It’s a different age…kids growing up with computers

computerAlmost from the time he could walk, Jase has been using a computer. We started him out with toddler games where you click on things to hear a noise or see something happen. He graduated up to preschool games that taught numbers and colors.

In kindergarten, they began going to the computer lab weekly. By this time, Jase was playing video games on the Nick Jr site on the computer (not to mention games on the Wii or Xbox). At 8, he knows how to search on Google and Amazon. In school, they are doing PowerPoint presentations and typing up research in Word. Often their homework involves going to a website to practice math or spelling or to do research.

Yep, there is no separating kids from computers nowadays. They are well adept at using a mouse almost before they can even hold a pencil. And don’t get me started on their ability to use an iPad better than I can.

Now, my husband and I have discussed our kids usage of computers, but we haven’t installed monitoring software or anything. The kids’  computer (yes, they have their own) is in our office. They are usually only on it when we are in the room, so we can monitor what they are doing.

Because they are still young (5 and 8), we have not had to worry about them entering personal information beyond their name and age. They don’t go to sites that ask for their address or birth dates. They can’t install any programs on the computer themselves – which means they can’t download anything either. They do not belong to any chat groups. They don’t instant message or have any personal pages, though they do have an email account. It is a shared account between the two of them. The only ones who know the address are family and my husband automatically gets a copy of incoming messages. They don’t know how to post pictures.

While I know they don’t or can’t do any of the items that most parents need to worry about, I do know that we need to plan for these things. We know we will need to change things as they get older and become more computer-literate. Because really the Internet can be a dangerous thing for kids. And of course, it can be a great learning tool too which is why I don’t mind them using the computer even if it is only to play a game.

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Today’s Featured Author: Marian L. Thomas

Today I want to welcome Marian Thomas to my blog. Please enjoy this excerpt from her latest book, Aqua Blue.

Book Excerpt

Prologue
The two best friends sat on the bank of the only lake that ran through Jackson County. One was a slightly tall, raging thin-framed girl with two long braids that hung on either side of her head. Full olive skin wrapped every inch of her body. Her tiny freckles, sporadically placed, highlighted her green eyes and pointed nose. Her mother was a short woman who moved to Jackson County from Virginia with her parents, when she was 15 and a half years old. She had found herself a tall country boy, and they had a small and swaddled country girl, if there ever was such a thing. They named her—Haley.

The other one was a smart, somewhat sassy, almond-skinned girl with eyes so blue they spun a rare color of aqua in the sunlight. Her long, thick hair and curvy frame completed the look. Her father was a slender man with brown wavy hair and green eyes. He was born in Chicago, but when he couldn’t find work after entering his adult years, he moved to the farm life of Jackson County, just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1955. It took him nine years to get the land going and six months after that, to fall in love with a young black woman named Hanna Lee. In the beginning, it had been tough for them. It wasn’t until the winter of 1967 that he was able to legally make her his wife. Their first and only child was born in 1968. They named her Simone Renée Thompson, but called her Aqua Blue.

Aqua Blue and Haley lay side by side, looking up at the moon as it sent what they called twinkles down, which splashed on the top of the sweet water. Yes, Jackson County had sweet water. Everyone in town thought so. All 4230 residents, 31, if you count Ms. June’s new baby. Truth be told, no one wanted to claim that one. Ms. June was not married, hence the “Ms.”

Aqua Blue remembered when Ms. June came to town three years ago, with a belly the size of two or three bowling balls. The scandal spread through the county like someone was paying everyone to talk about it. Aqua Blue had felt sorry for Ms. June, but that wasn’t why she was always so eager to go over to Ms. June’s house and help out. Ms. June had been the only sane individual in Jackson County. Aqua Blue couldn’t even declare that about her own parents. Her best friend Haley was as crazy as a puppy chasing its tail. But Aqua Blue would never tell her that.

Truth be told, Ms. June had been the only one to escape the dingy roads of Jackson County, the old smell that loomed in the air and the overalls that men wore every day without washing them. She had purchased a one-way train ticket to Atlanta and stole off into the night one Sunday in August. She had told everyone that she was going there to find her a city husband, a city house, and a white picket fence that enclosed a square piece of grass. Even in Jackson County, everyone knew that the city didn’t have grass. Nevertheless, Ms. June said that she only needed a square, as she wasn’t one for yard work in the first place. Six months later, Ms. June returned on a Monday with the bowling balls, and of course, no city husband. “At least,” Ms. June once told Aqua Blue just before her daughter Margaret was born, “I have a city baby.”

Everyone needed something to give a bad situation some bright light, Aqua Blue had thought when Ms. June made that statement.

“What are you thinking about, Aqua Blue?” Haley asked, interrupting Aqua Blue’s train of thought.

