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Covid-19 and Your Spirituality by JC Ramos Paulino

Covid-19 is the name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It has ruthlessly shown us how our society can be disrupted overnight. And it will also show us how resilient we can be. In a matter of months, the collective human species will get back on its feet. It will dust itself off, reflect on a few lessons learned, and move on. Yes, Covid-19 will leave scars in some of us through memories of loss and suffering. But as a whole, life will go on. That is all well and good. Down the road, it is going to be okay. Covid-19 will be in the rearview mirror—a chapter in human history. 

Meanwhile, however, how do we deal with the anxiety and fear on a personal level? How should we face the current economic uncertainty and threat of loss? 

Here are two concepts to help you come out stronger on the other side of this crisis. 

Evolution and Growth One of the most potent forces active in the cosmos is the drive toward evolution. In its current stage, our universe is evolving, growing, and expanding. You are the outcome of this drive; so is everything else in nature. When you are growing, a dynamic drive enlivens every cell in your body and puts you in harmony with other elements experiencing growth in your environment. The opposite happens when you are stagnant—there is harmony there, too, but that harmony is with things that cause decay. 

Growth includes at least three areas: 

• Physical 

• Emotional 

• Intellectual 

Physical growth encompasses the development and nurturing of your body. It includes what contributes to it, like your health, possessions, and finances. Emotional growth includes your relationships, psychological health, and spiritual development. Intellectual growth comprises the knowledge and skills that you acquire. These three areas combine to give you a spectrum of activities, a field of play for the game of life. 

Growth in any of these areas will give you a measure of pleasure. Experiencing growth will have a positive impact on your spiritual well-being. 

One of the side effects of Covid-19 is having more free time in our hands, so use some of this time to grow in an area of your life! Watch a little less news and a bit less Netflix. Instead, invest some of your time in learning a new skill, cultivating a new relationship, or strengthening your body. Learn how to code webpages or use Photoshop. Locate old high school friends via social media and rekindle those relationships. Work out at home for a half-hour in the morning or take a walk for 15 minutes in the evening. Be greedy and do all three! 

Start growing in an area of your life and see what happens to your state of mind. 

Your Present Moment: One fascinating thing about humans is our capacity for conscious attention. Our conscious attention, combined with our dreams and goals, generates our faculty for creation. Thanks to this faculty, each one of us can bring entirely new things into existence. A song, a story, a painting, a smartphone, a car, an airplane, a skyscraper, cities, space stations… Humans can create anything our minds can fathom. Nothing else in nature comes close to the inherent abilities each of us owns. 

Your attention can be: 

• Conscious attention, guided by your conscious desires and intellect 

• Passive attention, guided by your subconscious 

To purposely access your capacity for creation, your attention must be conscious—it must be under your control. When you are drowning in negative and repetitive thoughts, your attention is stuck outside of your conscious will. It is snarled by turbulent emotions from your subconscious self-image. Whenever this is happening, your attention is out of your control and you are not really in the present moment. Instead, you are experiencing a pseudo-reality inside your own head. Life can feel quite miserable when we keep re-experiencing asphyxiating emotions that are out of our control. 

But! It is possible to master your conscious attention. Mastering attention allows you to be more and more in the actual present moment, and the present moment can be quite joyful. But mastering your conscious attention takes time, and frankly, the mechanics of doing so are beyond the scope of this article. You can, however, practice a simple mindfulness exercise designed to bring your attention into the present moment. This will give you a brief respite. 

Step 1. 

Notice when your attention is not in the actual present moment when you are instead inside your own head. It may surprise you to realize how often this happens! Acknowledge it. The more relaxed you are about acknowledging it, the better. Say something soft, like, “Oh, okay.” Avoid judging, criticizing, or dwelling on it—it doesn’t matter what drew your attention. Just notice it consciously, because conscious attention briefly halts subconscious activity. 

Step 2. 

Ask yourself, “What is the best thing I could be doing right now?” And then wait for an answer. In most cases, the answer you get will spark a desire to engage in productive activity. 

Try this exercise and see what happens. 

I hope these two concepts of growth and being in the present moment will help you. Please spend some time on them—they could promote your spiritual well-being during the Covid-19 chapter of our lives.

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Stefan Vučak, Author of Lifeliners Talks about His Work in this Interesting Interview

Welcome to The Book Commentary, Stefan. To begin, we would like to know more about your writing journey. When did you start writing and how did you discover that you were cut for writing?

I always wanted to write. Well, not exactly always, but ever since I came across an illustrated book of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a kid, the printed word fueled my imagination. In high school and university, I breezed through essay and writing assignments, puzzled why some of my classmates struggled. Books, of course, particularly science fiction, got my formative ideas factory churning. I figured if others could write short stories and novels, so could I. It did not look that hard. Hah!

I first turned my hand to writing short stories. I yearned for the day when people would walk past a bookstore and see my books on display. Vanity? Perhaps, but the fire burning deep within me that urged me to write, also compelled me to share the products of my imagination. Regrettably, just making my way in the world after college, I could not indulge my passion. I had to find a way to live and support myself. Hence my IT career, but that fire never went out, although I did allow it to die down a few times, frustrated at not being able to find a publisher or agent. Publishing is a savage game, as I came to learn, and publishers are not keen to publish my books just because I wanted to see them in bookstores. When I said enough to my IT career, I devoted myself full-time – well, almost full-time – to writing and helping other authors navigate through the writing and publishing quicksand.

