Monday, June 24, 2013

Using Goodreads to Choose A Book

Okay, readers, do you go from one book to the next with hardly a word about it OR do you give out reviews or recommendations? Are you a feedback kind of person? I'm learning to be. I've updated Renae's Reads on my sidebar with a link to my Goodreads ratings and reviews. You can easily view what I rated the past five books I read or click on it to find out more or other books I've listed. 

A few years back I told my friend that I enjoyed her book and she asked me if I could post a review on Goodreads. It was new to me but I found it easy enough to create an account and navigate my way around. Now I feel it almost a duty to at least rate a book. Sometimes I tap out my opinion. Who looks at it? The authors, maybe someone on my friend list, or someone checking out judgement of a book. I hope it matters to someone. Since I took the time to read or listen to a book, why not give what I can? 

Social media alerted me that an author friend discovered her book on a Goodreads list. The ranking of her book could go higher, creating more exposure of said book, by people voting or putting it on their "To Read" list. I'm not going to get into a debate of popularity contests or manipulation here, except to say that it plays into the equation. Ratings have their issues as well. You've probably heard that discussion before. I can only account for myself and hope that my honest evaluation might even out someone else's crazy one.

How do you choose a book to read? Do you look at what others are reading or how a book gets rated? Do you sometimes branch out from your favorite author or genre? I'm will to take more of a chance when it's a library book rather than a purchase. I recently won an Amazon gift card (thank you, Jordan McCollum) and could use some suggestions how to spend it. Or tell me if Goodreads works for you. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Author Interview - Circle of Sisters

Welcome to JoLyn Brown, whom I am interviewing today. JoLyn is the author/compiler of the new inspirational book, A Circle of Sisters: Inspirational Stories from Latter-day Saint Women. These are fun, inspirational stories gathered from LDS Relief Society sisters. I happen to have an entry in this book. *Cheesy grin* JoLyn and I connected as a result of having similar projects where we were both collecting inspirational stories--hers about LDS women, mine about LDS bishops. I know by experience how hard it is to get the word out and personally ask people to submit. I am pleased to see her project completed. And such a lovely cover, don't you agree? You can enter the Goodreads giveaway thru June 21 for a copy of this book through this link.
Look into the lives of ordinary Relief Society sisters as they share 50 stories of love and service. Whether it is facing a new calling or dealing with the sickness or loss of a loved one, these
stories testify of the very real power of women devoted to God and His work. In trial and doubt, in faith and in joy, sometimes all it takes is a circle of sisters to change a life for the better.
Purchase from Amazon: 
OR from Desert Book:

Let's find out more about author JoLyn Brown:
Me:   Please tell us something about you. What do you do for fun (besides writing)? What is your favorite snack? Where would you like to travel? 
JoLyn:   I like to make things, sewing, scrapbooking, or anything like that. I also like gardening and reading. My favorite snack is Oreo cookies. If I could travel, I’d like to go back East to see my husband’s family or to Hawaii. Australia would also be cool.
Me:   Cool indeed! I'll see if I can find us some Oreo's while we chat. What made you want to take on the Circle of Sisters project? Tell us about the journey.
JoLyn:   I think all along seeds were being planted in me to do this, but until fall of 2011, I didn't really see them. After the first idea came to me, I spent about two weeks doubting myself. I mean, honestly, what was I thinking? There are countless women out there much more qualified, why would I feel a prompting to do something like gathering Relief Society stories? Darkness settled on me. Nervous anxiety made me irritable and emotional. I went to my mother. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. We talked a long time about everything else in my life. Finally, I let out a little bit about this idea I’d had. “Why wouldn’t you do it?” My mom asked. All of the darkness faded. It wasn’t much, but I loved the Relief Society and a testimony was burning in my chest that God has a great work for his daughters. Whatever happened, even if all I ended up with was a folder of stories to keep in a sock drawer, I needed to do this.
Me:   Glad your mom helped you sort that out. How did you go about collecting these stories?
JoLyn:   I started out by asking for stories online. It soon became clear, though, that God didn’t intend for this to be as easy as that. Some of the stories arrived through the call for stories I made. The rest where gathered one by one as I personally approached women. I’m not really that comfortable doing things like that, but I’d be sitting there in Church, and see a sister I felt like I should talk to about the project. One time, the sister sat there stunned. “I don’t think I have any stories.” She told me. A moment later, her expression changed, “but there was this one time . . .” Her beautiful story ended up in the book. I have no doubt it was inspired.
Me:   Of course it couldn't be easy! (That part made me laugh--I really get it.) But I think the process is what endears each story that someone makes the effort to submit. Do you have a favorite?
JoLyn:   I spent about a year with these stories before Walnut Springs picked them up. By the time I signed the contract, each one had made a difference to me in some way. Stories I didn’t relate to became my story as I went through different challenges. I don’t have a favorite, but if you asked me about specific experiences, I could tell you which ones made a difference when I needed it.
Me:   Cool, but sounds rather personal. I'll move on to what you are working on now.
JoLyn:   I’m trying to find a publisher for a contemporary LDS Young Adult novel I’ve written. I’m also almost through the first draft of my first attempt at YA fantasy.
Me:   Awesome. Anything else you care to share?
JoLyn:   I think the main thing I learned through this is to never doubt that you can be a part of the Lord’s work. One sister in the book mentions how it doesn’t matter how inadequate you feel, when you desire to serve the Lord, he will make you equal to whatever you face. I couldn’t agree more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Non-Sugarcoated Writing Journey

