The thought of starting an online presence kept me up at night when I began my indie writing career in 2013. I knew social media was a brilliant platform for connecting people and discovering books. But where to start? And what if I embarrassed myself by saying something stupid in cyberspace? Plus, who’d want to hear from newbie me anyway?
I see you scratching your head just as I did. You’re wondering how creatives can build professional relationships in cyberspace with someone you’d never bump into at the corner Starbuck’s.
You can do it! (Yes, even you introverts looking skeptical and scared.)
You start by being RARE as you demonstrate–
If you’re an author, blogger, or small business owner, read on to discover 9 tips to help you build your RARE social media presence.
1. Start Slow to Go Fast
Be clear about your social media goals.
Everybody wants to find followers and be discovered. Do you also want support from others in your field. Advice on specialized topics like launching books or running google ads? Connections to niche groups, like how to care for your pet iguana?
Explore and research.
Start with keyword searches to identify groups in your niche, such as most successful romance writers, best websites for writers, or most popular children's books. Most will have social media links you can dig into.
Discover where your readers spend their time on social media by googling stats and demographics for different social media platforms. For instance:
* 150 billion Facebook stories viewed daily
* users by gender: 53% female and 47% male
72% of the 62% of online seniors are between ages of 50 and 64
* 88% of online users aged 18-29 are on Facebook Source
* 85% of Facebook's daily active users come from outside North America
* (source: omnicoreagency.com -2018 September)
My author page on Facebook is my go-to platform because it’s where purchasers of my children’s books spend time.
Facebook has hundreds of genre and sub-genre interest communities. Some are open groups, and others are closed, so commenting stays safe within the group. You must ask to join closed groups, but it shouldn’t be an issue if your interests match theirs. Start by being friendly and commenting. Nuke the self-promotions.
Is your head exploding? Mine was when I started! tbh, there are still days when it feels crazy.
Listen close to your Aunt Cat now....
To keep from being overwhelmed,
begin with a ...
single – one – uno – ein
platform where your customers hang out.
Start with friendly convo and comments of interest to the group.
Leave the marketing behind.
Let people get to know you as a 'person' first.
2. Go Pro
3. Honor Ground Rules
4. "ENGAGE!"–Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Clapping for you here! You researched and zeroed in on people and places. Time to engage.
5. Thou Shalt Not Spam
6. Offer Value, Thanks and Credit
Don’t shake your head wondering, What can I offer? Yes, there are a gazillion people in cyberspace, but no one is YOU.
7. Get Visual
Studies show that posts with visual images receive the most engagement.
8. EWWWWW…..Get Out of My Direct Messages
Repeat after me ...
"I will never
DM or pester my followers with a
or follow-me-on-Insert-*Social*Media *url"
Direct messaging with marketing slams is the cyber-equivalent of being badgered by a plaid-suited snake oil salesperson. Just last week, a newbie author posted to my personal facebook page a 3-paragraph pitch for buying his new book, complete with link to his sell site. When I get messages like this, I delete them in a heartbeat. In this case, I also followed up privately with a firm message to STOP!
Ditto when new friends ask me to like a page or link that is totally out of my niche (can't do R-rated anything to stay true to my children's book community). These actions show they really don't know a jot about me.
9. Slow Progress IS Progress!
Now you’re ready to tackle social media with confidence. People will follow you as they experience the RARE online voice that is Y*O*U as you demonstrate….
All the best for your journey building or strengthening your online new community! Let me know how you’re doing and what’s working for you. Hey, if we’re not connected in cyberspace, let’s make it happen and be RARE together -:D!
Background Photo: Sondra Robbins Rymer
Which of these 9 tips work for you? What other strategies can you add? Please share in the comment section.
Book Review: HIIT Your Limit by Dr. Len Kravitz Helps You Stay in Shape Inch by Inch with High-Intensity Interval Training
Lose weight. Stay in shape —My eternal quests! Yours, too?
That’s why I’m pumped to introduce you to a new fitness book by Dr. Len Kravitz to help you reach those goals, HITT Your Limit, High-Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health. Read on to preview the book, meet Dr. Len, read my review, and enter for your chance to win one of five copies of his book (US only…open until 3 May 2019). Good luck!
Book Title: HIIT Your Limit: High-Intensity Interval Training For Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health by Dr. Len Kravitz
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 208 pages
Genre: Fitness and Wellness
Publisher: Apollo Publisher
Release date: October 19, 2018
Tour dates: April 15 to 26, 2019
Content Rating: G (The book is a workout manual. It contains no graphic language or images.)
Get lean, build muscle, and stay healthy in only ten minutes a day! A Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and world-famous exercise scientist explains the #1 new fitness trend and how to get and keep the body you’ve always wanted.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an extraordinarily effective form of training that mixes high- and low-impact activities during periods ranging from seconds to eight minutes. In HIIT Your Limit, Dr. Len Kravitz, who has been inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and been an internationally-renowned exercise scientist for the past thirty-six years, and sold nearly 100,0000 copies of his last fitness book, explains what HIIT is, how it effects your entire body (externally and internally), gives 50 workouts and a guaranteed plan to whip you into shape fast, and presents a wealth of nutritional and other advice to further its impact.
