Attending the PTA LAUNCH conference in Dallas

After last year’s annual Texas Parent-Teacher Association Leadership Conference in Houston, I swore I wouldn’t be going to the one this year in Dallas. I had been to the state conference four times already, and there didn’t seem to be a need to attend a fifth time. That held true until in April when I was elected president of my daughter’s elementary school. After that I felt the need to go to learn some leadership tricks and tips.

As always, it was a fun, educational time. Most of us in attendance are officers on our local PTA boards though any PTA member or school official can attend. For this upcoming school year, I will be an officer on two different PTAs. As I said, I am PTA president at the elementary school, and I am on my second (and last) year as treasurer at my son’s middle school PTA.

There were classes to fit every interest level – from the basics of how to do your position (Treasurer, Parliamentarian, President, Fundraising, Secretary, etc.) to PTA issues (how to deal with contentious meetings or other drama, expanding membership, getting volunteers) to parenting issues (Lice, cyber bullying, talking about sex, online safety) and even personal things such as what to cook for dinner and how to save for college.

Here are the Classes and Discussion Groups that I attended.

Classes

Maintaining a PTA/Family-Life Balance – I had high hopes for this class helping me balance all the things I do. And while they covered delegating and prioritizing your commitments and activities, I didn’t walk away with a “game plan” on how to change anything as they claimed everyone’s situation was unique. I won’t say I didn’t learn anything but the session wasn’t as productive as I would have liked.

Connecting with your Tweens and Teens – This class covered common pitfalls parents make when talking to their tween/teens as well as how to handle conflict. This information can also be applied to others so definitely a winner of class.

Board Development: Essentials of a Successful Team – This course was all about knowing your board better. They had activities for ice breakers and team building. It was definitely a good session, and I will be implementing some of these activities into our first board meeting in August.

Emotional Leadership in Difficult Conversations – This was one of the best sessions. Conversations can become heated or tense when dealing with people from different backgrounds or just people who have different ideas of how the PTA should be run. This class talked about how to handle those situations and come out with both sides feeling like winners.

Discussion Groups

From Nervous to Fabulous – I do not like speaking in front of large groups. I have had to do it for the past few years as Treasurer, but I have never had to present the WHOLE meeting. Being nervous, I know I talk to fast so I went to this workshop hoping to find tips to make this school year’s presentations easier. I think I came away with some good information. Only time will tell if it helps.

Maintaining a Happy Marriage: Principals an PTA Leaders – I know this one is under discussion groups but still feel like it would help if the moderator either led the conversation (more like a Q&A) or if he had at least spouted out a few tips. As it was, I sat at a table with 9 other people, and we were supposed to tell our stories of working with the administration (or for the few teachers/principals there, their time working with the PTA Leaders) and get advice, feedback or at least commensurate with one another but I don’t feel that really happened.

There were many other classes or discussions I would like to have joined, but there is only so much time. And this doesn’t include the vendor fair, the regular PTA annual meeting, special lunches and banquets that attendees can attend. (Of that last list we only made it to the vendor fair and that was for the free samples.)

It was fun, informative weekend but since I have been for now five years in a row, I don’t plan to come back next year. OK, I know I said that last year, but this time I mean it.

Today’s Featured Author – Sheryl Grace

Author Sheryl Grace is on a virtual book tour to promote her book, King, Duke & Prince, that came out July 1.  Actually, we are in luck. Her actual tour is on Tuesday, but we get to check out her book a few days early!

Excerpt from Chapter 6

“Hi, I just came over to introduce myself. My name is King,” he said as he held out his tone and muscular arm in her direction to shake her hand.

Still under his allure, she did manage to reach out her hand to shake his and stated “Nice to meet you, I’m Lauren. Thank you again for the drink,” she said politely while looking intensely at his eyes.

“You are welcomed, Beautiful,” he said with a deep voice that resounded in her soul and made her tingle inside although she tried all she could not to show it.

He followed up with the sexiest smile she had ever seen. This is one tall glass of chocolate milk better yet Kahlua, she thought.