“Nothing really. Just wondering what it was like in Atlanta when Ms. June found herself there.”

“Why?”

“Does there have to be a reason for me to be contemplating something of that nature?”

“You know I hate that.”

“Hate what?

“When you try to talk so proper and all.”

“You should try it. It can be refreshing.” Haley glared at Aqua Blue.

Aqua Blue gave her a friendly shove and the girls allowed the moment to pass.

“You know, I was only asking earlier because it looked like ya’ was about to explode from thinking so hard.”

“I wasn’t thinking hard. More like wondering. Wondering what it would be like to have the hope of never seeing the likes of this place again.”

“Why? You gonna’ leave me and run off to Atlanta like Ms. June and find yourself a good, city-like husband?”

“Not looking for a city husband, Haley.”

“So what ya’ looking in Atlanta for?”

“Actually, I want to go to New York.”

Haley sat up. “What in the good name for?”

“Haven’t you ever wanted to get out of this little dusty town, Haley? I know you have. I’ve seen it in your eyes, every time we see Ms. June.”

“I ain’t never!”

“Don’t lie.”

“I ain’t,” Haley said softly.

Aqua Blue saw her biting down on her lower lip. She smiled. “Well, I have. I want to go so bad, Haley, it hurts. You and I graduated this summer, and still, here we both are, doing nothing with our lives.”

“What’s in New York?”

“Life.”

“Life? Ya’ can find that, the same as the cows do, here. Chew-ing the grass and looking up at the sky. Besides, how ya’ gonna’ live in a place like New York, Aqua Blue? You’re only 18. You ain’t got no money.”

“Yes, I do.”

“You do?”

“I’ve been saving my money since I started getting an allow-ance. Then, when I started babysitting Margaret, I saved all of that as well.”

“How much you got?”

“Enough.”

“How do you know that you got enough?”

“I spoke to Ms. June.”

“New York and Atlanta ain’t the same, Aqua Blue. In Atlanta, Ms. June could still find some of us, Southerners. New York ain’t got nothing but… big things. I hear they got big people too, who are mean, and big food that taste like it’s been fried and sitting in grease all day long. Don’t forget, they ain’t got no sweet tea. Who can live without them some good ‘ole sweet tea? Ain’t never heard anyone be able to survive without something as essential as that.”

Aqua Blue tried not to laugh as Haley seemed to get herself all caught up in the intensity of her speech.

“Then I heard that they ain’t got no place for you to lay your head if you find yourself in trouble or down-and-out. Here, you always got a place to lay your head, Aqua Blue. So why, is all I’m asking? What they got that you feel you gotta’ get?”

“Music.”

“We got music. Good music too. Music that come in all forms. Country, that new Rap, R&B that you’re always listening to, Jazz, and even some Blues, if you count Mr. Jacobson who lives down by the old barn. What makes music in New York so different than the music here in Jackson County?”

“I wanna sing, Haley. I wanna sing and write my own music.”

“Can you? I ain’t never in my life of 19 years once heard you sing.”

“That’s because I have never sung for anyone.”

“Then how do ya’ know you can do it? Sing, I mean. Ya’ know, singing in the shower ain’t the same as singing to make a living.”

“I know that.”

Aqua Blue stood up and dusted the grass off her rolled-up blue jeans. She walked to the edge of the lake and watched the twinkles dance off the sweet water. They were like tiny stars. The gentle breeze of the air caught her hair, and Aqua Blue felt a burning desire to prove to Haley what had been brewing down in her lungs.

She took a deep breath, and when she opened her mouth, Haley heard a voice she had never heard before. By anyone, for that matter.

It was as smooth as chocolate. Soulful. Passionate. Beautiful.

When Aqua Blue was done, all Haley could say to her was… “Let’s leave as soon as possible.”

Book Description

AquaBlue-FRONT-vWEBIn 1968 a child was born. Her father’s eyes boast a beautiful green and her mother was born with hazel. Yet, Aqua Blue was brought into the world with neither.

Haley wishes her parents would forget her. Her mother wants to control her, her father constantly beats on her and Haley, however, just wants to dance on Broadway. Will her dreams cost her more than she ever expected?

Jonathan Jacob Benjamin Brown is running from the memory of a mother he loved. His journey will thrust him into a world filled with secrets so shocking, he must determine whether he will forgive or walk away.

As they each step foot into the intoxicating city of New York, their dreams are standing before them with open arms. Yet, in order to embrace the possibilities, they must first learn to live, love, and breathe.

About the Author

Author Marian L. Thomas is no stranger to the world of fiction. With three dramatic and engaging books to her credit: Color Me Jazzmyne; My Father’s Colors and Strings of Color, this award-winning author continues to weave colorful stories of emotion and realism, that crosses all boundaries and finds a home in the heart of today’s female reader. This has become her trademark. Her new release: AQUA BLUE, was released July 16, 2013.