HIIT was recently rated the #1 new fitness trend by the American College of Sports Medicine and is the key to staying fit for celebrities like David Beckham, Britney Spears, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson. In addition to fat loss, it’s been proven to have major health benefits on blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Through this groundbreaking volume you’ll learn why, and see how to get fit quick, and have a fun and a truly sustainable exercise program, no expensive personal trainer required.
Buy the Book:
About the Author:
Dr. Len Kravitz has thirty-six years of experience as a researcher, writer, and speaker on fitness, and is the coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Anybody’s Guide to Total Fitness (now in its eleventh edition with nearly 100,000 copies sold), and Essentials of Eccentric Training; has published more than 300 articles in dozens of health and fitness publications; and regularly travels the country as a speaker on fitness and health. Among other awards, he was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. Dr. Kravitz lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This book’s subtitle, High-Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Cardio, and Full Body Health, perfectly describes what HIIT Your Limit wants you to achieve. Divided into 3 sections, readers can dive in from start to finish or focus on a particular segment.
Need convincing to begin exercising? Part 1 is geared to skeptics and anyone reluctant to start. I provides rich background and motivation for achieving a healthier life style.
Want to eat healthier and drop pounds? Section two zeros on healthy eating and weight loss strategies. I especially liked its 50 common questions and their answers: “Are sweet potato fries healthier than regular French fries?” (Nope. Bummed out but good to know) or “Are nuts really that healthy?” (Yep. Hooray!). Researched-backed, on-point responses give you plenty to digest (pun intended) about changing your eating habits.
Personally, I couldn’t wait to dive into the third section on exercise strategies! Coming from a family of athletes and being a lifelong exercise enthusiast myself, I have been convinced about the need to be active and eat right. The final segment of this book covers pre-exercise fundamentals for newbies, like proper clothing and physician clearance. Then it moves on to the meat of the book for me: how to incorporate HIIT in my exercise routine.
I love how Dr. Len offers specific templates to incorporate interval training incrementally and at increasingly challenging levels. I always wondered HOW to do this, and now I’m confident I can add HIIT to my workout. The author also provides examples for warm ups and cool downs, something I rarely do but need to start.
Finally, extras at the back include a workout schedule and another of my favorite parts, 100 winning ways to cut calories eating out and at home. (Yippy! Good to know I can continue guilt-free eating 2 TBs of peanut butter at lunch because it’s chockfull of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.)
I highly recommend High-Intensity Interval (HIIT) for adults wanting to start an exercise regimen, notch up their workout, or eat healthier. The author convinces and encourages you with fun facts and a do-able process to make any reader come out a winner.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience. - Cat Michaels, M.S., Ed.
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 3, 2019
I was in the pit of despair. My sweet 8-year-old friend, B, had been bullied at school by two other third-grade girls.
Really??? THIRD grade!!!
How to help B? Stop her harassers? Crush this ugly cycle of hurting others that has become an epidemic?
I felt powerless and sick at heart, especially living 500 miles away from B. Turning to experts and friends who'd seen this happen before, I discovered 5 ways to stop bullying now.
“I was bullied in 2nd grade by a group of kids.
I never forgot it. Later on in middle school,
another pair of bullies made my life miserable until we moved….”
~ H, friend who was bullied
Unlike H, I was lucky growing up. I had only minor brushes with bullying.
Don’t know how a painfully shy, awkward me escaped harassment during socially treacherous middle-school years. Sure, I was teased a bit about my done-at-home haircut and off-trend outfits. Hmm, was that bullying? But I learned to fade into the background and escape harm.
I might have been an upstander in elementary school, having leverage as a top broad jumper and runner who helped my class win school-wide sporting competitions. When a group of kids threatened to stop liking me if I kept my friendship with Susanne Rickles (a kid I now recognize as being on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum), I ignored them without consequence.
The impact of bullying recently hit home when I learned my third-grade friend, B, was crying and anxious about school because two classmates were making her life miserable.
B’s parents and teacher were on top of the situation right away, but I wanted to do something, too. But what could I do living so far away?
I discovered five strategies from my social network and online experts to help stop bullying.
1. Boost Self-Confidence
"[Powerlessness] is one of the most damaging messages that children receive when they are experiencing bullying ... the feeling that they cannot help themselves and no one will help them. Shoring up her own self-confidence will be the greatest form of support she can receive right now."
- Marlene Dillon,
Proud2BNaturalMe and dynamo behind Facebook's #IMOVERBULLYING movement
2. Be Relentless
”Keep asking questions to the school, to the parents …. Don’t let this one slip through the cracks.”
~ T, former teacher
3. Act Swiftly with Your Village
"It takes the students, school, counselors, teachers, and parents to nip it [bullying] in the bud as fast as they can. The longer it goes on, the worse it will be for all of them."
~ R, former substitute teacher
4. Act Consistently
Experts confirmed my friends’ wise counsel. The website stopbullying.gov, an excellent online resource for kids, parents, teachers, and communities, pointed to fast, unfailing adult response:
"When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time."
5. Find a Way YOU can Make a Difference to Stop Bullying
I struggled to come up with a way I could turn this advice into action. As a writer, I decided to pen a letter of encouragement to this sweet child. It wasn't much, but I didn't want to just stand by and do nothing.