What inspired the Shadow Gods Saga and what has been the most life-altering or most challenging part of writing the saga?

With several short stories behind me, still in college, I turned my hand to writing a space opera novel. I am glad that piece of work will never see the light of day, but the process has taught me a lot about the mechanics of professional writing. I am still learning new things about that. When I started my first IT job, I began writing what has subsequently been published as With Shadow and Thunder. That was the easy part. Finding a publisher and agent brought the sharp reality of publishing pitfalls into hard focus. In the end, I turned to several e-book publishers and eventual self-publishing.

There is no single event or idea that triggered that novel. I guess it was an amalgam of accumulated information gleaned from reading other books, combined with something that finally bubbled to the surface into a format I felt I could use. What I wanted to write about was science fiction not set on Earth. There were, and are, enough of those around. I set out to create a completely new universe of worlds, political systems, and people who struggled to survive pretty much the way we cope with life. I also sought to create a main character who had something extra about him – the power of Death in his hand. With the book done, there was so much more to tell, I followed it up with Through the Valley of Shadow. By then, the universe I created had expanded enormously, and I simply had to write how my principal character came to have the power of Death, which evolved into the first book in the series, In the Shadow of Death.

The Shadow Gods Saga was an evolution and expansion of complexity as I matured as a writer and my horizons broadened with life’s experiences. What challenged me was making sure my principal character also matured as life’s trials challenged his beliefs and behavior, rather than have him portrayed as just another shoot ’em up hero.

Is there a relationship between your writing and your career in Information Technology? How would you establish that link?

My writing has not been influenced by my career in IT. Writing for me is very much an emotional, soul-searching experience, while the writing I did during my career was ordered and technical. However, my IT career greatly influenced how I approached writing. It gave me a framework of discipline, planning, and organization. When I was a computer programmer, a program would not work unless every step was defined in a process flowchart first and properly coded. That planning and organizing carried through my years as a systems analyst and program manager, and I employed those skills in planning my novels.

Many authors told me they approach writing with an idea, sit down, and let it rip. That might work for some, but having read a few such efforts, cringing at the end result, I never could just sit down and bang away at the keyboard – with one proviso. I have managed to write some of my short stories in one or two sessions. However, I always approach my novels in a systematic way: a brief outline, research, plot, develop characters, and follow up with a detailed outline before I put down a word into the novel, although I have been sorely tempted at times to start pounding away before all the plot threads have been tightly woven together. With a detailed outline, am I confident the novel would not have any holes through which the reader could slip through. I must say, though, during the writing process, some of my characters take me in unexpected directions and say some surprising things, but I relish those moments, as they make the book more alive.

Can you talk about process? How do you come up with ideas for your books and what sets your characters apart from other novels in your genre?

I spent many years on my Shadow Gods Saga books, having been initially influenced by science fiction authors like Larry Niven, Keith Laumer, Roger Zelazny, and others. For a while, that had been a sufficiently satisfying outlet for me, but a moment came when I realized that to gain attention from a traditional publisher or agent, I stood a better chance writing a contemporary novel. My book, Cry of Eagles, was that effort, which has now turned into a collection of seven books. During this period, I returned briefly to my Shadow Gods Saga to write Guardians of Shadow, perhaps my last book in the series. We shall see. I also produced Lifeliners, something that evolved from one of my short stories.

Like many authors, I have more ideas than books I have written. Getting an idea is easy, as there is lots of source material to draw upon: my life’s experiences, history, current events, other fiction and non-fiction books, politics … a wealth of things. The difficult part comes in picking a random idea – and one can strike by simply watching a TV program – and developing it into a possible book. I had hopes for several such ideas, but when I picked at them, most never worked out. My IT discipline, I guess.

I would not say that my principal character in the Shadow Gods Saga is unique. However, he does have a unique attribute, combined with a somewhat irreverent attitude. I cannot claim to have invented someone completely new, not after thousands of books out there. I can say, though, he is entertaining. Well, at least I hope he is. With my contemporary novels, I have set out to create compelling, believable, real-life characters who have to deal with whatever is thrown at them. That is about as best as any author can hope to achieve. Only readers who buy my books can tell me if I have succeeded.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, I am reviewing a techno-thriller from Readers’ Favorite in the Dan Brown and Stephen Coonts genre. For readers who love non-stop action with a lot of military jargon will find this book fascinating. There is enough characterization to fill the spaces between the action scenes, but the author does not spend too much time on them, which is fair enough for this type of novel. Personally, these days, I like books with more character depth. Perhaps that is why I wrote Autumn Leaves. However, there was a period when I devoured military type action books.

I am also immersed in writing my next novel, All my Sunsetswhich involved a lot of research, character, and plot development. It should be completed within the next two months.

Which author has been most influential in your writing journey?

Ah, that is one question no author should be asked to answer, as there has not been one single author who shaped my writing, but I guess it is a fair question. In my green years, like many others, I went through the old masters: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Niven. They invariably influenced my writing in some respects, especially my short stories. However, when I began reading authors such as C.S. Forester, Mary Stewart, Michener … you get the idea, the writing style of those authors came to influence me greatly. Perhaps the way they wrote was how my own writing had begun to evolve.

