Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Indie-Fever Book Review: Spirits of Lakewood

This is my second book review. I'm happy to review Indie books and link my reviews to the Indie-Fever Reading Challenge 2013 (just click on the picture to learn about it), as well as post them on Amazon and any other book site requested. 

Here's my review of Spirits of Lakewood - Hidden Secrets by Samantha Rindfuss:

This is a Young Adult ghost story about an orphaned teen-age girl, Sophie, who goes to live with her grandmother. Sophie learns the house, and now she, is haunted by a dead girl who demands to be reunited with her dead father. Sophie is relatable and the story is cute - good for younger teens. There is a sufficient amount of suspense and fairly chilling ghost descriptions. The ending is a bit too quick, and some of the story line could be more developed, but it’s still an enjoyable read. It is Volume 1, so this could be the first book of a series of similar stories, or maybe the story will continue with the next. I can see teens wanting to read more of this story and learn whether Sophie will settle in her new hometown.

This being an Indie book, I would like to also comment on more technical issues that often come up with self-published books. The writing could be spruced up a notch. There was nothing glaringly wrong, but there were some typical missteps, like starting too many sentences with “as I.” “As” is a too common word in the book, such as “as she looked out the window” or “and as he walked in.” Despite this, I would recommend this for young teens.

I won Spirits of Lakewood eBook from LibraryThing. The LibraryThing Member Giveaway is a great place to get free eBooks in exchange for reviews. 100 copies of my eBook, Anticipation of the Penitent, is being offered at the LibraryThing member giveaway. Follow the link, scroll down until you see my book, and sign up to request it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Allow me to re-introduce myself

Hi folks! I'm so glad to be a part of this blog hop that's started by several people. Just click on the picture and you can learn all about it.

I'm Nancy LaRonda Johnson, a passionate writer of Christian and other fiction and some poetry. I love writing flash fiction. Poetry comes when it comes. Only twice was I able to sit and intentionally write any half-way decent poetry.

But anyway, I'm a strong believer in Christ, love hanging with my crazy family (and my mom's doing better and better everyday, though she's still in the hospital). I'm also very involved with my church and love having lots and lots of down time, which is contrary to my busy schedule.

My favorite word in the English vocabulary is "vacation". My favorite sports: tennis and yoga, though I can't do yoga anymore because of early onset of arthritis in the knee and those darned yoga knee bends just kill it. But tennis is still a go. Authors who have written my favorite books are: Stephen King (of course), Gloria Naylor, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, John Grisham and Michael Crichton. Okay there are many others, but this is the short list.

Other things I love: listening to audio books, networking on the web, and did I say vacations?

Sorry for the late start, but I'm looking forward to being intro'd and re-introduced to many of you folks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Celebrating the Small Things

Thanks to VikLit's Writing Blog for this wonderful blog hop. Although I have to try and make this quick (a very busy day), I do have a lot of small and not so small things to celebrate today.

#1 - My mom had a heart procedure done on Wednesday that went twice as long as it should (over 10 hours instead of 4-5 hours), and was placed on a ventilator. Why celebrate? Today she is off the ventilator, and although the doctors had to do much more than they knew until they looked inside, the procedure went well. Today my mom's talking up a storm and doing well. Definitely a time to celebrate!

#2 - Much smaller than the first, but my book is available at Nu Revelations Christian book and novelty store at 22431 Foothill Blvd. in Hayward, right next door to Kraski's health food store and Author Murray's dance studio. I'll eventually will do a book signing (maybe in May or June), and the owner of Nu Revelations has a TV show on the Hayward cable station channel 28 where they interview local artists on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and he'll interview me prior to the book signing. The book will also be placed in the Hayward and Castro Valley libraries catalog.

God is good. Looking forward to reading about a lot of celebrations as soon as I'm able.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

You Are Not Going to Believe This

It's been a while since I've posted a story. This is a flash fiction piece from a Writer's Digest prompt. The prompt was to start a story with "You are not going to believe this" and end it with "and that's why I ..." 
I hope you enjoy this short story, and I'm open to any comments as well as any posts on this prompt.