B's story has a positive outcome so far.
Because she opened up to her parents, they worked with her teacher to take immediate action. The mean girls apologized to B and, hopefully, stopped harassing her. But damage has been done. While B tolerates school, she remains anxious. Her parents and teacher remain vigilant, too. My fingers are crossed, but I fret about what school challenges B may face in her future
What’s your experience with bullying? What resources or tips can you offer to stop it? Please share in the comment section.
Join the fun * Join Cat's Readers' Room Team
Powerful Non-Fiction: “I'm Your Daughter Julie" is a must-have roadmap WITH PRACTICAL TIPS, EMOTIONAL SURVIVAL ADVICE for dementia carers
A powerful new non-fiction reduced me to a puddle: Julie A. Gorges shares the moving story of caring for her mother in I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent With Dementia.
Battling the same form of dementia as Robin Williams and Ted Turner, the author gives a raw, honest account of her mother’s decline in a poignant journey of crushing heartache and enduring love while offering practical tips for those caring for loved ones with dementia.
Read on to:
* Meet the author
* Read an interview with Julie A. Gorges
* Browse an excerpt from the book
* Find my review
* Enter a giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of I’m Your Daughter, Julie by leaving a meaningful remark about this post in the comment section below. Giveaway ends at noon, ET, Monday March 25. Open to US only. Good luck!
About the Book
Title: I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia | Author: Julie A. Gorges| Publication: March 2019 | Publisher: I-Form Ink Publishing | Pages: 90 | Genre: Adult non-fiction, self-help
* AMAZON US *
I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, is written by award-winning journalist and author, Julie A. Gorges, who was the primary caregiver for her mother suffering from Lewy Body dementia. Sharing her intimate story, Gorges provides a compassionate and supportive guidebook to help caregivers cope with challenges they face while caring for their own needs at the same time.
Excerpt from I'm Your Daughter, Julie
My mother suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD), a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life.
LBD is known for tormenting its victims with vivid hallucinations, delusions, and night terrors. Sometimes my mother was in a complete state of panic because she thought a bear was in the laundry room, a tiger was swimming in the pool, or baby lions were squirming in the bottom of her bed.
One time, Mom became hysterical because she saw her long dead step-father – a former boxer who physically abused her mother – standing in the hallway.
Watching Mom slowly lose her mind became a normal part of my life as her full-time caregiver. Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken.
Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.
I had never heard of this brutal disease before Mom’s diagnosis. However, LBD is not rare. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) and the Mayo Clinic, it is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, more people have become aware of this disease after it was discovered that actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered from LBD at the time of his death. Recently, CNN founder Ted Turner was also diagnosed with this disease.
When I began this journey with my mother, I had no idea what ordeal lay ahead. Dementia starts out in a seemingly non-threatening way with some memory loss and confusion. Even as the disease progressed, Mom had some good days when she wasn’t as confused, shuffled and trembled less, held her head a bit higher, and was more lucid and alert. Sometimes she’d go days without any hallucinations. This is typical for people with LBD whose symptoms often fluctuate drastically from day to day.
As the disease took its inevitable path, I was often hit with that harsh reality. Mom knew who I was most the time. But then there would be days she thought I was a nurse or a professional caretaker and begin making friendly, polite small talk. One day she asked if I liked to sail.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered. “You know I love sailing. I’m your daughter, Julie.”
Our family has sailed for more than 30 years, so the question was unsettling. After she got sick, Mom would bravely maneuver down the docks with her walker and step into the boat flanked by family members on both sides until she was physically unable to do so. Everyone on the dock admired her for that.
“Oh yeah, I know you’re Julie,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
A few moments later, she asked the name of my mother as if I were a stranger again. Trying to have a sense of humor, I said her name, Carmen Hacker. She looked confused and I felt bad.
“You’re my mother,” I explained sadly. “I’m your daughter, Julie.”
My Mom often told me about something I did in the past as if explaining an incident to a stranger.
“My Julie…” she’d begin the story and relate something that happened in my childhood. Or she would say, “My Julie takes good care of me.”
Her appreciation warmed my heart and made all the sacrifices seem worthwhile. At the same time, it broke my heart because my mother didn’t recognize me when she said it.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Three years. The subject was painful. Sometimes I had to put the manuscript aside for awhile before picking it up again.
How did to keep your creative energy and deal with sad memories that surfaced while writing?
What kept me going was the goal of helping other caregivers. Albeit, I had to step away from my memories sometimes. But I knew my pain could be used to help others learn how to cope with their emotions. I could help others learn from my mistakes. I could help others learn to move forward after heartbreaking circumstances. That kept me going.
What advice would you give families unable to care for patients with dementia? What facilities are best for their care?
In the end, we used in-home caregivers, and they were invaluable. Hospice was also a great help. I understand that sometimes it’s impossible to care for a parent at home, so my book also discusses assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in writing this book?
I am normally a private person, so I was surprised at my ability to bare my soul.
What's your next writing project?
I have several projects in different working stages - what they have in common is that all are aimed at the plus-50 age group.
First up, a book to help all those over 50 who are struggling to lose weight. This is for you if you've tried countless diets, but nothing seems to work anymore. If you're a baby boomer who's on a budget and can't afford to spend a lot of money on diet programs and fancy gyms.