If there is one outstanding writer who made me pause, I would say Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills gave me a lot of material for reflection. She is not the only one, of course, but her poetic, lyrical style plucked at my imagination and heartstrings. In the end, I had to find my own ‘voice’ and shape it to fit my characters.

What has been the most fulfilling part of being an author?

Sooner or later, every writer comes to the realization that writing is a very personal and lonely thing. There are hours, days, months spent working on a novel, editing, rewriting, and polishing. When the thing is finally done, I am heartily sick and tired of the damned thing, glad to have it published, looking forward to some relaxing time off – until an idea strikes and I am off again.

Why do authors put up with it? For me, it is a fire burning deep inside that cannot be quenched. A drive that pushes me to create, to explore, to share with others what goes on in my mind. There was a period when I wanted to douse that fire, believing that writing was not for me, but I was bitten by the drive to create. There is no cure and I don’t want to be cured. What keeps me going is the sheer joy of creation. When the words flow faster than I can write them down, when everything clicks and my characters and I are in perfect accord, that feeling makes up for all the frustrations when I stumble into that mental pothole or speed bump and the words just won’t come. When a book is done, I nod with satisfaction and hope that readers out there will also gain a measure of enjoyment and satisfaction being immersed in the world I created.

If you were asked to sell your book, what would be the one thing you think readers will love about your writing?

My my, you want an answer where to find the Holy Grail!

I am a fairly hard reviewer, and I expect authors to give their best to readers. Sadly, the self-publishing industry has given many writers an easy outlet to post some really awful books, which has, with some justification, tarnished self-publishing in the eyes of agents and traditional publishers. It is easy to understand how this happened. Many writers do not understand the English language and its grammar nuances to properly construct a plot, narrative, or dialogue. I sometimes wonder how these people graduated high school.

Getting back to your question, I would like to think readers will like my books because I give them believable stories populated with engaging characters, and I make them think. Some might not like that, but that’s the breaks.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stefan Vučak has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels and six contemporary political drama
books. His Cry of Eagles won the coveted Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils
was the prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist and Readers’ Favorite silver medal winner. Strike
for Honor won the gold medal.

Stefan leveraged a successful career in the Information Technology industry, which took him to the
Middle East working on cellphone systems. Writing has been a road of discovery, helping him broaden
his horizons. He also spends time as an editor and book reviewer. Stefan lives in Melbourne,
Australia.

Website | Facebook | LinkedIn |

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Carol J. Williams Shares the Message of Hope in Her Book: Christ Optimizes Victory in Desolation: Prayers for Uncertain Times

Talk to us about Christ Optimizes Victory in Desolation: Prayers for Uncertain Times.

Christ Optimizes Victory In Desolation. Jesus is the best example of winning victory over being rejected by those he loved, being betrayed by one of his disciples, crown of thorns placed upon his head, spat on, whipped until blood was gushing out his side, nails drilled through his hands and feet. All of this happened, and He didn’t say a mumbling word. Jesus made the best or effective use (Optimizes) of his victory by staying on the cross, being buried, and rising from the grave. Jesus did this just so you and I could have life and that more abundantly.

 The blessing is my ability to optimize the same victory of Christ Victory during times of the uncertainty of COVID-19 or any other difficulty. 

Sometimes, it’s challenging to pray to a person we may even be angry with during this time. We may experience anger with God. The anger may result from having so many unanswered questions and wishing things were different. It’s in these moments where God will give the Intercessor (person who stands in their place and prays for individuals when they can’t pray for themselves) a strong desire to pray or, in this case, write prayers. 

Christ Optimizes Victory In Desolation is composed of prayers based on the areas I sense individuals are struggling with during this pandemic. Yes, fear is real! Yes, fear of the unknown! Yes, lack of peace is real during this time. Yes, it’s important to pray for healing and understand that Jesus still heals and performs miracles in the midst of COVID-19.

How did you come about the title for this gorgeous collection of prayers?

 During my prayer time one morning, the words Christ Optimizes Victory in Desolation came to me. I thought it was to have a T-shirt designed. I had the T-shirt designed. I was strongly impressed on me to write a book of prayers for the uncertain time of COVID-19.  The focal prayer areas are on challenges related to COVID-19

Your book reveals the work of a woman of faith, can you share some of the faith-filled, inspiring moments of your life?

As we as a country have experienced many losses (not just death-related), I recall September 2, 2011, losing my job.  As an RN, I never thought I would see the day of being unemployed and having to file for unemployment.

On September 2, 2011, the company laid of seventeen individuals. I am not sure how they made their selection. I have never experienced any disciplinary actions. I was always on time for work.   I was working like any typical day and was called into the office by one of the managers. She informed me that I no longer had a job and gave me an envelope.  I only had an hour to pack up my things and exit the building before security arrives to escort me and others out of the building. I was struggling wrapping my head around being laid off and security being there in an hour.

The Lord had prepared me without me realizing it. I came in that morning and cleaned out my entire office space. While working, I was listening to Creflo O’dollar, and he said,” even if you get a pink slip, give God praise.”   I didn’t know in approximately three hours later; I would be unemployed.    The loss of a job was the Lord getting me out before the company closed months later.

