Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 1)

And should they do so at their author blogs?

Welcome, friends! Warmer temperatures are hinting at spring–Yay!–and we’ve sprung our clocks forward. (I’ll get over the loss of an hour’s sleep. More sun and light, please!)

So the other day fellow author and online friend Carrie Rubin referenced a blog post by social media guru Kristen Lamb. The question: should authors write reviews for books they’ve read and/or publish them on their blogs?

Of course, both articles got me thinking, enough to get into one of my long-winded comments. (The kind that has blog-post-of-my-own potential—all as I happened to be trudging through a book whose characters caught my interest, but had me tangling big-time with issues relative to the prose.)

As per Carrie Rubin’s post: “One of the things (Kristen Lamb) recommends is never writing a bad book review. In fact, Kristen suggests writers should not publish book reviews on their blogs at all: ‘“Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’ My opinion is we can’t do both.”’

Carrie tends to agree and ponders the notion that an author writing reviews could be a conflict of interest. She also supplied valid arguments for both sides of doing so—more so for NOT writing a bad review—with support noted for the benefit and/or need for reviews by indie authors.

I don’t disagree with Kristen Lamb on “Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’” At the risk of sounding full of myself (which I pray I am not), and as a reader—a.k.a., consumer-of-books—AND writer/author, I hope I bring an expanded (?) set of skills to the ‘review’ table.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll get into those a little later this week. What are your thoughts so far?

Have a great day,

Joanna

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5th Graders, Paying It Forward and Projects

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! I so love spring and am very excited to be getting the garden together while I “grow” a number of other projects!

A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of guest-teaching about Point-of-View to a friend’s 5th-grade class. I developed a very basic workshop several years ago, to present at a monthly Liberty States Fiction Writers, a wonderful group of pay-it-forward kind of folks. Took me about an hour to put together a simple PowerPoint, and now I have another workshop-with-slide-show to add to a growing resume!

The kids were phenomenal. Most looked interested (as in, only a few yawned), and many of them asked all kinds of great questions. A few even groaned when their teacher said we had about 10 minutes left before they had to break for lunch—how cool is that?

Aside: For those of you who don’t know this, I’m putting it out there: I want to talk to big groups of people on a regular basis. I have a variety of topics.

Workshops are: writing-related; educational/occupational therapy (including assistive technology, handwriting, sensory, etc); parenting. (That’s what happens when one’s interests are all over the place, lol.) Anyone who wants further detail, y’all can contact me here or message me on Facebook.

Glad I put fingers to the keys this morning to write about jeans! (I’ll work on putting that together as next week’s post. (Working hard to keep things short and sweet here. )

Here are links to a couple of things that caught my interest:

This one is for dolphin lovers—like myself. They are SUCH incredible creatures.

This post by Tammy Dennings Maggy spoke to me big-time. (Have a feeling it will to many of you as well.) Please take a moment and welcome her back to the blogosphere!

As always, please feel free to SHARE—not just my content, but any or both of the articles above as well. As the lovely Jane Porter once said in a workshop I attended, one can never underestimate how far-reaching what one says and/or does is, or who you’ll touch. (I paraphrased. Don’t remember where the notes are to that workshop.)

Have a wonderful week, folks, and a very Happy Mother’s Day to whomever the greeting applies!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Books, Books, Books!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Yes, I am FINISHED with my parenting-related series. (I linked to the first one. Feel free to take it from there, if you’re new or just interested.) Since then, I got inspired to do something a little more fun (or so I hope!).

Recently read a blog post by author, NYTBSA and indie publisher Bob Mayer. (His background is far more extensive and impressive than the little I listed here, lol. He ties all his experience in when giving one of his lively and informative workshops, which I was fortunate enough to participate in just last weekend.) When my comment to his post started going over the two-paragraph mark, I realized I’d been inspired to write one of my own.

In his post, Bob asked a lot of questions regarding reading, but these two spoke to me the most:

(1) What turned me on to reading, and (2) which is the first book that excited me?

Can’t remember what turned me on to reading: maybe my interest in almost anything or inner restlessness? (That would include reading bottles of cleaner in the bathroom, etc.)

I probably read EVERYTHING that passed my hands after the skill was established thru the Dick and Jane readers. Not that I claim those as the first to make my heart go pitter-patter. That questionable honor goes to the book that got me in trouble, to which I refer below.) The Little House Books are my all time favorites.

Little House on the Prairie cover

Aside: My kids and husband are S.I.C.K. of Laura Ingalls references to life then v. now, lol.

We had a great main library a few miles from home. My dad was really proud of my reading and brought me almost any time I asked. I’d check out the max amount of books every time.