I've discovered 10 tips that helped me finally lose the weight in my late 50's. No dangerous surgeries, expensive weight loss programs, or crazy fad diets. I'll discuss why it's so hard to lose weight as you age and what you can do about it. I'll share with you my personal struggles - let me tell you, I packed on some weight stress-eating while caregiving - and some of my favorite recipes.
I hope to have it written and ready to publish by the end of the year.
I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia is much more than a recounting of Julie A. Gorge's journey supporting her mother with Lewy body dementia. It's an essential roadmap for care-givers to guide them in all aspects of their journey.
Julie organizes her book into five sections that align with the stages of dementia, from early and diagnosis to final moments and grief. The author hones in on each stage, offering a mix of practical advice and emotional survival tips for carers gleaned from experiences with her mother. Julie frankly admits she learned many of these lessons from her own mistakes. Carers can jump to their most-pressing need or read through the book from start to finish.
Readers with a more casual interest in this journey will be drawn in by Julie’s powerful writing style and painful honesty. Her advice on incontinence and explanation of how to brush her mom’s teeth moved me to tears as I remembered my parent’s experience with activities of daily living as their physical health declined.
The author also devotes an entire section to the physical and emotional needs of carers, brilliant for those supporting a loved one with any type of medical condition.
Honestly, I could not read the final sections about dying and grieving because my emotions are still raw from the passing of my parents. I followed Julie suggests in her introduction, deciding I needed more time before tackling that part.
Superbly researched and written with honesty and hope, this book is a must-read for carers and highly recommended for everyone yearning for a powerful true story of enduring love.
Meet the Author
Julie A. Gorges has been writing professionally for more than 30 years.
She is the author of four books, written hundreds of articles and short stories for national and regional magazines, and won three journalism awards. She is also a blogger at Baby Boomer Bliss, which was recently recognized as one of the top 75 baby boomer blogs on the web.
Julie lives in southern California with her husband of 40 years, Scott, and has two grown sons and four grandchildren.
Only for Cat's readers and tribe! Enter for YOUR chance to win one (1) signed copy of I'm Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent With Dementia.
Leave a simple remark in the comment section of this blog by noon ET, 25 March 2019. to enter. Be sure to send your current email address to Cat Michaels, via Cat's website HERE, so the winner can be notified.
Winner to be selected by random drawing on 26 March. (See giveaway details below.)
How to Enter:
Never thought a rat could be sweet, but I changed my mind after meeting Maria Ritter's Wilhelm.
That's why I'm pleased to partner with iRead Book tour to introduce to you Wilhelm, who's featured in Ritter's new tale (tail -:D!) for middle graders, The Adventures of Wilhem, a Rat's Tale.
Read on to learn more about the book, meet the author, read my review, and enter by 5 April for a chance to win a print or digital copy of this book (open to US residents only).
Good luck and happy tales/tails!
Book Title: The Adventures of Wilhelm: A Rat’s Tale by Maria Ritter
Illustrator: Teri Rider
Category: Middle-grade Fiction, 210 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Release date: August 2018
Tour dates: March 11 to 29, 2019
Content Rating: G (This is a clean children's book with no expletives, violence, sex or drugs.)
Young Wilhelm leaves home and travels the world. He not only discovers the value of different cultures and the importance of family and friendship, but he also overcomes obstacles with courage and cleverness. He returns home with deep respect for all creatures on this earth and a new sense of rat identity and purpose.
To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit Maria Ritter's page on iRead Book Tours.
Buy the Book:
About the Author:
Maria Ritter is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in La Jolla, California. She is the author of Return to Dresden (2004), an autobiographical reflection on her childhood in Germany during and after World War II. It is a healing memoir that confronts national guilt for the Nazi past and weaves the broken pieces of loss and grief into a healing tapestry.
Connect with the author: Website
Maria Ritter’s adventure for middle-graders, The Adventures of Wilhelm, a Rat’s Tale, is a travelogue that follows young Wilhelm as he leaves home to explore the world rodent-style. On his way, he encounters characters ranging from scientists and gnomes in Sweden to opera rats singing at Oktoberfest in Germany and church mice on a tour bus meeting the Pope in Italy. Wow!
These and more comprise the ratly world Ritter brings to life, where garbage is good and trash is nice. Wilhelm gets into unique rodent predicaments at every stop on his journey. As a service rat in a Swedish hospital, he stuns doctors by diagnosing sick children by sniffing out sources of their ailments with his nose.
Wilhelm’s antics expand with every diverse culture he meets. Tongue-in-cheek travelogue snippets are a hoot, though not all kids might catch them. I couldn’t stop chuckling over Wilhelm’s grandmother, who is introduced as the ratriarch of his German rodent family.
The author provides a glossary after each chapter to explain vocabulary. She also adds discussion questions at the end of the book, so kids can reflect on what they’ve read.
Subtle themes help children rethink the meaning of “despised” creatures, who are symbols of society’s marginalized people. This is especially prominent as the Pope addresses Wil and other “despised and hated animals” visiting him in Rome:
"We are connected as creatures to live together on this planet,
and I will continue to help you all by preaching
... that we must share our gifts fairly among us all.