In Christ Optimizes Victory in Desolation; Prayers for Uncertain Times, there’s a prayer entitled, “faith.” I had to activate my faith during this uncertain time of job loss and trust that God would see me through. I was unemployed for three months.  What the devil meant for evil God worked it out for my good. I was hired on December 6, 2011, at a hospital in the DMV area and currently employed at the same hospital. I have had fantastic opportunities and promotion.

In the midst of COVID-19 it’s imperative not to give up or lose your faith. God is the same God yesterday, today, and forever.

My faith has played an essential role also in surviving numerous of other losses.  I used to think the loss occurred with the death of loved ones starting in 1976. However,  I realized loss occurred for me during my childhood years of being molested by family members and being bullied throughout all my years of school.  I experienced both of my parents becoming the only remaining sibling. I experienced the loss of both of my dad’s parents.  My best friend died in 2005, and Mother died on November 17, 2006. My godmother killed in March 2007. I experienced numerous losses. My faith allows me to continue standing and functioning despite the multiple losses.

My faith has pushed me to write and encourage others that they can survive what has meant to destroy or kill them. I remember when my mother died writing a devotional entitled, “God is Greater Than the Pain.”   My faith has pushed me to help others deal with their loss. I am a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, Certified by the Grief Recovery Method Institute and the founder of a closed Facebook Group, Strength for the Grieving by the Grieving.

My faith in God has kept me alive and keeping me alive during this uncertain time of COVID-19.

What was the process of composing these prayers like for you?

It wasn’t a struggle at all. I wrote what I heard the Lord saying to me.

How relevant is your book to the contemporary crisis?

Christ Optimizes Victory In Desolation: Prayers for Uncertain Times is very relevant to what’s going on today in regards to the pandemic but now even with the events of racism. There’s a prayer on healing! Our nation needs healing! Yes, healing spirit, soul, and body. God is a healer!

There’s a prayer on fear! Our truth is that we are afraid! However, even in our fears, God is with us! There’s also a prayer on peace! Our country needs the peace of God!

When you wrote this book did you have a demographic profile of your targeted readers?

When I wrote the book, I didn’t have a demographic profile of my targeted audience. However, once the book was published, I felt the desire for the book to go globally nationally and internationally. The book is also available online in the UK.  It’s also my desire to have the book translated in other languages.

In what way do you see your book’s title as a possible turn-on to potential readers?

I believe not only the keyword Christ as a turn on for potential readers but Victory in Desolation. Uncertain Times often causes us to feel like we’re defeated. However, even in the midst of what looks like defeat, there’s victory! Everything around us suggests losses.  However, some people have recovered from COVID-19, and not everyone has experienced a loss of jobs. Individuals in the midst of COVID-19 are experiencing opportunities.

In a nutshell, what would you consider the core message of this book?

The bible says that men should always pray and not faint. The core message of my book is to not stop praying during uncertain times. It’s our prayers during these uncertain times that will help optimize Christ Victory that’s already ours!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

Christ Optimizes Victory in Desolation: Prayers for Uncertain Times is a great resource to assist individuals in how to pray strategically during the Uncertain Time of COVID-19.  The book also provides encouragement, strength, and comfort. 

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On the Launch of “Bearing Witness: Poems from a Land in Turmoil” by Martin Jumbam

I have read through these poems a number of times already and each time all my senses are on the alert. Clearly visible before my tear-soaked eyes is glaring proof of the senseless destruction of whole villages, with piles and piles of bloated corpses rotting in the sun and emitting an awful stench that floats in the air wherever the infamous bearers of death come knocking. In these poems, I hear the helpless cries of our men, women and children as they desperately flee for shelter into forests. Audible in the thick bushes is the agony of women in the pangs of child birth followed by the weak whimpers of new born babies, who barely have time to take in their first breath and then they are gone!

Share with me a few verses from a poem by a good friend of mine, who prefers anonymity at the moment: “Pain, blood, she wailed. She lay helpless, hapless. Her cheeks drowned in a pool of tears as hugely violent contractions stretched her abdomen to dolorous limits. Blood! Like she had never seen before! She pushed and pushed and pushed. A piercing tender cry filled the air. The baby was out. It cried again and again. Then suddenly, it cried no more. She lay helpless, hapless….”

In these poems, echoes the voice of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice has been heard on high: of lamentation, mourning and weeping; of Rachel crying for her children and refusing to be consoled over them, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15).

There are Rachels and Rachels and Rachels, countless Rachels lamenting, weeping, mourning and refusing to be comforted in our land because their children are no more. And this lamentation is not only coming from villages and towns in “Ground Zero.” In fact, as I listen, I hear similar wails and weeping and mourning arising from the hamlets of poor people in Ebolowa, Akonolinga, Bertoua, Garoua, Kousseri, Dschang, you name them. Families there too are mourning their loved ones slaughtered in this needless war being waged with the pretext that Cameroon must remain “one and indivisible.”