Another aside: I rarely  brought everything back on time. Once, my mom forked over $21 or so in fines on one trip. That’s a lot of $$ for that time—and I was sworn to secrecy. She was afraid my dad would flip. Being Daddy’s li’l girl and how much he supported my passion, I’m sure he would have gotten over it soon enough.

The Poseidon Adventure was the first novel I read AFTER seeing the movie. That taught me to watch first, read later—the written version ALWAYS beats a screenplay, with no disappointment either way. That tenet held true for John Jakes North and South. (Of course I read the second part before the second ABC miniseries and was seriously disappointed. Not even Patrick Swayze and/or James Read made up for the differences from novel to the small screen.)

Recommending the first explicit romance novel I picked up got me in trouble with my older cousin and confirmation sponsor about the “literature” I was reading. (Talk about a heart going pitter-patter, lol, especially since I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading in some of those scenes. What did I know? I thought it was great and recommended it. The librarian had no business checking that stuff out to a 13 y/o, lol.)

Loves Avenging Heart cover(Wow. This many years later I recognized this cover immediately, lol.)

As a young adult, I came across Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind. That probably sparked my love of romance, and got me started on ALL of that author’s books (and maybe a deeply buried desire to emulate her sweeping love stories). BTW, that’s where the Aislinn in my nome-de-plume originated, from The Wolf and the Dove. Never had a daughter—nor would that lovely name have paired with what would have been her Italian surname. BUT: my debut novel was my baby and my dream. Since Aislinn is Gaelic (?) for vision or dream it seemed fitting.

Ashes in the Wind   wolf and dove

If I HAD to pick ONE book as a favorite: maybe I’d have to go with a tie between Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places and Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. (I’ve only read the latter three times. Last round, I bawled. Not sure I could do it again.)

Hidden Places  Flowers for Algernon

So, let’s open this up. How would you answer Bob Mayer’s questions and how has (or does) your reading influence you in little (or big) ways?

Have a great day and week all,

Joanna

God, a Keurig and Working My Way Back

Hi all! So glad to be back (and having a little fun with the blog-theme, in honor of Halloween later this week)! So sorry for going off radar since July of this year. Hope all is well with all of you. Special thanks to my newest follower, the awesome PJ Reece, whose rockin-insightful writing-related posts never fail to inspire me. I am humbled. If you are so inclined, please check out his wonderful website and blog! His Story Structure to Die For is an EXCELLENT reference and a quick, fun and enlightening read, too.

Geez! One paragraph in and off-topic already. Please indulge me in the thoughts that follow.  Please note, I enjoy sharing stories of moments in life that inspire me. What you take from that is entirely up to you! 🙂

Having said that…

I do not consider myself religious, at least not anymore. I was raised in the Catholic church; my firm belief in its tenets at that time was among the reasons I managed to make choices that helped keep me out of trouble as a teen and as a young adult. By my mid-twenties, however, I began more of a spiritual journey.

Today I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I choose to name the guiding force in my life God. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, but not necessarily tied to the teachings of any particular religion. (“The closer I get to God, the further I get from religion,” Bono of U2 fame has said on more than one occasion. That statement has stuck with me since the first time I heard my birthday buddy say it, well over a decade ago. Yep, U2 and I, we’ve been around a while, lol. And Bono and I just happen to have been born the same day, same year–you know ;).)

Anyway, I had one heck of summer, friends. First one ever I didn’t mind seeing come to an end, even with the return to the school day on a weekly basis. For once, I looked forward to the routine a regular schedule would bring.

As I stated in another post, a family matter took up a slew of my time and energy. For too many days and then weeks in a row, I woke up feeling depressed, overwhelmed and wondering how to handle a situation and somehow maintain balance in my—and my family’s—day to day.

One Saturday morning in particular, I was feeling pretty blue. Hubby came up to let me know he’d had to brew a second pot of coffee; for some reason, the coffee seeped out somewhere from the bottom of the coffee maker and all over the counter. Since that’s pretty much what happened with the last one (same brand, different model), I figured it might be time to break down and get the Keurig, a move I’d been avoiding. (I’m not crazy for the single cup coffee maker, not to mention the price for one is typically in the triple digits, or at the higher end of the double digits.)

That morning’s weather happened to be perfect. I went out for my walk and met up with some friends. I shared my main concerns and put out a general request for help relative to the family situation, willing to take any suggestions and/or offers. Two ladies approached me with very viable possibilities. Another told me she was living a similar situation. She gave me her phone number, to call or text any time, “just to talk” should I feel the need.