This way, you will not have to live in fear."
Some middle-graders may not make the cognitive leap from this cute fable to its real-life implications, yet children are still exposed to positive moral lessons. As an adult, I appreciate Ritter’s book as an allegorical novella about prejudice and the journey to acceptance.
Weighing in at 210 pages, I recommend The Adventures of Wilhelm to upper-elementary graders, who are strong readers interested in world culture. Wilhelm also appeals to adults who want a short travelogue that nudges assumptions about social inequities with humor and wisdom.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review digital copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience.
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends April 5, 2019
Stretching waaaay outside of my comfort zone here.
Cannot believe I'm taking on TWO books: co-authoring a middle-grade tale and going solo writing my first fiction for grown-ups.
I’m up for this challenge after taking time to grieve the loss of my parents and rightsize to a new space after two decades in our cherished home.
It's exciting and scary just thinking about penning two different genres at the same. But it feels right, so here I go!
WIP 1 : Fiction for Grown Ups
Fifteen years ago:
my writing workshop classmates told me
I had to develop the short story I submitted for our class project
into a full novel.
My first reaction?
Without expanding my draft,
I submitted it to a writing contest.
It scored an honorable mention.
Still not ready to take on a novel.
The content, disguised as fiction, was too tender and personal to write more then.
But times change.
What once felt too raw is now okay to explore.
Fast forward to 2019:
I submitted the old draft from workshop days
to my critique group.
And they liked it!
The novel takes place in a southern town (no surprise as penned by this North Carolina gal). It explores challenges between newcomers and the old South as characters come together (or not!) to save the town’s annual community choir presentation of Handel’s Messiah. (We write what we know: Guess whose 100-person member community choir has performed an annual "Messiah" concert every December for more than 40 years -:D.)
My book is more than a Christmas-time tale. There's love and hope, but it's not a true romance. Kind of like a cozy without a murder mystery. No violence or dysfunction. For now, I’m tagging it as general adult fiction with a touch of women's and southern fiction.
Honestly, my story might be the type the Hallmark Channel might select for a TV movie .....and I'd be over the moon if they did!....but I haven’t decided yet if every character will get a happily ever after. Stay tuned!
WIP 2 : Co-Writing a Middle-Grade Tale
Meanwhile, back in children’s book land……
friend and awesome picture book author/illustrator,
and I are co-writing a middle-grade adventure
for kids ages 8-12 featuring an 11-year-old girl who loves horses.
We didn’t set out to co-author a book,
but our ideas for this story
have been percolating for both of us since 2015.
Four years ago almost to this day!
We started when I uploaded a writing prompt to my author Facebook page and invited people to post a brief back story. Rosie jumped on it!
Months later, Rosie developed the prompt into a story and shared her draft with me. I loved it! However, the tale waited until my life settled after rightsizing and becoming an adult orphan.
Co-authoring a book is a huge learning challenge, but I'm lucky. Rosie Russell is the perfect co-write partner: enthusiastic, imaginative, hard-working and talented.
We connected through social media in 2014 and have been supporting each other’s writing journey ever since.
Even met in person once in 2017 … a marjorly rare treat for cyberpals! … when her family vacationed nearby my North Carolina home (in the US south).
Since Rosie lives more than 1,000 m/1.6 km away from me in Missouri (midwest US), we’re swapping ideas like mad via i-messages, emails and phone.
We started by organizing and agreeing on story development. We explore characters and plot by uploading inspiration photos and concepts to a shared drive.
There’s technical, headachy-to-me stuff to determine, too, like who/how to formate and distribute our book.
And we're figuring out how to pay Uncle Sam his taxes for book sales earned by two authors in two different states. No accountants here -:D.
Once we pull these pieces together, we’ll flesh out chapters and decide who’s authoring and editing what. Most important, we want to make sure our writing styles synch up to give young readers an exciting, flowing narrative. Plus, both my books will retain the same family-friendly vibes and focus on Small Town USA life that are found in my Sweet T Tales.
I'll be looking for ideas about titles, book covers, character struggles and more, and I'd be over the moon to have your company and feedback on this next stretch of my writing journey.
You'll find updates on my writing here on Cat's Corner (sign up below to send this blog to your email or newsfeed). You can also be first to know the latest by joining my tribe of readers and receiving occasional newsflashes in What’s Up (Join HERE or in the link below).
Thanks a ton!
What have you tackled that felt beyond your comfort zone? What helped you succeed? And if you successfully co-authored a book, let us know what you learned from the experience in the comment section.
How about an adventure to set your young reader's heart dancing in a positive way? I am excited to tell you about a new middle-grade page-turning fantasy. Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker.
Read on to preview Drecker's book, catch a brilliant video trailer, meet the author, and read my review. Plus, you can enter for your chance to win books, swag, and a $10US Amazon gift card in a Rafflecopter giveaway that runs from midnight (EST), 21 February 2019 until midnight (EST) 15 March 2019 (open in US only). Good luck and happy tales!
ABOUT THE BOOK
I only desire your talent...
Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who is a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinee, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something is not right
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame's growing collection. If Lindsey does not discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.