One of the beauties of these poems is that they moved me to the point where I started reflecting on a poem I never wrote. If I were to write one, it would be about a young girl around 20 years of age, who arrived in Bamenda and was immediately sent to man a post on Sabga hill, which is on the way to my village. In fact, at the foot of Sagba hill lies the Ndop plain. Overlooking the Ndop plain across from Sabga, is another hill, which is less than ten miles from the village of Nkar where my umbilical cord lies buried. I have gone through Sabga to my village countless times in my life time. Suddenly, Sabga has become a spot, among numerous others, where the children of the poor, like this unfortunate girl, have gone to die. I am sure that this girl was more at ease in her deep forest, where huge, ageless trees provided shelter for her and her family. On Sabga, with practically no trees behind which she could hide, the approaching bullet hit home and she desecrated our land with her blood.

She was just the daughter of poor peasant farmers, who must have celebrated with pride that their daughter had joined the army. To them, it was an opportunity for her to bring back some money, but instead her dead body was brought to them. Many other sons and daughters of poor families from east of the Mungo have also stained our land with their blood in this godforsaken war.

Meanwhile, the children of those prosecuting this destruction of our land from their air-conditioned offices in Yaoundé, are snorting cocaine in their parents’ luxurious mansions in the 16th District of Paris, “le 16e Arrondissement,” where the wealthiest of the wealthy live in Paris. Others are said to be buying shops in the rich quarters of Los Angeles in California, USA. Do the megastars of the American film industry really need the loot from our treasury? I wonder.

These poems also echo, for condemnation – and rightly so — the despicable acts of kidnappings for ransom by the “liberators” of yesterday, who have turned into the bandits and highway robbers of today. Some of their sponsors, who are hiding in foreign lands, are urging those on “Ground Zero” to kidnap, for a ransom, sons and daughters of the land coming back home from abroad. Simply mind-boggling but true!

I applaud the editors’ decision to feature poems from east of the famous divide — the Mungo. They, as illustrated by the death of the poor girl mentioned above, are also victims of this conflict. I also enjoyed poems in Pidgin. The editors of this anthology, Professor Joyce Ashuntangtang and Tande Dibussi, did this lingua franca an honour by giving poets a voice to also echo the anguish and cries of our people in a language that is so widely spoken and understood.

To crown it all, this beautiful anthology ends with a poem of hope by LiLian Lem Atanga entitled, “Songs of Hope.” What else can our people yearn for except the hope that the peace, which has eluded this unfortunate “land of promise, land of glory” for so long, will finally fly in, from the still dark horizon, like a dove, with an olive branch in its beak.

How beautifully light and swift over the ridges of the mountains and hills of our butchered land are the feet of these wonderful men and women of the pen, who are serving as true messengers of peace!

Salaam! Shalom!


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Interview with Children Author, Rolanda T. Pyle

You’ve written a book that has great potential to positively influence the lives of orphans under the care of grandparents, would you want to share with us what inspired this book?

Yes, my mother left me and my siblings with my dad, when we were infants.  Although we were not orphans, my grandmother stepped in to help him raise us.  She died 8 years later, but she had such an impact on my life.

Can you share something about yourself? What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my love for God, family and friends.   I love to write and to read.   I love music, Broadway plays, and concerts.  I am an avid NY Knicks NY METS and NY Liberty fan.  I love to travel and have traveled overseas and to 36 of the 50 states. 

That is quite a feat! Is there a link between your personal experience as a child and the message in Grandma’s Hands?

Yes, because of my situation, I was very sad as a child. I would sit, cry and wonder why I couldn’t have a mother in the house, like everyone else.   I didn’t realize that others were going through the same thing, until as an adolescent I read Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. So, I want younger children in this situation to identify and to know, they are not alone.

What is the link between your experience as a social worker and your writing?

I think being a social worker has further opened my eyes to the many things that people go through and need help with.  It has given me a keen sense of awareness.  I’ve written about some of those things, especially in my poetry.

What has been the most exciting thing about this book and what has been most frustrating throughout the process of writing and getting it into the hands of readers?

This is my third book, but my first book for children. So that is exciting. The marketing and promoting is hard. I really want to get the book out there to children who need it.   

What are you currently reading?

Well, I’m always reading and studying the Bible, but besides that Terri McMillian’s latest book.

Grandma’s Hands is an inspiring book, a story of love and loving kindness. While you celebrate this story, do you have plans for the next book?  

Well, there are several things I am working on. I’m working on a memoir or a biography to tell my story. I currently work with caregivers who are taking care of someone with dementia/Alzheimer’s and have received suggestions to work on a children’s book about that. I’m contemplating it.

I have a lot of poems and may publish another poetry book in the future. 

As the author of Grandma’s Hands, what do you consider the essential message of the story and who are your intended audiences? 

My intended audience is children who are living with and being raised by their grandparents, no matter what the reason.  The last US Census showed that 2.4 million grandparents have responsibility of caring for their grandchildren. I want these grandchildren to know that they are not alone and the grandparents to know that they are appreciated.

Interviewed by Christian Fernandez

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Book Reviews: How To Get Lots Of Them As A Self-Published Author

Reviews tell readers whether they should or should not buy a book, and the more positive reviews a book gets, the stronger the appeal it has for readers. Reviews give credibility to an author’s craft, and funny as it sounds, the majority of buyers rely on book reviews when making their choice of which book to buy. At times, just the number of reviews posted for a book is enough to make a reader buy that book.