My walk home had me feeling deeply grateful, humbled and in awe of how I believe God had shown up, proof that He was working in my life that day. My older son was calling me, too, wanting to know when I’d be home. He had a “surprise” he was convinced I was going to love.

My thoughts shifted to my boys and how blessed I feel with how they’re turning out so far. At just about 17 and 15, I can’t ask for better. (Well, maybe the younger one—sometimes—but overall he’s much improved, lol.) More proof that God was present, and that all would work out with my family situation.

Soon as I got home I was hit hard with another reminder of God’s action. Funny how, on some days, divine intervention shows a direct line.

On my counter sat a boxed Keurig coffee maker.

Huh????

My older son had just bought it a yard sale, at the low double-digit price I’d paid for the coffee maker that leaked earlier that morning.

If that ain’t divine intervention folks, I don’t know what is. (Just sayin’. )

photo (46) (Here they rest, side by side. The kid was so excited, hubby and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he wasn’t keeping a second coffee maker on the counter. At least he uses it daily–sometimes more. :))

Anything like that ever happen to you? Do you see it as coincidence, or something bigger than you or me stepping in? Take a moment and inspire me some more, please.

And just sayin’, have a great day!

Thanks for stopping in, and for your time and support.

Hugs,

Joanna

Wimbledon Tradition: “Strawberries and Cream” (Joanna-adapted!)

In Honor of Wimbledon—“Strawberries and Cream”!

Good day friends, guests and followers,

photo (21) This li’l cutie (might be Henry, a regular) got caught red-pawed in my yard and had the nerve to look directly at the camera too. Never again in this lifetime, lol. 

rhododendron in vase Rhododendron from my front yard. Just liked how this looked and had to share! 🙂

Of course this post was supposed to be only about fruit and cream, but y’all know how easily sidetracked Joanna gets. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

So sad to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go out so early in this highly anticipated annual tournament (especially after my ranting about seeds in my previous post). End of an era? Changing of the guard?

Possibly. I’m sure though, providing a little more time between the French Open and Wimbledon Tennis Championships would so a difference make. About three weeks separate the “Channel Slams” (partly because of each’s location across the English Channel). Not exactly much time to recover from the clay court season and prepare for a ridiculously short-lived grass court season. Heck: the Australian is held the end of January. The next slam is the French, which starts the Monday before Memorial Day (U.S. A.) in May. Wimbledon follows beginning the last week of June. Then no grand-slam action until the last week of August. I’m sure there are required tournaments to be played during the hard-court season, but players can also build in a little regroup time too.  (IMHO, the scheduling officials really need to look at this. Players are human after all. Then again, what do I know?)

Oh well, it is what it is, and Wimbledon is obviously happening without these fan-favorite past champions. It’s also going on minus a handful of top male players and women (i.e., Victoria Azarenka) out with injuries after slips and slides on the slick grass surface of the first week. Former Grand Slam champion, Wimbledon finalist, Tennis Hall of Fame and current Davis cup captain Jim Courier commented about the game being so much more aggressive now. The Wimbledon courts are still being groomed as they were about a century ago, when play was with wooden racquets and the balls didn’t move as hard and fast as they do nowadays. Hmm: very interesting point.

All Wimby 2013 facts and conjecture aside, this tourney is best known for its traditions. Wearing all white garb on the court. No play on “Middle Sunday, ”  among others.

And this one (finally): The topic of today’s post: Strawberries and Cream! A favorite, I’m sure, during every “Breakfast at Wimbledon”. Here are a few images of what theirs looks like. 0:-)

This ain’t no strawberries and whipped cream, folks. European cream is a lot different. In England, it is known as double cream, is not aerated and so thick it has be spooned as it doesn’t pour.  (This, as described by late author Laurie Colwin, in her novel Home Cooking.) I’ve had a similar Italian version (a.k.a. panna), many times over granita, similar to a “slushie” or Italian ice, in strawberry or coffee versions. Yes, many people make it here, but it just ain’t the same. (And trust, me: pure fat ain’t low in the calorie count neither.)

So: what does Joanna do? Come up with a healthy—no less tasty—version of same! (Hey, if it tastes like you’re giving something up, it’s not worth it.) And of course, it’s seriously easy-peasy.

What you’ll need (serves one person):

Fresh strawberries, hulled, or hulled and sliced. (Your choice on how many 😉 )

Roughly equal parts non-fat plain regular and Greek-strained yogurts (1/2-cup each is good, but you can adjust to taste/preference in consistency)

Vanilla (a few drops to taste)

Sugar, sugar substitute (i.e., Splenda, Stevia, etc) or honey (again, you decide how much based on how sweet you like)

Sugar-free non-dairy creamer (French vanilla or hazelnut—optional)

What to do:

Combine the yogurts, vanilla, sweetener (and non-dairy creamer); stir until smooth.