You Are Not Going To Believe This

“You’re not going to believe this, but…”
“Sir.” A rusty croak of a sound emitted from the nurse, who was old enough that she must have been working when nurses used to wear those white hats that resembled sailors’ caps. Her wrinkled and not so pale as much as ashen face slowly lifted to see me looking desperately at her.
My desperation, I wanted to ensure her, was nothing less than me needing to impress upon her how down-right honest I was being. “Just last year I was supposed to go out of the country…”
“Sir.” The sound again. It was raking to my ears and I had to stop her from saying another word. She had to hear, actually listen, to what I was saying anyway.
“Not to just any country, but one where you had to take all the shots imaginable in order to purchase a ticket. You know, third world? Really, closer to fourth world.”
She cut me off and I geared myself, not wanting to be so rude as to cover my ears from her grating vocal sounds. “You’ve got to get this done.”
I almost wanted to give in just to not hear her again. But, I couldn’t. Barely taking a deep enough of a breath to get it all out, I quickly blurted, “Just last year, they had to send me to the emergency room. My reaction was almost fatal. My body swelled; I looked like a sumo wrestler. My skin, already dark, as you can see – I’ve tracked my lineage to Africa, a northern region you probably never heard of – went charred. You’d think my uncle left me on the grill for as long as he’d left the hot dogs on Memorial Day. You couldn’t even eat them. I bit one without looking at it and threw up black chunks of ash and burnt flesh.”
“Mr. Talè!”
She’d cut me off again. I could not accept that and looked at her with such consternation that she reeled backward a little. Being as old as she was, I felt the need to steady her to make sure she didn’t stumble and break most of her bones, but I was making a point. Stressing each word with harsh chastisement, I said, “You’ve got to understand, if you put that thing in me, I will die.”
She took another step back. Thrilled that I put her on the defensive, I continued in a quickened prattle, “Like I said, last year, you could look it up in my records, just call my doctor. But last year, the ambulance came rushing with lights flashing and sirens blaring. My mom flew in from New Jersey. You know how long that took? It was my mom who first said, ‘Under no circumstances must you ever get a shot. Not even a flu shot.’ Then my doctor said the same thing – the emergency room doctor. And even my general practitioner gave me that undisputable command.”
I ran out of breath and the nurse took up her offense so quickly I could do nothing, not even guard myself against her onslaught of vocal blitzing. “What your records do say, Mr. Titan Talè, is that you have a very serious illness that you may have been prone to since birth.”
“You are so right!” I had her now. She was talking sense, while at the same time nearly shattering me with the screeching coming from her mouth. “But you probably don’t know my other condition. Certain sounds can send me to the emergency room too, because they can cause me to have seizures. That’s not as uncommon as it seems. It’s even been on the news and joked about on sit-coms. So, please don’t talk anymore. You seem to understand why that thing in your hand can’t come near my body. And if you say anything more, I’ll go into convulsions.”
Incredibly, she didn’t get it. In an even louder and shriller voice which scraped against my soul as well as my eardrums, she said, “Hypochondria is a very serious condition. You should really go see your psychiatrist. Our notes show that you haven’t seen him in a year. If you don’t control your disorder, it can make you believe you’re so sick that you can cause your injuries to actually happen. This flu shot is necessary for you to continue in your job.”
Before she even finished talking, she shot me in one of my arms, both of which were taut from the grip of my hands on the examination table. As she continued talking, I felt myself begin to judder like the engine in my first Oldsmobile. Then the effect of the shot took hold and I felt my body expanding.
The nurse shrieked, rushed forward and tripped over my feet because I was falling off the table as she was coming. The convulsions were getting more acute and my body was swelling to twice its size. Amongst it all, right before passing out with the nurse collapsed between my enlarging and quivering arms, I was able to eke out, “And that’s why I can no longer get flu shots.” 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reaching For Your True Self

A fellow blogger's encouraging newsletter:

Demetria Foster Gray has a great newsletter called Sexy Savvy Growth that she sends out electronically once a month. I have to say I loved her excerpt on how to be your true self. You can check it out by clicking on: RecognizingYour True Self from Your Everyday Self

It was a great way to start a long weekend.