Title: Music Boxes | Author: Tonja Drecker | Publication Date: March 2019 | Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press, LLC | Pages: 155 | Recommended Ages: 9-12
Amazon US * Barnes & Noble * Kobo
Suspense kicks in from the start with the cast of characters as Lyndsey bumps into Madame Destinee. You know something's up right away as the teacher promises a successful dance career, BUT only if Lyndsey attends midnight lessons at Madameâs ballet school. The school is populated with other tween dancers to serve up juicy rounds of adolescent insecurities and friendships.
The author sprinkles humor and perfect tween-sized romantic tension between Lindsey and her attractive dance partner, Robert. I chuckled over one cute scene as Robert recalls his flubbed pas de deux with Lindsey:
Pas de huh!
Madame's dog, Broussard, adds his doggy humor and canine wisdom by providing clues to the mystery behind Destinee's music box collection.
âRemember fights you had growing up with your siblings? (Come on ... you know you had a few!)
Alternating dynamics of love and jealousy between sisters Lindsey and Bridget give an authentic, age-appropriate feel to sibling conflicts while also portraying positivity.
No spoilers here about the clever connections between young dancers, Madame Destinee, and the music boxes. To be honest, I re-read the fanciful resolution a few times because I didn't catch on to its creative details right away.
However, the author reveals all in the end and delivers a satisfying conclusion
This imaginative tale for upper-elementary graders delivers fantasy and mystery while underscoring the importance of career dreams, friendship and kindness. I highly recommend Music Boxes for children in grades 3-6. A must-read for kids who love ballet!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Tonja Drecker is a writer, blogger, childrenâs book reviewer and freelance translator.
After spending years in Germany exploring forgotten castles, she current resides in the Ozarks (the US Midwest) with her family of six.
When not tending her chickens and cows, sheâs discovering new adventures, nibbling chocolate and sipping a cup of tea.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience.
The giveaway will run from midnight (EST) on the night of February 21st, 2019 until midnight (EST) on the night of March 15th, 2019. Entries will be made through the Rafflecopter. One winner will receive a music box (the one found in the book video: https://youtu.be/ww_RY4IVg3w) with the authorâs golden signature on the bottom as well as swag (US addresses only). The second winner will receive an Amazon GC of $10 (US). The second winner must be in possession of a qualifying US Amazon account.
The contest is open to U.S. residents only, ages eighteen and over. No purchase is required for entry. All winners must claim their prize 48 hours after notification. Winners will be announced on on Saturday, March 16th 2019 by 10:00am (EST). All addresses and personal information will be used only for prize allocation. Sponsor, Tonja Drecker, assumes no responsibility or liability of any kind. Please email all questions to .
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a hankering for adventure, history, and a touch of romance in Renaissance Italy? You're in luck! I'm pleased to partner with Italy Book Tours in spotlighting a new fiction novel for adults by Crystal King, The Chef's Secret.
Read on to meet Crystal, read an excerpt from her book, and enter a giveaway for a chance to win one grand prize package of a $25US gift card and two books by the author. Five additional readers will score one copy each of the Chef's Secret. (Giveaway ends 7 March 2019. Open to US and Canada only.)
Good luck and happy tales!
Book Title: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King
Category: Adult fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria/Simon & Schuster
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.
When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.
As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.
With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.
Excerpt from THE CHEF’S SECRET (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
By Crystal King
Forty-three days after he first laid eyes upon the most beautiful girl in the world, Bartolomeo had the good fortune to overhear the maids talking about a girl at the palazzo. Two of the serving maids huddled in the pantry near his post where he was prepping nightingales for the cena. When they mentioned the dress she had worn the night before, Bartolomeo realized the principessa was the object of their admiration.
One of the maids was a thin slip of a girl who served the cardinale’s sister. The other was a young woman who had caught his fancy for a time the summer before, but soon bored Bartolomeo with her empty gossip.
“She’s here from Roma,” the first said, awe in her voice. They talked of the girl’s extraordinarily wealthy family, of her famed dressmaker, and of how long it took to wrangle her curls each morning.
When they said her name, Bartolomeo had to put his knife down for fear of cutting himself. Oh, to know her true name! Happiness filled him like a carafe of fine wine. Her name, he thought, was like the taste of strawberries sprinkled with sugar. It was like the summer sun touching the petal of a freshly bloomed flower. That evening, when he gazed out his little garret window, he wished he could shout her name across the rooftops, but he could never say it aloud. To do so was too dangerous, for her and for him. He would take a thousand lashings for his Stella [Author’s note, this is a pet name that Bartolomeo has for her], but he could not bear to have her come to harm.
The next morning, Stella stopped Bartolomeo in the loggia. The sky was bright and the October air was still gentle and warm. He was readying to leave the palazzo to go to market when she approached. He was so startled to see her there he stopped in his tracks, mouth agape.
The princess was radiant in a red velvet gown, her hair piled high upon her head. Her beauty was staggering, her skin so clear, her cheeks ruddy and fresh. What a sight he must seem in comparison, with his own hair a tussle of wild waves, a grease stain adorning one sleeve. He hadn’t bathed, and he was certain he smelled too much like onions and ham.
She recognized his discomfort and giggled, in a way that immediately eased his fear. She gently touched his arm with one hand, and with the other she pressed a piece of paper into his palm. “What is your name?”
