you are thinking about introducing Nate Rocks into your elementary school classroom or library programs. I’d also love to visit your school or library if you are interested.

For more information about Nate Rocks the World, visit my website: www.karentoz.com

Thanks so much for your support!




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http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Home Street Home: The Virginia Beach Chronicles


Home Street Home, The Virginia Beach Chronicles, by Georgia Saunders takes an in depth look at homeless life. While this book is fiction, many of the stories are based on real observations by the author, which makes the novel even more compelling.

The author’s main character is Ella, a woman in her sixties who very unexpectedly found herself homeless after years of taking care of her family. There are also several side stories, all involving interesting people who deal with being homeless on a daily basis. All of the side stories connect back to Ella through people she has met on the street, except one: the story of a young hardworking family on the brink of homelessness. I love how the author includes this additional story to show how quickly things can change for a family. There are many characters in this novel, and I admittedly had difficulty keeping track of them all. It wasn’t until after I was done reading the story that I realized they were all necessary to show the sheer enormity of the problem.

Home Street Home is truly thought provoking and insightful. Ella could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, the person in line behind you at the grocery store, or even yourself. Georgia Saunders does a fine job of both story telling and educating readers on a growing problem in our own backyards.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the author, Georgia Saunders.

Georgia, Could you share a bit about yourself?


"Sure. I was homeless for over three years in Virginia Beach. Before that, the only writing I’d done was in my personal journals, though I’ve always been an avid reader of good literature. After I became homeless, I found I could endure being cramped up in a small room with up to 100 feisty and sometimes drunk people, if I concentrated on trying to accurately describe interpersonal dynamics I was experiencing or observing. It was really just an escape at first. Not satisfied with my work, I began to check books from the library about how to write better, and revisit works by favorite authors such as Steinbeck , London, Twain and Dickens to name just a few, to inform my own scribbling. Everything was hand-written in a notebook at first and was completely for my own education, amusement and sanity.

During most of my homeless experience, I was living in a car, then a van and I was in and out of hotels with my then boyfriend. He had some issues with substance abuse, but tried to keep me off the street most of the time by working at construction jobs. They were usually short-term projects, anyway, but it didn’t help that he would binge and lay out of work every so often. I was also working part-time, cashiering, but that was really just enough for gas and car expenses. It’s difficult to pay the large deposit on top of the first month’s rent, and the rental properties in this area are tightly controlled by credit rating. When I became homeless, I wasn’t able to keep up with credit card payments, so I was like that short guy in the Hannibal Lecter mask picking his ears on the freecreditscore.com commercial. Even when we had money, we couldn’t get housing except in hotels. It was a really unstable situation for me and I often despaired there was just no way out.

Get a better boyfriend, you say? Most of the men in the streets were about the same or worse – and so many were about finding a woman to make their lives easier. I don’t play that, nor do I play musical chairs, so sticking to the devil I knew seemed the relatively best choice. Looking for a relationship outside of the community while homeless is not a good idea. As soon as a housed date knows your situation, you lose value and become more vulnerable to the power games that are played on the dating scene. When you are in a vulnerable survival situation, you can’t afford to take those risks.

To read more of this interview and read about Georgia Saunders and her incredibly journey, visit her at http://steepedinbooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/georgia-saunders-opens-up.html




Georgia's books are available at Amazon.com

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Friday Five 11-18-11

Hi everyone! I hope it’s been a good week. This week flew by for me.. here’s why:

1. Birthday! Tuesday was my birthday. On Sunday, my Mother-in-law offered to babysit and I was so excited to have a date night with my husband. I was even more excited to go to my favorite Mexican restaurant that I had not been to for ages - - we don’t get out much apparently, because not only was my favorite restaurant out of business, but it had a sign on it from Cinco de Mayo. Sigh. I had Mexican food on the brain, so we wound up going to a fast food Mexican place (better than Taco Bell, but not nearly as good as the place that closed up.) Oh well – it was still a very nice birthday.