How are the resolution plans are going?

Okay, the New Year didn't start with the dramatic dash toward reaching my goals as I thought it would, but I have begun a schedule. Just today.

At first, I started a writing, blogging, and marketing schedule on MicroSoft Word, but never completed it. Then someone on LinkedIn asked whether there were good time management apps for the phone. That would be the best. I saw a couple, but the free versions were limited or too complex for me.

Finally it occurred to me (and this idea is so simple it's amazing) to use my phone's alarm clock! On the phone, you can set multiple alarms and have them titled and set at varying days of the week. So I've made one called "Writing," one called "Marketing," and the last one for "Blogging." Today was the first day I utilized it. It's cool because you can set as many reminders as you need before the actual alarms go off.

When the "Writing" alarm went off today, I got myself ready to write, was interrupted and didn't spend as much time as I planned, but I did do some writing. This is great, and I've got to keep it up. The next alarm has got to be "Exercise!" especially since I'm doing a Biggest Loser competition at work and haven't exercised in about three months.

Learning new skills

This week I had a one-and-a-half-day training class through San Mateo County on public speaking taught by a private coach. I never thought I was so awful at it. I knew I get more nervous the more I speak, but I didn't know I was clueless about how to maintain eye contact, when to pause, and how to move my body when speaking. It was a great class that pointed out your weaknesses and strengths to know how to improve more on your own.

This was a voluntary class, and I took it with the hopes of soon beginning to do book discussions or signings. I don't know when or how it will happen, but I am so glad I took this class to know how I could improve. For my final presentation, I did a short talk as if I were doing a book discussion, and I have to say my classmates seemed enthralled. Until, as time went on, I began to get more nervous. I began to shake and even my mouth muscles twitched. I know never to drink coffee before a presentation again!

I urge everyone to take a public speaking class like at a junior college. It's a wonderful experience. I wish I could afford the coach's $150 an hour fee for personal coaching. I guess I just have to be happy for the 12 hour free class I had and work to boost my skills.

My wish for you until next time:

To keep exploring the web for amazing blogs and to explore the world for amazing experiences while continuing to be your amazing true selves.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I did my part with ABNA!

I've submitted my entry of Anticipation of the Penitent into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest! There's still time for your submission. The contest opened tonight at 12:00 am EST, and closes on January 27 at 11:59 am EST.  All that's needed for this free contest is to have a CreateSpace account. You don't even need to self-publish with them. It's okay if you did self-published your book, and it doesn't matter what publishing service you used, as long as you are under no contract with another publisher.

I think this is a great opportunity for new writers. It's an enjoyable though trying process. Trying only because of the number of entries - they take up to 10,000 submissions - then they filter through the pitches first, which are to be no longer than 300 words. After that, they filter through the excepts, which have to be between 3000 to 5000 words. If you get past that stage, they read your manuscript. They chose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize, with each being offered a publishing contract with advances. Even if you don't make the top three, you may still be offered a contract.

There's nothing to lose. So I urge you writers to submit and do your part! If you win, you are under no obligation to accept the contract, and it would be a great boost to your resume. Check out the site: https://www.createspace.com/abna?ref=416792&utm_id=6053.

Here was my pitch entry for my Christian speculative fiction novel. Thanks to all of you who gave me tips. I'm still open to any suggestions. I can make changes to my entry until the contest closes. I'm also open to ardent prayers for success :)

After Alezea is trapped by the Devil, she bears him a son and knows her life will never be her own. She is the mother of Thomas, a man reared by Satan to be a killer of life’s most innocent – little girls. Alezea lives detached from the horrors committed by her son and from her domination by the entity who uses her as he pleases. Until she meets Martha who shows her a way out. Now Alezea will risk her very soul to free Thomas from his father. The fight to save her son will either redeem Alezea or destroy her forever.