Book Blurb

Ten years ago, James Miller walked out of prison vowing to leave the past behind. That past included his sons and their mothers and though he told himself that he would return, he never did. Now, he has a new name, a new family, a new career and a best-selling memoir. Meanwhile, the sons he left behind navigated their way to manhood while dealing with the questionable choices of their mothers.

King relies on his looks, charm, and sexual prowess as he methodically plans to find the next successful woman to support his lifestyle. Simply because he works only when he feels like it. When he finds the one, it is not business as usual. But will he reexamine his trifling ways when it nearly causes him to lose those he loves the most?

Darius has a penchant for pursuing the wrong women. However, his mind for business manages to keep him afloat despite his challenges to keep his emotions intact. Working for a stepfather he despises only builds resentment between he and his mother. What happens when the worlds of the two men collide unexpectedly, causing all to question their love and loyalty to one another?

Prince is awkward and highly intelligent. His hard-working mother is thrilled beyond measure upon receiving the news that her son has been given the opportunity of a lifetime. But Prince’s world is shattered by someone he and his mother trusted dearly. The secret is killing him. What will happen when the secret is exposed?

The sons do not know they are brothers but when find out, they are determined to make James pay the price for leaving them behind.

Three Brothers, Three Mothers, One Father and whole lot of drama!

“Charge it to the game cause everybody’s trying to score”

About the Author 

Sheryl Grace is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Louisiana native currently residing in North Texas. Her debut novel “He Calls Her Blue” has received positive reviews. Sheryl is also the co-host of the award-winning internet radio show, The Authors Lounge.

You can connect with Sheryl on her website or Facebook.

You can purchase an autographed copy of King, Duke, & Prince here.

BLOOD BOND is just #99cents

If you love dragons, you won’t want to miss this!

From Thursday, July 26 thru Tuesday, July 31, you can download my fantasy novel, Blood Bond, for just 99 cents!

Available only on Amazon.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Download the Kindle App for free here.

Blood Bond: Book Description

Man severed the alliance with the dragons fifty years ago. But now an invading army marches north destroying everything in its path. The dragons believe only together can the invaders be defeated. They need an emissary.

Womanizer. Drunk. Failure. Soren is many things. A leader isn’t one of them. But, Dex, the dragon that saves him from a cliff, believes different. Thrust into an adventure he never wanted, Soren’s life changes forever when during a battle Dex’s blood mixes with his blood creating a mystical blood bond – forever linking them.

As the bond strengthens, Soren must decide whether to return to his old life or accept the bond and embrace his role in the battle against the invading army.

***

You can read the first chapter here, or check out Soren being thrown from a dragon here or confronting that dragon here.

Download Blood Bond for 99 cents here.

Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

This post is the forty-sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

When putting your e-book online, you will need to pick a genre/category and keywords to help categorize and market your novel.

Genre/Categories

Every book is categorized by its genre to help readers locate the type of book they enjoy reading. Mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, suspense and western are just a few examples of fiction genres.

And then there are subcategories of genres such as epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, paranormal and more. It will help you to know your subgenre to pick the category you want your novel to appear under.

Categories

On Amazon, you can initially pick two categories for your book. You should be as specific as possible.

  1. Don’t just say fiction > Fantasy. Go deeper. Fiction > Fantasy > Historical. Your book will still be listed under the general category.
  2. Don’t pick “General” unless your book is a general book about a broad topic.
  3. To be listed under additional subcategories, you sometimes need to list certain keywords.

Yes – this last one means you can actually be listed under more than two categories. Appearing in these extra-subcategories means your book is seen by more people and competes against fewer other titles.

To get listed in these subcategories, you cannot just select them from a drop-down menu. You must select a category AND certain keywords. And you don’t have to guess at what the “secret” keywords are. Amazon gives you a list.

To see a list of keyword choices for all major genres, click here and then click ‘categories with keyword requirements.’

Keywords

So, as you can see from above, keywords are important and are definitely a step you don’t want to skip. Not only can these keywords put your book into subcategories of your genre, they help potential readers find your book.

This means you need to figure out what words readers might use when searching for a book on Amazon. This might take you some research/thought.