Pour over strawberries or plop them into the mix, as did I.

strawberries n cream Threw this serving together last-minute before taking off to the day job. Worked for me. 🙂

Eat and watch Wimbledon!

Mixing the yogurts creates a consistency pretty similar to that of panna and most likely, double cream. It also cuts the tartness and thickness of the Greek yogurt, while thickening up the regular yogurt. Try it and let me know what you think. Feel free to substitute blueberries, peaches—whatever your favorites are!

I also keep thinking about freezing myself some yogurt pops using this mix. Again, it’s all about consistency with NO FAT (or sugar, should you go that route).

So, what do you think? Ready to give it a try?

*You can also use pre-flavored vanillas of each or one. (Doesn’t matter which one). I stick to plain yogurts b/c the ready-made tend to be very high in sugar, and the sugar-free version is a bit too sweet for my taste.

Happy rest of Wimbledon–and the week, of course!

Joanna

Romance and Malware/Adware Removal

Good morning and happy Saturday everyone. Looking forward to the Madrid Tennis Open Championships getting underway! The top four men are scheduled to head up the draw. (That would be: Rafa, Roger, Nole and Andy.) VERY interested to see how it will be seeded; who will be the last man standing, as well as how it might impact Roland Garros (a.k.a., the French Open Tennis Championships) later this month. (It’s all hubby’s fault. He opted for a FIOS package that included Tennis Channel. :D)

Thanks to those of you who stopped in this past Monday! Here is a photo of the loverly flowers hunny surprised me with AFTER we promised each other no gifts, just a card. He NEVER listens 😉 and I should know better.

IMAG0466[1]

So go figure. Last night before going to bed I drafted a post. (It’s been relegated to the future.) As you’ve already figured I got sidetracked after I started working on removing the annoying Snap.Do toolbar and its default landing page. My older son must have inadvertently downloaded it while installing software for his friend’s iPhone. It looks like this and is ANNOYING AS ALL GET OUT. Not that it gave much return for taking up space, and I’ve learned it HIJACKS your browser. Kept redirecting me to its advertisers,  with some links to my queries at least halfway down the page. (I happen to like my Google, Bing! and Yahoo! search engines, thank you very much.)

search-snap-do

Okay, no biggie, right? All I have to do is go into the Control Panel and uninstall the program.

NOT!!!!

I let the 16-y/o take over. He said something about custom, Advanced Settings and who knows what else under Control Panel then wielded some digital magic.

Or so he thought.

Now I’m irritated. Off to Google, where I typed in how to disable snap.do (or something similar). Yay! for auto-complete, at least in this instance, ;), and for REAL search engines, where anyone can find answers to any topic s/he can imagine.

I wound up Malwaretips.com.

I immediately found Stelian Pilici‘s rockin’, totally free and highly detailed how-to article. He made it easy for me to get right to work. (All steps to do so for each browser are listed with lots of screen shots to guide you. Takes a few minutes, plus time to run the adware cleaner.)

I had to try a few times b/c I neglected to follow ALL the steps. I’m thinking running the AdwCleaner was the magic, but only after I’d taken the time to tweak BOTH the browsers I have enabled. That would be Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.) BTW, Stelian made sure to include a direct link to the AdwCleaner in the article I sighted.

What are the morals of this story?

1. As tempting as it seems to click ACCEPT when installing software off the net, read the terms and conditions (or at least scroll through them) first! Often there are boxes to un/check that can save you the trouble of having to remove items you don’t want later on. (On the bright side, I am now empowered with a tool to handle this sort of nonsense in the future.)

2. Don’t be afraid to look for an answer to your problem on the internet, especially if you’ve learned one or two things along the way. Be prudent before you click away, but at least read a how-to article. You might be surprised at how much you can handle on your own. (Techie stuff often appears more overwhelming and complicated than it is. BUT: Most of what I’ve learned has built on itself and/or can often be generalized to solve many problems.)

3. Save Malwaretips.com in your favorites! And don’t forget  to thank the guys, SHARE and/or even donate to help keep their VERY VALUABLE efforts going.

4. PC users in particular, run your malware and antispyware programs. Regularly! (Okay, I’m as guilty as the next person.) Dump cookies and run Disk Cleanup  And keep your anti-virus software up to date. (I’m seeing a short Part 2 to this article evolve here. Hope to have it written and up by next week.) I might actually be done!

Thanks, folks, and have a wonderful weekend!

Joanna