Rachel knows Thomas’ history, yet she believes her presence can transform him. Her belief in Thomas might send her fully into the Devil’s realm or provide an opening for God’s miracles in both of their lives. In a scheme to continue his father’s line, Thomas may ruin his alliance with Rachel or rend himself from the dominion he was born to hold. The impulse to contrive his future takes Thomas to new heights in his lifework as a killer, pushes him toward maturity, and forces him to encounter the astonishing truth of his heritage.

Anticipation of the Penitent depicts the battle between good and evil in one family until it is rendered to its destined completion. Only then will it be known whether Alezea succeeds in her struggle for a life free from Satan’s control.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Upcoming Publishing Contest - Pitch critique request

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest begins next week, and I would like some input on my pitch, if you don't mind.

Pitches, like synopsis and query letters, are so difficult for people who never knew writing a book meant anything other than writing a book and getting it published. I've done this wrong so many times, but now think it's good. Any feedback I could get would be great.

In particular, please let me know if you think the last paragraph should stay or go. Someone told me the last paragraph didn't add anything to the pitch and that it was like I was begging.

The pitch for the contest is to be no longer than 300 words. This one here is 260.

Here's the pitch for Anticipation of the Penitent, changed from when I first posted this based on the wonderful comments I've gotten so far:

Written in poignant, literary prose, Anticipation of the Penitent chronicles one family's battle between good and evil that is rendered to its destined completion.

Alezea is African American, in her mid-forties, thick-boned and troubled. She lives with her serial killer son, Thomas, whose father is Satan. Thomas is thrilled to gratify his father, and aspires to exceed at his job.

Moved by her elderly employer, Alezea confesses her life of sin, from working as a child in her family’s drug enterprise, to the devil taking claim of her as a young adult. An unlikely bond develops that gives Alezea a first glimpse of hope that her life might change.

The employer guides Alezea to Gabriel, an isolated Christian community, where she begins to see her son as a part of herself and not merely as Satan’s seed. Only, Thomas defiantly plots to carry out his violent calling, which all but destroys his mother and nearly sends her fully into the devil’s clutches. 

Caged, maimed and in turmoil, Alezea longs only for death. Using a most unorthodox method, the people of Gabriel refuse to let that happen, despite Thomas’ escape.

While free from Gabriel, Thomas enters into an unexpected union and schemes to further his father’s line. This venture takes him to new heights in his lifework, evolves him to maturity, and forces him to encounter the astonishing truth of his heritage.

In a thrilling and mysterious journey of trials, growth, and a touch of horror, is one story of how God uses every person to fulfill a sinner’s hope. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review - Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot

Just in time. As soon as I've completed my first book review, I learn of this Indie Reading Challenge called Indie-Fever. I'm starting at four books for the year and see from there.

I am not a fast reader in any sense of the word, which is why I mainly do audiobooks from the library. But I will try to read and review books from fellow Indie writers when I can. Here's a first review for me regarding a Christian non-fiction book by Teena Myers.

Teena Myers has a way of writing that draws you into the heart of her experiences. The many stories of how people found their way to God are moving, some sad, encouraging and inspiring. They remind you that faith is meant to grow within us and not remain static, and that although it may seem the case, we Christians are not a breed in isolation. Instead, we are in many places, including living in the ghetto, trying to minister to others and traveling the states in hopes of sharing God's word.

Teena states her intent for the book was to show what God does in our world today, in response to an atheist's question. In lives that stemmed from brokenness, physical and mental illness, and searching for self, God and the truth, she shows that God's miracles are still abundant in everyday life. With God working in his time, he is nonetheless with us every step of our lives.

Some stories were more moving than others, while a couple seemed a bit perfunctory. The middle part of the book grabbed me the most, while the last two chapters (not counting the conclusion) were the least effective to me.

Despite that, I believe this book and the worthy stories within give the gift of letting us see more of God's grace, miracles and love.

Teena's book is available on Amazon.com. Just click the cover above.

She published through Tate Publishing, which is the company that I considered publishing through as I thought the contract they offered me was fairly decent. But they didn't give me enough time to decide before I had to accept. Teena says she had a wonderful experience with them, so I'm excited to share this news.

One issue that came out is that they would not make a grammar change that she and many people would say needed to be made. I guess everything is a give and take, and no options are perfect.

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