While most publishing houses have developed winning strategies and even built their own list of book reviewers, most indie authors are left with little resources, uncertain about how to garner the reviews they need to sell more books. This article provides a roadmap to creating a buzz about your book with good reviews and how to get them.

Be Prepared with Your Kit

Your book review kit is something you have to think about months before your book even gets published. You don’t just wake up one good morning and start hunting for book reviewers. There are some essential things you should prepare before your book launch:

  • Copies of your book in DPF format. It will be great if they include a cover.
  • Print copies of your book. Some reviewers prefer print copies, so you need to have your mailing supplies ready.
  • A press release about the launch of your book. This is an opportunity to share your story with readers and potential reviewers. Especially for nonfiction writer, a press release is also an opportunity to share your story to potential readers.
  • Prepare your cover letter. This is what you need to introduce yourself to reviewers, and keep it short.
  • Author Bio. Readers want to know who you are and what makes you the right person to write the book, especially if your book is nonfiction.

Social Media Presence

By the time your book is published, you should have connected with the right people. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are ideal for hunting and connecting with book reviewers. I love LinkedIn because it allows you to easily locate book reviewers using the title, so connect with reviewers and start networking with them. Engage them in simple conversations and get to know more about them. You want to build relationships with these people so you can create an Emotional Bank where you can withdraw in the future. It will be easier to get a reviewer you have had a great conversation with to review your book than someone you’re talking to for the first time. The hours you spend investing in such relationships pay off in the end.

Finding the Right Reviewers

The ideal is to get free reviews for your book and there are thousands of reviewers and bloggers who write well and thoughtfully and who will gladly read and review your book — provided it appeals to them. The best way to start is to check out books that are in your genre and find out who has reviewed those books. On Amazon, you’ll be able to click on the reviewer’s profile to check them out. Luckily, many reviewers leave their contact details — name and email — open to the public. Start building your own list according to your interests.

There are some great online publications and review services that have put together a solid base for book reviewers, so you want to consider some of them. Readers Favorite offers free book reviews and has a dedicated page for the author. Mid-West Book Review accepts review requests from self-published authors. The Book Commentary publishes reviews on their sites and encourages its reviewers to publish on their blogs and other platforms.

Doing It Right

You’ve put together your materials and have built your own list of book reviewers, so now is the time to start reaching out and you want to make sure you do it right. Consider the following guidelines when reaching out to book reviewers.

  • Email the right reviewers.Make sure you’re aware of the kinds of books the reviewer reads before sending out your pitch. Select those who are appropriate and who are interested in your genre.
  • Don’t ignore the requirements. Make sure to check each reviewer’s requirements before contacting them. While some will want you to send out your book right away, others prefer that you pitch them first. Some will only review e-Books while others want hard copies. So, check out what works most for them. It can’t be your way!
  • Offer all versions of your book. In your query, make sure to indicate the available formats of your book — print, audio, and PDF.
  • Keep it short and to the point. Note that most reviewers only do this on their spare time and like most of us, they’re busy people. So, in your query, it will be great to let them know how you found them and why you think they might be interested in your book. Include a blurb of the book and make sure you share some interesting details about yourself.
  • Don’t spam reviewers. It is best to personalize your email as best as you can. Don’t send a mass email to reviewers, especially if you want better results. Give them time to respond and when doing a follow up, be polite and grateful. You’re asking them to spend their time reading and reviewing your book and there is no pay for that. The least you can do is to stay as professional as you can be.
  • Don’t forget the thank you note.Make it a point to get back to those who reviewed your book to say “Thank you.” There is no better way of ensuring that they review your next book than staying connected and grateful.

The above tips will help you not only get great reviews but have people talking about your book and attracting more readers to it.

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Romuald Dzemo is author of You Can’t Be a Failure, a passionate book lover and book reviewer, and an entrepreneur.  

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Should You Hire A Book Publicist For Your Book?

It takes a lot of time and commitment to get a book written. But that is the easiest part of the process. Getting it published and into the hands of avid readers or fans of the genre poses a lot of challenges, especially for authors with minimal marketing experience.

The question is: Should you be okay with the promotion efforts of your publisher or is there something else you can do to get the word out about your book? It is all about understanding the difference between a book that sells and one that sinks. Quite often, the difference isn’t so clear.

But one thing is for sure: allowing the publisher to do the marketing for your book won’t get it far. The hype doesn’t last long as the publisher quickly moves to the next title or reaches the limit of funds allocated for your book marketing.

You have to believe in your work and believe that it is a worthy investment in order to find ways to promote it. Creating a website for your book and blogging about it is a good start. Authors who are keen on marketing start building their email list months before their book gets published and they create an awareness of their work by frequent engagement with potential readers through blog posts and newsletters that showcase their craft and their writing journey. They start networking with book reviewers months before the publication of their book. 

While there is a lot that an author can do to promote their book, investing in the right book publicist can be a good investment for so many reasons, including placements in various media houses, individualized attention of the book, increased reviews, increased placement in brick-n-mortar bookstores, etc.

But how do you make sure you hire the right book publicist?