2. Kindle. For my birthday, my husband bought me the new Kindle Touch. Not exactly a surprise since I sent him the link to show him what I wanted (that’s what we do in our house.) But I did sort of get a surprise – it wasn’t supposed to ship until next week and instead it came yesterday! I’ve already got it loaded up and ready to go. I’ll blog a review about it once I get my feet wet, and I’ll also talk about why I went with the Touch instead of the Fire.



3. Deja Vu. And not the good kind. Our oldest cat, Vaughn is now sick and not doing well. He is 17 just like Sterling, who we lost over the summer. I really am not up for going through another heartbreak right now... will keep you posted.


http://www.jbrphilly.kintera.org/keptoz

4. Arthritis. Today I am being interviewed on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation for the newspaper. It is hard to believe that the Annual Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Walk/Run is less then a month away! I am truly touched by the generosity of so many people who have already donated. To date we have raised $2,225.00! But we are still so far from our goal of $5,000. If you would like to help either with a donation or by joining our team, we would be so grateful. We so appreciate all of your support!


5. Book News. I don’t even know where to begin – can you see my head spinning? Okay- here are some of the highlights:

  • There are two giveaways going on right now one at Mom Does Reviews and one at Goodreads.  Enter both to increase your chances of winning one of three signed copies of Nate Rocks the World.
  • Read my latest review and get a great recipe with Martha Cheves on her blog, A Book and A Dish .
  • I have a button thanks to For You P.R. - they are awesome and are helping me with many of my upcoming events. If you need PR help, check them out - they rock! If you have a blog or website and would like to support Nate Rocks the World, you can find the code for the button in the side margin toward the bottom -------->
  • Finally – there is so much going on in December, including a book tour and some radio shows! Get all the scoop on my website. Many thanks to For You P.R. and Cheryl from Pump Up Your Book for organizing everything!


Hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in. Leave me a comment and let me know what’s in your Friday Five. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Farsighted: Who Needs Vampires?

I know, I know – vampires are all the rage. Or so I’m told. You see the truth is, I’ve never read any of the Twilight books (cue gasping.) In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever read any book involving a vampire – the extent of my “vampireness” goes only to a Halloween costume I wore many years ago. So when Emlyn Chand asked me to review her debut YA novel, Farsighted, I was relieved to find out there were no vampires involved.

Instead, I found a world filled with psychics, intrigue, danger, and a smidge of romance. All of these were interesting story points on their own, but what really brought Farsighted together for me was the fact that it was written in the voice of a sixteen year old – not any sixteen year old, mind you, but one who is blind.

When the story opens, we are introduced to Alex Kosmitoras, who has been blind since birth. He does not want or need any special favors. He is comfortable with who he is. Alex relies on his other senses to get him through the day, so when voices and scenes start to get jumbled in his head, he begins to realize something more powerful is going on. With the help of some new friends, he is able to piece together the extent of his gift, ultimately using it to try to keep danger at bay.

Emlyn Chand does a great job of putting the reader into sixteen-year-old Alex Kosmitoras’ shoes. The story is fast paced and has the perfect amount of teen angst worked into the plot. The ending gives enough closure, but also has quite a few unanswered questions, leaving plenty of room for a sequel.

Even skeptics will walk away believing “vampires are out and psychics are in” after reading Farsighted.





Blog Tour Notes


THE BOOK:  Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can
still “see” things others can’t.  When his unwanted visions of the future begin
to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on
destiny and demand it reconsider. Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback
edition will be available on November 24 (for the author’s birthday).

THE CASH PRIZES:  Guess what? You could win a $100 Amazon gift card as
part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post
you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $100 too! Please help by voting for my
blog in the traffic-breaker poll. To cast your vote, visit the official Farsighted blog tour page and scroll all the way to the
bottom. Thank you for your help with that.