He looked around to see who might be witnessing the exchange, but there were only a couple of gardeners in the vicinity, none of whom paid them any mind. “Bartolomeo,” he said, gathering courage.
She released his hand and shared her own name. Bartolomeo’s heart sang as she repeated the word he had been turning over and over in his mind since the day before.
To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.
Buy the Book:
Meet the Author:
A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.
Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 7, 2019
According to the American Heart Association and goredforwomen.org, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in America, striking more women than all forms of cancer combined. You can do three things NOW to fight this disease:
--> Move more
--> Eat Smart
--> Manage Blood Pressure
Plus on 1 February, go through your closet and find something red to wear to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and save lives. Then take good care of your heart and YOU every day!
You can also check out my list of 10 books below. They have the heart to keep you in good literary shape.
Books With Heart for Kids
In My Heart: a Book of Feelings
by Jo Witik
illustrated by Christine Roussey (2014)
A picture book for toddlers, In My Heart introduces emotional aspects of heart. Through rich language and rhymes, the book helps kids identify, accept, and express a range of feelings.
Books With Heart for Grown Ups
What books about heart have you read? Which hearty tales are on your to-read list? We're always looking for our next great read, so please share in the comment section below.
Join Cat’s Tribe of Readers
Not a foodie here, but I admire those who create glorious cuisine and dining experiences in their kitchens. Naom Kostucki, with Chef Quentin Villers, do just that by sharing how to craft exciting culinary encounters in their new book, Accessible Fine Dining - The Art of Creating Exciting Food in Your Everyday Kitchen.
Get ready for your taste buds to do the happy dance as you preview their book and feast your eyes on gorgeous dishes. Then meet the authors and read an interview with Noam, owner of Michelin-starred HiR Fine Dining, a one-of-a-kind culinary experience set in the intimacy of his kitchen in the Costa Rican jungle. Within 6 months of opening, one of Noam's plates was selected out of 40,000 restaurants by OpenTable as one of their recommended "25 dishes to travel around the world for."
You can also enter a giveaway for a chance to win a grand prize - four seats at Noam’s HiR Fine Dining (a $580 value) - or one of 20 paperback or ebook copies of Accessible Fine Dining. Giveaway ends 7 February. Scroll to the end of this post for details and entry. Good luck and happy tales!
" If you want to create fine dining dishes,
start to focus your attention on the different stories a dish can tell.
Some stories can be told through your cooking ...."
~ Noam Kostucki
Book Title: Accessible Fine Dining - The Art of Creating Exciting Food in Your Everyday Kitchen by Noam Kostucki, with Chef Quentin Villers
Category: Adult Non-fiction , 128 pages
Genre: Creative Cookbook / Fine Dining
Release date: Dec 10, 2018
Tour dates: Jan 7 to 31, 2019
Content Rating: G
Six months after opening my first restaurant, one of my dishes was selected as "25 dishes to travel around the world", featuring me next to culinary legend Heston Blumenthal.
Exciting and healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Over the years, I have seen some of the most exciting dishes come from the simplest kitchens and the most modest ingredients. The purpose of this book is to focus our attention away from the distractions of fancy kitchen equipment and luxury produce and instead focus our attention towards ingenuity in the kitchen and culinary innovation.
For some strange reason, cooking is taught in books as a series of mechanical steps to follow and repeat with precision. I see cooking as a creative art like painting or playing music: it is the freedom of expression that is most interesting to me. When we create from an artistic perspective, we give birth to something new and potentially magical.
The purpose of this book is not to teach you specific recipes, because the ingredients you will find in your local organic food market will likely not be the same as the ones we see here. Nor is the purpose to show you how to imitate us. The purpose of this book is to guide you into thinking about your dishes in a way that elevates them to a fine dining level, from ingredients which are easily accessible to you. Naturally, you will find a few recipes, but most importantly you will find a new way to look at food.
We will share how we think about food shopping, searching for unusual ingredients, the combinations of flavors, techniques, textures, nutritional value, and of course, plating. The purpose of this book is to guide you to become a more exciting, creative and adventurous version of yourself in the kitchen. What separates a craft from an art form is the story behind it; cooking is a craft, while fine dining is an art form.
If you want to create fine dining dishes, start to focus your attention on the different stories a dish can tell. Some stories can be told through your cooking, and others are told through words. Taking the time to present your dishes before people eat is crucial to creating anticipation for the food they will eat.
Buy the Book:
Watch the book trailer:
Meet the Authors:
MY NAME IS NOAM KOSTUCKI AND I CREATE SPACES FOR MAGIC TO HAPPEN.
I was an awkward child, so I changed school 5 times. I spent most of my life trying to please others, and be the kind of person I believed everyone else wanted me to be. I wasn't happy and I struggled to get what I want. Everything changed when I started changing.
I spent the last 12 years creating the life I dream of. I've had the privilege to be homeless twice, and to speak at Harvard about entrepreneurship. I have grown to be myself more fearlessly than ever before. I am now surrounded by people I love, and who love me.
I traveled over 40 countries, and I've helped over 25,000 people create magic. For example Patryk Wezowski who raised $500,000 in 8 weeks and Esther Perel who gave the 30th most viewed TED talk. Some less public successes include a blind eyed student who experienced his blind eye for the first time and a journalist who left an abusive relationship.