  1. Get Recommendation from other authors

While there are many ads online from book publicists, it is most advisable to speak with authors who have hired one before and ask for their recommendation. It will be even more suitable if authors recommending publicists write in the same genre. Apart from getting recommendations from other authors, it is important to consider the critical reputation of the publicist. A publicist doesn’t need print ads to get known. No, if they are good, authors will be talking about them.

  1. Get their references

You want to speak to authors who have used the services of the publicist. How successful are they? Were they able to get media coverage, get more sales, and reviews for their books? If possible, what is it the publicist did that is unique and what part of their book brought in more sales? Can they measure what they do and how? You’re looking for a publicist who is enthusiastic about books and who has successfully pitched similar books to reviewers, the media, and bloggers. So, speak to those who have used their service in the past. 

  1. Interview shortlisted publicists

A publicist who falls in love with your book and who develops a great relationship with you will create more success for your book. Your conversation with the publicist gives you insights into their personality and potential, helps you gauge their style of communication, and allows you to make a personal judgement when it comes to their strengths and business mindset. You want to know how they work, determine whether they are up-to-date with social media trends. Ask them about books they are working on or books they have marketed and find out how they are doing. Note that most publicists require contracts of six months to a year and some of them charge by the hour, so you want clarity on these critical areas before moving forward.

  1. Be Upfront with the publicist provided by your publisher

If your publisher provides an in-house publicist and you decide to get one, it is important to be upfront and let your in-house publicist know that you’re hiring a backup. You won’t have to worry about this if you are an indie author. Once you know what your in-house publicist does, you can easily get the outside professional publicist to fill in the gaps.

  1. Do your part.

This is about your book and hiring a professional to market it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to spread the word. While publishers can promote your book, there is a limit to what they can do. They also work on a budget like every one of us. So get to work and blog, tweet, and post on social media about your book. Build your own list of reviewers and reach out to them.

A good publicist can create a buzz about your book and if you are mindful of the points above, you’ll certainly find one.

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6 Easy Ways To Find Your Unique Writing Voice

No matter what you write, what keeps the reader engaged is your voice. The reader wants to think that they are seated across from you, listening to you. They want to hear you clearly and they want to connect with you and it is your voice that makes that connection possible, drawing them into your world and compelling them to pay attention to your topic, to follow your characters, or to stay with your train of thought. 

So, how do you make your voice compelling? It should be natural, an extension of who and what you are. It’s as simple as that. But how do you find your voice in writing? Most aspiring authors tend to imitate their favorite author’s voice and this can make their writing come across as forced, their voice discordant and shallow. Your writing will be more digestible and your thoughts clearer if you find your voice and use it with confidence. But how do you find your unique voice? Below are 6 useful tips. 

You Just Have to Write

Yes, you’ll find your voice by writing more. You become good at anything by constantly doing it.  A guitarist virtuoso becomes what he is by constantly practicing.  So, you have to write constantly and more. The more you write, the more your voice becomes clearer. You won’t get better without practicing, so write more. 

Let others see your work

You can’t be your own judge. Get feedback from others. Allow others to read your work and let you know how it affects them.You want to find out if your voice sounds clear and compelling enough to keep them interested in what you have to say.  It is best to have people who are experts to read your work. You can also get invaluable feedback from writing groups. But having your work seen by an editor with experience in your genre is most preferable. It is common for writers to seek out family members and friends to share their work with, but this category of people won’t give you the hard advice that a professional will give you.  

Good Writers Are Avid Readers

It would be a sheer contraction to want to get people interested in reading your work when you don’t have the interest in reading someone else’s. The best authors are the most avid readers. But why do you want to read a lot? You read because you want to understand why an author’s voice keeps you hooked. You want to know what it is that makes it hard to put a piece of writing down. You get familiar with the different styles of writing and hear echoes of your voice in the authors that mesmerize you with their writing. As you read others you unconsciously or consciously begin to hear your own voice even clearer. Read because you are eager to learn. Read because you want to understand how others do it. And read for the sheer joy of it. 

Explore Different Styles

Whether you’re writing a story or a nonfiction book, there are a thousand ways to go about it. Allow your idea to touch you in different ways. Explore the different perspectives and find that which best suits your voice.  For instance, when writing a story, you want to explore the different narrative forms. Do you feel most comfortable writing in the first person narrative? Does the POV become easier to handle when using the third person narrative for you? By exploring the different styles, you’ll easily find one that reflects your voice and that carries your message with more confidence and authenticity. 

Know Your Audience and Write for Them

They know when you’re honest and they can tell when you get irrelevant.  If you write a novel for teens in a tone that addresses adult readers, it won’t appeal to them. You want to know who your audience  is and what they are looking for. This means that you want to become part of their world, so explore their world, research on how they speak, on the language they use, and what makes them come alive.  You’ll stay relevant if you understand your audience and what interests them. 

Be Yourself

While you may want to write like Hemingway or your most favorite author, you can’t become those writers. Impersonification is the worst thing that could happen to a writer. You lose your voice when you try to imitate another writer’s and readers are intelligent enough to feel the discordant chords.  Write from your world. Write from your perspective. Write from the way inspiration comes to you. When you learn to listen to yourself and to translate your voice in writing, it becomes authentic and powerful. 

Readers are always looking for unique voices to read and yours only stays unique when it reflects your world and your humanity. 