THE GIVEAWAYS:  Win 1 of 10 autographed copies of Farsighted
before its paperback release by entering the giveaway on GoodReads. Perhaps you’d like an autographed postcard from the author; you
can request one on her site.

THE AUTHOR:  Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having
emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not
writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity.
Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit www.emlynchand.com for more info. Don’t
forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!


Monday, November 14, 2011

A Peek At My Inbox


I don’t know how your email display works, but I have mine set up so I can see the first few words of the actual message displayed before I click on anything. I like to know exactly what I am in for before I open my mail:



So when I saw the following in my inbox, I considered not opening the message at all – the preview said:

I'll be honest, when I received your book and flipped through it, I was a bit disappointed

Ouch! This email was in response to a follow up email I had sent to someone who wanted to review Nate Rocks the World back in July. I hadn’t heard from her and was curious as to whether she was still interested in writing a review. Apparently the answer was no.

But, I reminded myself that all feedback is good feedback and decided to open the email all the same.  I braced myself, and here is what I found:

I'll be honest, when I received your book and flipped through it, I was a bit disappointed that there were no illustrations, and was a bit skeptical if my son (who's big into graphic novels right now) would even pick it up.  But I left it in the book basket in his reading area, and it took a while (ok a long while, considering we had it for months) but once he picked it up, he couldn't put it down, and absolutely raved about it.  When I asked if he'd have liked it better with pictures, he said "no, the descriptions are really good!"  High praise from a kid who scoffs at books without pictures.  :)

So I read the book myself in order to write a better review than just taking his word, and I found I couldn't put it down!  I really enjoyed it and could see why Alex thought pictures weren't needed.  I plan to write it up within the week and will let you know when the post goes live.

Any chance there's another Nate Rocks book in the works?  I know my son would love to read it.

Fondly,

Nancy

Lesson learned .... turn off preview option on email display and open all emails!

And here is a link to the “official review” by Nancy from 5 Minutes For Books:

http://www.5minutesforbooks.com/19563/nate-rocks-the-world/



Thanks Nancy!

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http://bit.ly/KPTbooks


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Nate Rocks the World: Birthday Edition!


My birthday is coming up this week... and while I will not tell you my age, I do have the perfect Six Sentence Sunday for you! In this scene, the Rockledge household is getting ready for big sister Abby's 14th birthday. It's Nathan's worst nightmare - 10 annoying girls sleeping over at his house... luckily he has a plan...

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Our living room looks like a purple and pink volcano erupted, which is good if you like that sort of thing, but I, for one, do not. Mom and Abby spent all afternoon hanging pink and purple streamers all through the living room and even in the kitchen, which also had a pink and purple tablecloth on the table along with pink and purple plates, cups, napkins, and forks. In fact, I am pretty sure the A&P must now be sold out of anything pink or purple.

Abby says I’m not allowed anywhere near the living room, which is fine with me. Who would want to hang out with Abby and her friends anyway? Besides, I have more important things to do.


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Want to know what Nathan has planned? All digital versions of Nate Rocks the World are now $1.99. Books make the perfect holiday gift! For purchase info, visit my website: www.karentoz.com


Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Non-Dairy Dilemma


When I started this blog, I swore I wouldn’t post about it, and now here I am posting about it: poop. Well not entirely, but sort of. You see without getting into too much detail my 5 year old has been having issues in this area for about 6 months now (a very long and messy six months.) After several diagnostics and many doctor appointments, we decided to try to alter his diet.

Many of you at this point are now saying, “Well duh!”

But for us, it wasn’t so obvious. We kept a food (and poop) diary for him for several weeks and did not notice any patterns, so we sort of dismissed the notion that it could be a food issue. He’s been eating the same foods for the last 4 years (really he has!) and never had this problem before, so it made sense to us it had to be something else.

But more pressing than the diary, is the fact that diet modifications in this particular case, had to be our last ditch effort.