As a university drop out, I was surprised when my first book (personal branding) became required reading at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, as well as receiving the UK Business Speaker of the Year runner up award, and a honorary degree in Business from Hofstra University. As an artist, I was honored to exhibit my photography at the European Union's Innovation Conference.
My most recent venture is HiR Fine Dining, a jungle culinary adventure. I create a discovery menu of 7 plates per person for groups of up to 12 people. HiR Fine Dining became #1 fine dining on TripAdvisor in Tamarindo within the first month. Within 6 months one of my plates was selected out of 40,000 restaurants by OpenTable as one of "25 dishes to travel around the world for". I was invited to speak at Chateau 1525, Costa Rica's most reputable cooking school and our guest chefs include a blind chef who traveled all the way the United Kingdom.
Quentin has been cooking in restaurant since the age of 18. He helped his brother build a restaurant for which they received a Michelin Star. Quentin moved to Costa Rica to consult for hotels and restaurants. He managed 3 of the 4 restaurants at Hotel Nayara in La Fortuna, for which he lead a team of over 20 people to be selected to enter Relais & Chateaux, a prestigious network of unique luxury hotels with exquisite cuisine. Quentin is a regular guest chef at HiR Fine Dining and consults for a number of fine dining restaurants in Costa Rica.
Interview with Noam Kostucki
How do you come up with new dishes?
To be honest, I don’t have a specific method. Something I notice from other chefs is that most chefs I’ve met seem to love cooking for others. They often don’t actually eat in their own restaurants. But for me it’s the opposite. I love eating great food, so I cook for myself combinations I’ve never had before because I love eating food that surprise me. Then when I discover something cool, I share it with guests… and I look forward to eating the leftovers. The day I get bored of the leftovers, I change the dish because it means my heart and guts are not into it anymore. I can only cook food that gets me excited and wanting to eat the dish I’m plating.
I mostly come up with dishes by cooking for myself. I use what I have and mix things in ways that I don’t know how it will taste. I’m very content with the idea of not knowing how my food will turn out. At first, it often tasted terrible, but after a few years of practice, I became fairly good and it’s generally at least OK. Now that Nadia lives with me (my life and business partner), we have fun cooking for ourselves and when we’re both impressed by our creation, we find ways to elevate it for guests. We test it with clients and ask them for direct feedback. We explain to them that cooking is a dialogue between us and them. They help us make dishes better by telling us what they really think. They are excited to be part of the creation process. So I’ve learned to ask at the end of every dinner for feedback and thoughts on dishes. That’s how we decide what needs to be changed and what stays.
What is your jungle culinary adventure?
The jungle culinary adventure is a 3-hour, seven-course menu at my home in Costa Rica. These dinners are very private and intimate as we serve a maximum of twelve guests per night, and the kitchen neighbors the table so that we can interact with guests as they eat. During dinners, we’ve been visited by monkeys, cows, dogs, cats, frogs, scorpions and many others. It’s quite amazing to be sitting in the middle of the jungle by a wooden table and eat food that feels like it comes out of a Michelin star restaurant. I like the idea of integrating luxury fine dining with a rustic familiar environment.
Fine dining is normally associated with luxury, how do your guests react to the “rustic” and “natural” environment?
At first, people are often a bit tensed. You can read the concern on their faces: especially because they’ve had to pay in advance, at first, they wonder if it’s a scam. They can’t believe that the photos of exquisite dishes they’ve seen online come from this rustic natural environment. Seeing me barefoot with my beard and long hair doesn’t help their worries: you can see guest wonder where is the fine dining chef. When they receive their first dish, then you see people relax and their shoulders come down. They take their phones out and grab photos while listening to the description of the dish. Once they’ve finished their first dish, they’re completely at ease and start to fully enjoy the atmosphere. They then make the most of the fact that it’s such a casual atmosphere and we have lovely conversations while they’re eating dinner. At the end of dinners, people often comment on their initial fears and how their expectations when highly exceeded.
What was the toughest moment of your fine dining experience?
The most stressful was the first few months because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Every cooking day felt like a war with time. I would start cooking at 6am and work non-stop until after guests left around 8.30pm. It was insane. I was doing everything alone so I had nobody to bounce ideas with or to taste the food. I had to assume what I was doing was going to be good enough. I would buy way too much food because I was scared of not having enough. Service was also crazy at the beginning because I didn’t realize how much I could prepare in advance. My first few dinners used to last up to 5h. From working with Quentin Villers, the Michelin star chef who mentored me, I learned how to prepare more things in advance and have better methods for cooking while serving guests. Serving new dishes was so mortifying that at the beginning I would only serve new dishes as extras and warn people they may not be good because they’re still in “Research & Development.”
Writing about family, books, authoring, life, movies, travel and more.
JOIN CAT'S Reader's room team!
New subscribers receive a FREE downloadable
grades 1 -4:
Sweet T and the North Wind
P.S. We hate spam. Your email address is safe and secure. Must be 13 years and older to join Cat's Readers' Room.
Don't miss a post! Deliver Cat's Corner to your mailbox or
RSS Feed by clicking below