I'm sitting here thinking it's time for an update of my writing journey and I'm stumped as to what to say. The little devil on one shoulder whispers in my ear, "Lie a little. Sound impressive. Gloss over how little you've actually accomplished and make it all sound fabulous." My other ear hears a scoff. "You can't do that! You'll give the wrong impression that writing is easy and life never gets in the way." I brush the imps from my shoulders like they were dandruff. Half the year has slipped past and I'm ready for a clean start. 

This has been a rough year of distractions, mostly related to changing residences. My online critique group fizzled. I'm stuck in getting from point B to point C in my YA suspense story--probably just need to do some what ifs and thinking it through, but those distractions have been the easier route. I've seen progress too. I do have a Book of Mormon novel in review for publication, another novel started, and I'm finally collecting enough stories for my inspirational nonfiction, Bishop Stories. But it feels like I've been picking at this and that. I need to FOCUS.

Deciding where to place my focus and in what increments of time is making sense. If I schedule Tuesday morning to unpack boxes and the afternoon gets devoted to begging requesting bishop stories, then I have a PLAN. Being SPECIFIC gets me further than asking myself, "What do I feel like doing today?" I've done way too much of that lately. And you know what? I'm ready to change that.

I hereby declare that for the remainder of June I will focus on completing Bishop Stories. (Notice I didn't say it would be completed. Keep goals realistic.) That's where the journey is taking me right now. If you have a humorous or inspirational story to share involving a LDS bishop, shoot me an e-mail and I'll give you the deets. Like the fact that identities are kept private.
Happy journeying this week!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spy Advice, Book Review, and Contest

We're celebrating the launch of I, Spy! Read on to find out more about the book, get a cool spy tip for your daily life and download a free gift! Then find I, Spy on Amazon, Kobo, and!

About the Book

Canada is probably the last place you'd expect to find an American spy. But even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets—and so does CIA operative Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there’s one thing she can’t do: tell her aerospace engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation.

It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy?

She can make this work, too—until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her schedule isn't the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.

More about I, Spy | Add I, Spy to your Goodreads to-read list!

Advance praise

The edge-of-my-seat undercover operations kept me turning pages, and just when I thought the story would go one way, plot twists sent it down another path. Thrilling, adventurous, and romantic, this book has it all for an Alias fan.
Jami Gold, award-winning author

Jordan McCollum’s debut novel is a delightful combination of mystery, action, and romance. Talia’s CIA training and almost OCD caution feed her quirky humor while exposing her very human fears and insecurities. Add in her boyfriend Danny, and it's enough to twist your heart.
Donna K. Weaver, author of A Change of Plans

Clever, suspenseful, and charged with political intrigue and romance, I, Spy is the perfect combination for a fun and captivating read!
Michelle Davidson Argyle, author of Monarch
About the author

An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can’t resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don’t want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most—she’s a mom.

Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah.

Jordan offered me some official spy novelist advice in connection with her new spy novel (review to follow). She didn't know that my question stems from my current work in progress, Perception, about a high school boy whose senior project evolves into danger with car thieves. Let's see what her spy savvy has to offer: 

Hone your spy skills

What do you do when a friend asks about the provenance of your car?

Further hone your spy skills by reading I, Spy!

The clue!

As part of the debut of I, Spy, Jordan is hosting a contest to figure out the song that inspired the story. Collect clues at each blog stop and use your spy skills to piece together the clues to win a $25 Amazon gift card! How to enter

The clue for this stop is:
The I, Spy song peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts.

The freebie!

Thanks for participating in this launch tour! As a free gift this week, Jordan is giving out free copies of Mr. Nice Spy, an I, Spy prequel novella. Simply to go You can also get 40% off I, Spy!

Now for my review:
I was pulled into I, Spy right away from the beautiful cover and intriguing first line into getting to know Talia. A saucy attitude and being good at her spy job mixes with Talia's compulsive obsessions. A fun, admirable, and flawed character combination that hits its mark. Throw in romance and great spy adventures to win readers' hearts. I liked the realism of using the Russian language and Canadianisms to bring the setting alive, teach me something, and add validity. A clean read for YA and up. I'm giving this book a rare five stars. My only issue was my being visual enough to notice and have to adjust to the use of parentheses for Talia's thoughts or explanations. If it had been an audio book this wouldn't have bothered me. I was over it before too long. The ending includes an unexpected life lesson learned. I look forward to Talia's next adventure.