For those who do not know my son, let me explain. He is the world’s pickiest eater. He doesn’t even like pizza and only occasionally now will eat chicken nuggets.

A while back I wrote about his “White Diet”- well it has only gotten worse. He basically was down to: mac n cheese, cereal (with milk), mac n cheese, grilled cheese, peanut butter sandwich, mac n cheese, yogurt, pasta with butter, mac n cheese, ravioli (with spinach woohoo!) with butter, waffles, pancakes, mac n cheese, hot dogs, crackers (with cheese), and scrambled eggs (with cheese), oh and mac n cheese. He does sometimes eat fruit and I can occasionally get some carrots into him.  That’s it. Period. On the flip side, he barely has a sweet tooth and does not like candy, cake, or cookies (is this my kid??) To my son’s credit – he does try a lot of different foods – he just honestly does not like them.

The doctor suggested we eliminate dairy. WHAT?!  Did I mention my kid eats mac n cheese almost every day?

Forget about stumbling into that ditch – we had now fallen headfirst.

To my surprise and relief – my son didn’t seem to notice the switch to soy milk and soy cheese. I found non dairy margarine and have been able to substitute just about everything (except the mac n cheese & those spinach ravioli!) He doesn’t seem to miss yogurt, and I haven’t brought it up.  The bigger relief is that my son’s tummy troubles have seemed to have completely disappeared!


So is my poor 5 year old now destined to never have mac n cheese again? I did find some soy shredded cheese at the market today, I’m hoping I can whip something up for my little trooper.  Any ideas?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Friday Five 11-11-11



Before we get into the Friday Five – I thought I would take a moment to thank all of the brave and honorable men and women who have worked and continue to work so hard to keep us safe not only on this Veteran’s Day, but every day. We so appreciate the sacrifices you have made and continue to make. Thank you so very much for your service and protection.





On to this week’s happenings:

1. The Plague. Not really, but a nasty head cold made it’s rounds this weekend. Even the kittens had colds! I spent a lovely Saturday and much of Sunday sleeping it off. I think it worked, because I’m feeling much better. My husband and youngest son still have the remains of that lovely cough. Bring on the chicken soup!

2. Writing, Writing, Writing. My fingers have gotten a work out this week! I’m not officially doing NaNoWriMo, but I’ve been writing up a storm. I’m excited to tell you that I am now on chapter 9 of the next Nate Rocks book and having so much fun writing some new adventures for him. I’ve also been posting more on my blog here (check it out if you’ve missed this week’s posts – there were some fun ones!) AND I’ve been writing out some interviews and guest posts that I have coming up in December. Phew – it’s busy, busy, busy!


3. Cell Phone. This week I took my 11-year-old to get her first cell phone. It is still mind boggling to me that 11-year-olds even have cell phones, but to be honest she is one of the last of her friends to have one. When my son was her age, I thought it was the most absurd thing I had ever heard, but eventually gave in at some point during sixth grade. I have to admit, it is nice to be able to text them when I need to get a message to them. My daughter originally wanted an iphone – um – no ... we then found one we could both agree with. Of course she picked out a purple case.


4. Thanksgiving. Yup – While many are getting ready for the December holidays already, I'm thinking about Thanksgiving. I’m cooking this year. It’s been a few years since I’ve done the cooking, and I’m excited (especially now that I have a working oven... I’ll blog about that another day.) I’ll be cooking for 12 people, and I bought my bird this week! He is resting comfortably in the freezer. Now on to the side dishes!





5. Book News. Movie Time! Okay, before you get too excited, no – Nate Rocks the World hasn’t been picked up by Pixar... but I do have a video now playing on You Tube! Here it is:



Let me know what you think! There is also a giveaway going on right now at www.momdoesreviews.com. Enter to win a signed copy of the paperback version of Nate Rocks the World. Would prefer a digital copy? Well, for a limited time, Nate Rocks is now just $1.99 for your Kindle, Nook and IPad. Visit http://www.karentoz.com/books--purchase-info.html for details.

I hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in and be sure to tell me what’s on your Friday Five in the comments! See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: The Conduit, by Stacey Rourke

When my fellow author, Stacey Rourke, posted on Facebook she was looking for reviewers for her recently published YA novel, The Conduit, I couldn’t resist. She had been tweeting and posting messages on Facebook about her book for the few weeks approaching its release, and it looked pretty interesting. The timing for me was perfect: I had just finished a YA book I had really enjoyed reading and was in the mood to keep the momentum going.

Talk about momentum! The Conduit is full of mystery and is action packed. At one point, I found myself completely visualizing this book on the big screen, something I do not do very often.

The story begins with three siblings travelling to Georgia to stay with their Grandmother after a series of break-ins in their hometown spooks their mother. When Celeste, the middle child, notices a glowing bird in her grandmother’s yard, her curiosity gets the best of her. We quickly learn that Celeste and her siblings were chosen by their ancestors to fight off evil spirits. With their new mystical super hero powers, they set off to save the world.

Stacey Rourke is an expert storyteller, keeping me interested and engaged through the entire book. (I may or may not have lost track of time while reading this book last night while I was supposed to be cooking dinner for my family ... sorry about the leftovers kids!) There was just no way I could put this story down. The last chapter was so well written, but I have to say that the best part of the book came during the epilogue. Let’s just say, I’m glad I wasn’t alone in a dark house when I read it... serious c-r-e-e-p-y factor (in a good way) and completely unexpected!

I can’t wait for the next book in this series! I think my teens will love this book as much as I did.

P.S. This book also has my new all time favorite line in it: “I bet Robin never made Batman stop for chips.”

The Conduit is available at Amazon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Week 3 With the Kittens

It's hard to believe we've had them for 3 weeks now - they are so sweet.... when they are asleep. No - I'm just kidding. They are awesome, but we've stopped calling them by their given names of Wolverine & Stormy. Now they are known as Chubba Wubba (aka Chubby) & Trouble:

 Chubba:


& Trouble:


She looks sweet doesn't she? But look what she can do to a laptop cord in just seconds:


But really - how can you get mad at all this cuteness?






Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ten Things I Repeat Daily

The other day I wrote a post about sounding like a broken record... well here’s why. On any given day, you can hear me say almost all of the following:



  1. To my 5yr old: Don’t play on the chairs (for variety, I’ll sometimes say: Sit the right way.)

  2. To my teen: Are you wearing a belt? This also goes with “Pull up your pants.”(No – we don’t all want to see your boxers and no, I don’t care what the cool look is.)

  3. To my teen and tween: Are you awake? (A grunt is their usual 6:30am reply)... later in the morning, we add: Did you hang up your wet towel, Did you brush your teeth, and Did you make your bed. If I get a "yes" to one of those three questions, we are off to a good start.

  4. To my husband: Some form of: Have a Good Day, Good Luck with... and/or Drive Carefully.

  5. To my 5yr old: Go potty. *sigh*

  6. To all 3 kids: Do you have homework?

  7. To my tween & teen: Did you do your homework?

  8. To my teen: Did you hand in your homework?

  9. To my tween: Your shoes are untied.

  10. To everyone: Love you!




Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Kids are Missing Out!




photo credit: Vinyl via photopin (license)
A while back, I was telling my kids again to pick up their wet towels (another post for another day), when I found myself saying, “I sound like a broken record!” It occurred to me at that moment that my kids don’t actually know what a “broken record” sounds like.... or any record actually.

I then started thinking about all the other things from my past my kids really have no idea about. Nevermind the fact that they look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I didn’t have Internet as a kid (or a computer for that matter.)