Find out more about Marian on her website.

Aqua Blue can be purchased on Amazon.

Remembering to update your bios and links

Open bookWhen you first become published, you write your author bio, which touts your first book. Then you write a second book and maybe even a third or fourth. You might start a website or a blog. You publish a short story or are included in an anthology. And there – on Amazon, on Goodreads, on your Facebook or Twitter page – is the same old author bio that you first jotted down.

I have written before about how to write an author bio but of course didn’t address updating it. When you first start out, you probably proudly listed the title of your book or later maybe the name of the series you are working on. But once you get a number of novels written, it probably is easier to list the genre you write verses every book to your credit.

Example:

(first novel) Summoned: Book 1 of The Elemental is Susan’s debut novel. The sequel, Quietus, will be released this Fall.

(second novel) Summoned and Quietus, the first two books of The Elemental trilogy, are available wherever e-books are sold. The third and final installment in the series will be released early 2012.

(multiple books) Susan writes fantasy novels and short stories.

However, it simply isn’t a listing of your books. You need to update any links. Once you get multiple books, you may want to link to your author page on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords instead of to just one book. Linking to your author page will allow readers to see all of your books.

If you have built a website or started a blog, you might need to update or add these links to your bio. Or you might have created a book trailer that you want to have placed on your author page.

The key is to remember to check each of the places you have your bio listed. And as you start submitting your information to more sites that list can be long. Here are a few places you should check to make sure the information is up-to-date.

Amazon author page

Goodreads author page

Facebook page

Twitter

Your website or blog’s “About Me” and “My Books” pages

Any author pages on writer’s websites such as Independent Author’s Network, Librarything.com, and genre specific sites

Trying out for the school play

Last May, my son came bouncing out of school. “Please, Mom, can I try out for the school play?”

Of course, I said yes. I don’t know where his interest in being in the play came from. He had never attended the school play:  Wizard of OZ when he was in Kinder or Charlie Brown, which had been done just a month earlier.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that he wants to be in the play. Earlier that school year, he had requested and been given a speaking part in the first-grade performance.

Little-MermaidJase was thrilled that he would be trying out for The Little Mermaid and picked up a Boy’s Audition packet the next day.

So we went home and read the packet information. They give out the audition packets in May and auditions were set for September. The play will be performed in April 2014. For his audition, he would need to be able to do two scenes – one as Prince Eric and one as Flounder. And since this is a musical, he also was given part of the song “Under the Sea” to learn.

So this summer, we would go over his audition about once or twice a week. In August, I tried to get him to practice daily. By September, he had the lines memorized and was getting much better at saying the lines with inflection rather than just reading them.

Jase’s choice role would actually be one of the sailors or Prince Eric. Even as we practiced, I doubted he would get Prince Eric. These were the lines he stumbled over the most. And I expected the leads of Prince Eric and Ariel to go to older kids.

At the end of the first week of school he brought home the audition form and permission slip which we filled out and sent back in. On the form, it asked what part you wanted, and if you were willing to accept a different part. I made sure Jase understood he might not get a part, or since he selected that he would take any part, he might get a part other than the one he wanted.

On Sept 10th, he had his audition. Parents weren’t allowed to watch. It was just the student and the judges. He bounced into the room and four minutes later, bounced back out. He said it went well. He only had to do the scene with Prince Eric and then sing. I wished he had chosen to do the Flounder scene because he does that one so much better than the Prince Eric one but it was his choice.

The following Monday they posted the cast list. Jase wasn’t on it. He was fine with not being selected. Later, he told me he was a little sad about it, but that it was okay.  I told him that I was proud of him for trying. There are 650 kids in his class and only 100 were brave enough to do that. I guess I will have to wait for May to see if he wants to try again next year.

Today’s Featured Author: Annie Brown

Author Annie Brown stops by my blog today as part of her Who I Be Virtual Book Tour. Please enjoy this excerpt from Who I Be.

Excerpt

We did not choose our parents, so we have no control over our DNA makeup. But I do know and trust God’s Word that we all were wonderfully and fearfully made. Is not that a blessing that no matter what our beginning features were like, God made us good and very good? It is that innate (inborn) desire within us to be accepted by the world standards that keeps us from accepting who we really are. Contributing factors are the lies the devil has us believing that there is always something wrong with us. We are never satisfied. If we are short, we want to be taller.

If we have a dark complexion, we want to be lighter. If we are white, we want a tan. If we are slender, we want to put on weight, and if we are obese, we want to lose weight. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to make some adjustments to our physical bodies, it becomes almost an obsession when the images that society and the devil paint as acceptable are what we yearn to be.