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An Author’s Search For Truth Lands Her Inside Ring

Alicia Doyle is an award-winning journalist who discovered boxing at age 28 in the late 1990s when she went on assignment at a boxing gym for at-risk youth called Kid Gloves. She simultaneously worked as a newspaper reporter while training and competing as a boxer, making her one of only a few hundred women in America at the time who infiltrated this male-dominated sport. During her boxing career, she won two Golden Gloves championship titles and earned three wins by knockout – and her pro debut at age 30 in the year 2000 was named The California Female Fight of the Year.

A journalist for three decades, Alicia Doyle believes The Pen is Mightier than the Sword, giving great power to the written word. Alicia specializes in Good News, and has written hundreds of thousands of inspirational articles with the intention to have a positive impact. Over the years, she has interviewed some of society’s most remarkable people, including a man born without arms and legs who is a motivational speaker, a 90-year-old skydiver, missionaries serving inmates in a third-world prison, and a World War II veteran who fought to bring thousands of soldiers missing in action back home. Fighting Chance is Alicia’s first nonfiction novel. She lives in Southern California and her next endeavor is writing a children’s book, Kid Gloves.

An Excerpt from Fighting Chance

Search for Truth Lands Her Inside Ring – the title of a column I wrote before my professional boxing debut in the year 2000 – offers a glimpse of my nonfiction novel, Fighting Chance. Based on a true story, Fighting Chance is about my boxing career in the late 1990s when only a few hundred women in America were competing in this male-dominated sport. 

September, 2000: 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for answers. Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I make a difference in the world around me? 

Strangely enough, I found those answers in the boxing ring. Yes, boxing – a world that was once considered the mightiest sports featuring the world’s finest athletes, that has since been tainted by corruption. A sport that, despite its dark business side, is filled with athletes who want only to discover the best part of themselves. 

Boxing brought out the best in me! 

I stumbled upon the sport two years ago as a newspaper reporter for the Ventura County Star. I received a call from a community activist about a place called Kid Gloves, a boxing gym in Simi Valley for at-risk youth that was destroyed by El Nino rains. At the time, my view of boxing echoed the stigma attached to the sport – that it’s a brutal world filled with criminals, cheats and liars. But after writing several stories about Kid Gloves, my views changed. What I found was a hidden world filled with good-hearted, giving people free of prejudice; a place where courage, determination and self-discipline are inspired. 

Over the past two years, my passion for boxing has grown. After months and months of hard training, I have had 10 amateur fights, accumulating a record of five wins and five losses, with three wins by knockout. I am a two-time Golden Gloves Champion, earning the first-ever women’s Golden Gloves title in my weight class in the 1999 Southern California District trials. 

More important than my titles are the lessons I’ve learned. With discipline, dedication and desire, anything is possible. With perseverance, nothing is out of reach. And no matter what obstacles might stand in the way, integrity, honesty and hard work will make any goal a reality. 

Now, I want to share with others what I have learned. Boxing taught me focus and dedication. I learned clarity of mind and how to manage my emotions. And I discovered my own talents and strengths through persistence and self-awareness. 

In May, I quit my job at the Ventura County Star to pursue a professional career in women’s boxing. My first professional bout will take place September 16 at a brickyard in Castaic. 

Quitting my job was a difficult decision. I’ve been a journalist for more than a decade now, working for publications including the San Diego Union Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News. My most recent job at the Ventura County Star gave me a decent salary with benefits and security. It was the kind of job that, if I chose to stay for many years, I could retire from comfortably. 

But after some serious thinking and prayer for guidance, I realized there is no such thing as “job security.” I realized the only security I have is within myself. With confidence, I have the power to take my life in whatever direction I choose. 

I have to admit, boxing is a grueling sport. The training alone for my first pro debut has made me contemplate quitting many times. First, there’s the diet: a strict caloric regimen of protein, vegetables, fruit and very little carbohydrates. Several weeks ago, when I weighed 144 pounds, I signed a contract that stated I would weigh in at 130 pounds by fight time to compete in the lower weight class. In professional boxing, if a fighter weighs in any higher than he or she has agreed, the fighter will most likely be fined, and may have to pay additional fees that will come out of his or her “purse,” or paycheck. 

Then, there’s the physical training. For endurance, I run four miles a day, six days a week. For strength, do push-ups and sit-ups. For power, I hit the heavy bag. My workout, which ranges from two to three hours a day, also includes skipping rope, hitting the focus mitts, shadow boxing and other conditioning techniques. 

Many times, I wonder: Why am I doing this? For me, turning pro is not about the money. It’s about unleashing my courage and will. 

Just like every woman now breaking ground into women’s athletics, we are here for a reason. That reason is to show, by example, that we can do it. To show, through our hard work and efforts, that any woman can box, play basketball, play soccer – sweat the same sweat, bleed the same blood, cry the same tears of loss and victory – as well as any man. 

As women involved in sports, we have to try twice as hard, simply because we are women. To me, that is the greatest challenge. I want to show that I am more than just a woman. I am a fighter.

Click here to order Fighting Chance on Amazon. Order from Barnes & Noble here. You can also email the author atalicia@aliciadoyle.com to get an autograpghed copy of her book.