Anyway, at the risk of aging myself... here are some of the things my kids have missed out on:

The typewriter... It’s true kids – I had to type all my papers out on a typewriter – and not just any typewriter, I had to use a manual typewriter. For my high school graduation, my parents gave me an electric typewriter. Not only did it come with correction tape, but it beeped when I misspelled a word. Talk about high tech!


photo credit: Underwood Typewriter via photopin (license)


The rotary telephone... We dialed numbers – and they had funny loud rings. At some point, push button phones were all the rage. I don’t think we had one until I was in junior high (or maybe later). When the phone rang, we didn’t have caller ID. You found out who was calling when you answered (which made prank calling as kid a serious form of entertainment.) We also heard busy signals when we called someone and they were already on the phone. Call waiting? It was more like Call Back!

photo credit: squared circle ~ VHF via photopin (license)
The aerial... There was no such thing as cable tv until I was in high school and even then, we didn’t have it (pay for television – are you crazy?) We had an aerial. What is an aerial you ask? Well – it was this dial thing that we turned, and it rotated the antenna on our roof in a particular direction so it would pick up (semi-clearly) one of the seven channels that we had reception for. There were no remote controls either. In our house, we had to get up to change the channel (and turn the aerial.)

As long as we are talking about tv’s – how about:

The black and white tv... I had one in my room. It was only 9 inches and it wasn’t hooked up to the aerial, so I only could watch two channels. But it was all mine!

I also had a stereo in my room that had an 8-track player along with a turntable for those broken records. I suppose we can add turntable needles to the list, and 45’s, and the little plastic inserts you had to put in the 45’s to make them fit on your turntable.

Oh and let’s not forget about the cassette player/recorder and cassette tapes... lots and lots of cassette tapes.

Since we’re talking about cassette tapes, how about -

The Walkman... I’ll never forget when those first came out. I saved all my money just to get one! That may have been my favorite thing ever.


photo credit: Sony Walkman 80's Style via photopin (license)



I know there are plenty more, but I’m old and I tire easily, so I think I’ll take a nap now.... feel free to keep the list going in the comments!

****

http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Friday Five 11-04-11


Hi all... it’s been a rough week and it feels good to be back! So let’s get right to what’s been keeping me busy this week:

1. Grandma. As many of you know, my amazing and loving 96 year old Grandmother passed away last week. I just want to thank everyone for the incredible support you all gave. Your comments and emails truly meant so much to me. She was an incredible and special woman. I’ve been finding myself going back to last week’s Friday Five to look at her pictures almost daily. You are forever in my heart Grandma.

2. Snow! Can you believe it? We left Pennsylvania early Saturday morning to drive to Connecticut for Grandma’s funeral on Sunday. We got there just as the first flakes were falling. The next morning, we woke up to a total of 14 inches!! We lost power at my Mom’s house before noon (which wasn’t restored until Wed night!) We said prayers for Grandma by candlelight. One thing about my Grandma, she always tried to make every moment memorable... and continues to do so!




3. Happy Halloween. Every year we have a Halloween tradition... without fail my youngest gets sick. Usually there is a fever involved; last year we even had a hospital visit. This year, for the first time since he was a baby, we actually made it through trick or treating before the coughing and sneezing started. My poor little Power Ranger. Nonetheless, I think he and his older sister (aka Cookie Monster) and older brother (aka Pirate) all had a fun Halloween.... until next year.

4. Blog Award. It’s time for another installment for the Versatile Blog Award!

  •  Here’s #6 of 7 things you may not know about me: I hate talking on the phone. I can’t explain it – so please don’t take it personally if it feels like I’m rushing you off. I’d much rather you text or email me. 
  • And my blog of the week goes to: Someday, When I’m Famous... written by the uber talented Melissa Luznicky Garrett. Melissa’s blog has great writing advice, creative prompts, interviews, giveaways, and fun family posts. There is definitely something for everyone here, so stop on by and show her some love. She is also a fellow author and recently released her new book: Turning Point. If you’re looking for a good thriller that you can’t put down – this is the one!