So what do we need to do as we feed into this deception and believe things are what the devil tells us they are? We should cry out to God as King David did on so many occasions for help. If we want to step from low self-esteem to confi dence, we must take heed of the Word of God and believe what God says about us. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, the adversary (the devil) has been deceiving people to believe that he knows better than God. St John referred to the devil as a liar and the father of lies.

Book Description

who I beHave you looked in the mirror recently? Was the person looking back at you the person you used to be or are you not sure who is starring back at you? Sometimes during the course of life we allow ourselves to become what society says we ought to be. Society and its norms should not be how we define ourselves. God has made each one of us to be uniquely different and special in our own right. When we take the time to examine ourselves we may be surprised how much of the real us is gone. Physically we disfigured ourselves or made ourselves sick trying to measure up to how society says we ought to look or be. Who I Be is personal. It is time that we focus on who and how God intended for us to be. We were fearfully and wonderfully made and we should find satisfaction in being made in God’s image and not who or what society says we should be. Our physical, emotional, mental, and financial status does not make us. Who I Be is about the person who can be themselves and not be stressed or anxious about becoming another product of circumstances or norms to be wholly.

About the Author

annie brownAnnie Brown was born to the parents of Lonza and Daisy Duckett in Alexander City, Alabama. She was the third of four children. Annie is the proud parent of four adult children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She is a licensed minister and attends Joyful Noise AOH Church of God in Sylacauga, Alabama where she serves as the church secretary. Annie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Montevallo and  a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Alabama. She currently works at Lakeside Hospice, Inc. in Pell City, Alabama as a hospice social worker.  As a social worker, Annie works with the terminally ill, providing emotional support at the most critical time in an individual’s life.

Annie’s heart desire is that people will learn to love themselves. In order to love themselves a person cannot conform to society’s norms as to what is acceptable but rather believe what God’s Word says.

You can find out more about Annie on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Who I Be on Amazon.

5 Tips to Better Author Presentation

checklistFor over a year now, I have hosted authors on my blog. I have met some friendly, thankful, pleasant people. But I have also run into quite a few people who don’t seem to know how to put their best foot forward.

I host authors on my blog to help them promote their books. I would say it takes me anywhere from thirty minutes up to an hour to set each one up on my blog. Now I am not looking for anything other than a thank you, but I have to admit that not everyone seems up to speed on what is expected of them or how to use this opportunity to their advantage. (Sadly, many of my less than stellar participants have come from people who have organized a blog hop for them.)

So here are some tips that apply not only to those submitting to my blog but really any promotional opportunity authors’ encounter.

1.)    Be Professional – Be polite in your communication. Clearly state what you are interested in doing. On my blog that would be either an author interview, book excerpt or guest post. I don’t expect to make the choice for you and while I try to accommodate date requests, I fill my spots on a first-come basis.

2.)    Put your best work forward – Any time you put anything on the Internet – be it a tweet, a post on Facebook or show off your writing skills on your own website or someone else’s, you need to show your best, most professional work.

  • If you are doing an author interview, have fun with it and answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t have an answer (no favorite book) or your answer is a one-word, uninteresting response (Did you have any difficulties writing this book? No.), then I would prefer you skip the question. (I have never had that happen when I send out a list of author questions but on one of the last blog hops, oh, man some of the answers were dreadful. Needless to say, I omitted those questions/answers from my site.)    
  • If you provide a book excerpt, make it an exciting scene in your novel. Make it end with a hook that will make the reader want to PURCHASE your book.
  • If you are submitting a guest post, make sure it is relevant to the site and of course, well-written.

3.)    Provide the information requested – If someone asks you for your book blurb, cover art, author bio, personal links and buy/purchase links, then you should be able to provide those. Each author should have these things at their fingertips. I also expect your links to go directly to your book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble rather than just state your book is available there. You want to make it easy for your newly interested reader to buy your book.   

4.)    Include a good author bio – I have blogged about this topic before. Your bio needs to be short (a paragraph or two) and relevant to your work. If you wrote a legal thriller than your law degree can add credibility. Some personal information (kids, hobbies) spices up your bio but keep it to a minimum.

5.)    Remember the reason you are doing this promotional opportunity – I can’t say this one enough. Remember that you are appearing as a featured author to let people know about you and the wonderful book that you wrote. You want them to read the post and then buy your book. You are a salesman in this instance so do your best to make them realize they are missing out if they don’t buy your book.

I hope this helps authors out there – especially maybe those newbies who are still struggling to figure out the marketing/self-publication world. If you are an author and would like to be featured on my Friday Featured Author spot, please contact me on my About Me page.