5. Book News. As usual, there’s so much going on! For starters, ALL digital formats of Nate Rocks the World have been reduced to just $1.99 – Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, PDF, & the list goes on. For direct links, please visit my website. I’ve also been blog hopping this week! I’ve listed some of the places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting ... please stop by and say hello to these awesome bloggers:



I hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in and be sure to tell me what’s on your Friday Five in the comments! See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: Emlyn Chand - 10 Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE Writing My First Novel


This is a guest post by Emlyn Chand, author of Farsighted


When did you have enough confidence in your abilities to officially call yourself a writer?

For me, it was when I first received money for my work as a freelance columnist. For you, it may have been when you finished the first chapter of your first novel or won a prize for a short story. Maybe you never had any qualms about saddling yourself with this label. Maybe you still don’t consider yourself a “real writer.”

Me? Now I know enough to see that I was a writer long before someone handed me that first paycheck. It’s kind of something you’re born with—like it or not.

But being an author, that’s different.

The term writer focuses more on the craft—engaging in the actual activity of writing. The term author encompasses not only the craft but also the business aspect of it.

So when are you worthy of the label author? Why, when you publish your first book of course!

I write this post just days before I make the transition from writer to author. My first novel Farsighted releases on October 24, which means my 26-year-long (AKA life-long) dream is finally coming true. When I look back at the journey that brought me to the peak of this beautiful achievement, I can’t help but think of what I wish I’d have known before starting on my path.

I’ve identified 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way. Maybe you already know these things. Maybe you don’t. I’m gonna share ‘em anyway...

1. Something’s gotta give. Writing is not something you can do with just a little bit of effort. To get through the first draft, editing, what-have-you, you'll have to work hard! Yes, you could space it out over several years, but if you want to finish anytime this year, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. For me, this was less time with friends and family, less television, and less attention to my health (eating right and exercising). Oops.

2. Write what you want to write—not what you think you should be writing. Boy, this was a hard one to learn. I’ve always fallen back on being “that smart girl.” When things didn’t go right in my personal life or when I was picked last in gym class, I took pride in my intellect. Therefore, I’ve always done what I can to improve my wit and make my best trait the best it can be. That being said, I spent a long time forcing myself to read classic literature. I did enjoy it, and I still do, but it’s definitely not what I find most entertaining (YA is). Still I kept at the classic literature because it was important to me that others respect my intelligence (damaged by high school much? :-P). Naturally when I decided to write a novel, it came out as literary fiction. That’s the me I wanted to portray to the world. I wanted people to salivate over my talent and proclaim my literary merit... Except the novel wasn’t that good, because it wasn’t a piece of who I really am. Now that I’ve cozied into YA, I couldn’t be happier. And the larger facade of who I once pretended to be has lifted. I. AM. FREE. Now this lesson doesn’t just mean: don’t put on a false front. It also means: don’t chase trends. Write what your heart wants to write, and it’ll all be good in the end.

3. You’re going to make mistakes. LOTS of mistakes. Practice makes perfect. Well, it makes it better than before. You may be an excellent writer, but if you’ve never written a novel before, you’re a newbie. That’s okay too! When writing that all-important first novel, you’re pretty much going to make every mistake in the book. In my first novel, I really struggled with keeping a consistent point-of-view and writing authentic dialogue. The POV problem was very difficult to fix, but in trying, I learned an important lesson—one I couldn’t have learned if I hadn’t made such huge blunders. Now that I do know how to correct and avoid these problems, dialogue and POV are two of my strongest areas (at least that’s what readers tell me).

4. Writer’s detour is a bigger problem than writer’s block. Writer’s block gets all the PR, but it’s not as dangerous as writer’s detour. When you’re blocked you’re not moving forward. When you take a detour, you’re moving in the wrong direction. Will you get to California quicker by taking a small rest in Boise, or will you get there quicker by following a pretty red car to Ontario first? (My advice, drive straight-on through to Cali if you can). Don’t get so caught up with a minor character (or a theme you want to convey) that you stray all over the place. Which brings me to my next point...

5. Structure is important. We writers fall into two camps: pantsers and plotters. Some pantsers consider themselves superior, because their writing leads their plots—not the other way around. I used to think like that too. Even if you want to keep your plotline fluid, you need some form of structure. Shudder at the thought of outlining? Then mapping your characters is crucial. You need to know where you’re going and/or who's taking you there. Otherwise you’re just groping about in the dark. Yes, writing is absolutely a creative process, but don’t under-estimate the value of good planning.

6. Novel #1 may never leave the drawer. Or it may leave the drawer, journey around the query circuit, and then come right back to where it started. My first novel DID get me an agent, but 9 drafts later, it still wasn’t good enough to publish. When my agent suggested I change 2/3 of it for draft 10, I decided to move onto my next project. I just wasn’t enjoying the process anymore. I’m so glad I finally called it quits on novel #1, because novel #2 is so much better, and now I get to put it out there into the world. If I would’ve kept agonizing over the inferior manuscript, novel #2 may have never happened!

7. When you’re done, you’re not done. I’m just a big ball of sunshine today, aren’t I? But it’s important to understand just how much work follows being “done.” Anne Lamott said it best in Bird by Bird, you’re going to write “shitty first drafts.” I can guarantee it! Don’t let that stop you, just be prepared for it.

8. Writing is a business just as much as it’s an art. Getting a novel published and promoting it once it’s out there is infinitely more work than writing a novel in the first place. That’s not to under-value the writing process, but it’s true. Sure, you can finish your novel, self-publish it, and then do virtually nothing to promote it. Fine. But if you actually want to sell copies of your book, you’ve gotta handle the business side of things. Finding an agent is an extremely formal business interaction—you even have to write fancy business (AKA query) letters. Marketing your book is a TON of work. It’s pretty fun (at least, I think so, but I moonlight as a book publicist, so I realize I might not be normal). However, being fun is not equivalent to being easy. Not even close. Expect lots of work and lots of stress and not very much sleep. The good news: you get out what you put in, so give it all you can!

9. Querying will destroy your soul. My unhappy place is remembering query letter Hell. I honestly can’t remember anything harder in my life. Ever. Make sure you have a good support system in place. Because even if you’re brilliant, you can pretty much expect a slew of rejections. I ultimately got an agent but had to suffer through 60 “not for us”s first. Of course, it hurts. As writers, we pour our hearts and souls into our manuscript. Our words are a part of who we are. Having a faceless stranger tell you it’s not good enough is pure torture. End of argument.

10. You will sustain injuries. Gosh, my neck is killing me while I’m writing this post. You’re probably going to get neck and back pain too. Headaches from staring at the computer too long. Possible eye problems. Definite poor posture. Maybe even carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s just the way it goes, so be prepared.

Seems pretty cynical, doesn’t it? I <3 the craft and would never abandon it (like I even have a choice), but I find that those who are starting out with visions of Stephen King or JK Rowling-esque fame already see the pretty side of writing—the glamor. Having a balanced picture is so important. Even still, all the practical knowledge just can’t compare to experiential knowledge. Follow YOUR path to author-hood, make your own mistakes, learn lessons from them, and then share with the rest of us.


Blog Tour Notes

THE BOOK: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback edition will be available on November 24 (for the author’s birthday).

THE CASH PRIZES: Guess what? You could win a $100 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $100 too! Please help by voting for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll. To cast your vote, visit the official Farsighted blog tour page and scroll all the way to the bottom. Thank you for your help with that.

THE GIVEAWAYS: Win 1 of 10 autographed copies of Farsighted before its paperback release by entering the giveaway on GoodReads. Perhaps you’d like an autographed postcard from the author; you can request one on her site.

THE AUTHOR: Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit www.emlynchand.com for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!

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