One way to check this out is to do a search on Amazon. Type in your genre (fantasy) or type of character (dragon) and see what other suggestions come up in the drop-down menu.

Here are some tips from KDP on selecting your keywords.

  • Combine keywords in the most logical order. Customers search for ‘military science fiction’ but probably not for ‘fiction science military.’
  • Pick useful keywords:
    • Setting (Colonial America)
    • Character types (single dad, veteran)
    • Character roles (strong female lead)
    • Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
    • Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)
  • Keywords to Avoid:
    • Information covered elsewhere in your book’s metadata (title, contributors, etc.)
    • Subjective claims about quality (e.g. “best novel ever”)
    • Time-sensitive statements (“new,” “on sale,” “available now”)
    • Information common to most items in the category (“book”)
    • Spelling errors
    • Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (“80GB” and “80 GB,” “computer” and “computers,” etc.). Exception: Words translated in more than one way (e.g. “Mao Zedong” or “Mao Tse-tung,” “Hanukkah” or “Chanukah”
    • Anything misrepresentative like the name of an author not associated with your book. This kind of information can create a confusing customer experience. Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero-tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.
    • Quotation marks in search terms. Single words work better than phrases, and specific words work better than general ones. If you enter “complex suspenseful whodunit,” only people who type all of those words will find your book. For better results, enter this: complex, suspenseful, whodunit. Customers can search for any of those words and find your book.
    • Amazon program names like as “Kindle Unlimited” or “KDP Select”

Between selecting keywords from Amazon’s chart and suggestions from the drop-down search menu, you should be able to select seven good keywords and have your ebook positioned for buyers to find. And feel free to experiment and change these words to your heart’s content as you find what works.

An easy way to find out which categories your book is currently in is to scroll down to the bottom of the sales page and check where it says ‘Look for Similar Books by Category’. This example shows all the categories my novel, Summoned, is current listed in.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

Finding out if my son is a late bloomer or has short stature

Ever since he was a toddler, Jase has always been on the smaller side. As he grew, he seemed to have found his growth curve for height in the mid to upper twenties on the standard growth percentile scale. And then about three years ago, his growth slowed down. And now at age 13, he is only in the fourth percentile for both weight and height.

To understand growth percentiles, think of it this way. If 100 thirteen-year-old boys stood in a room. 96 of them would be taller than Jase.  In other words, he is short. In fact, his 10-year-old sister is almost as tall as he is. (And yes, I know girls often grow faster at a younger age.)

Now there is a chance that Jase is just a late bloomer and one summer (or fall) he is going to grow several inches and catch up with the other boys. But since he has dropped so low in the height percentages and has not been growing the standard two inches that doctors expect kids to grow every year, Jase’s doctor suggested we get him checked out to ensure nothing else was wrong.

So, we made an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist. Our doctor was awesome, explaining that he could be a late bloomer and how many kids have a slowdown of growth before they take off.  Both my husband and I had a few “late bloomer” traits from our own childhoods. But there were other areas to explore just to rule out any other problems. They would do a blood test to check the function of his thyroid, check hormone levels and to check for celiac disease. They also ordered a bone age test to evaluate how fast or slow his bones were maturing.

Jase was more worried about the blood draw than the bone test which is just an x-ray of his left hand and wrist. Jase had never had blood drawn or an x-ray before this. He did excellent with both tests. He didn’t seem worried about the result. Actually, he seemed happy that the doctor had noticed a little fuzz growing on his upper lip. (Looks like shaving will soon be in his future.)

A day later, we got the results from the bone age test. It showed his bones were measuring at 12 years six months, which is a standard deviation from his actual age of 13 years 1 month at the time of the test. Based on his test, his projected height will be 5 feet 8 inches. Of course, that is only a prediction and not a guarantee.

The blood test showed his thyroid was working just fine, and his level of growth hormone level was normal. Besides being a little low on vitamin D, everything checked out normal. Guess this leaves him being a late-bloomer!

Enjoy an #excerpt of the #fantasy novel BLOOD BOND

Today is Friday, and while I usually host a guest author, I didn’t have one lined up for today. (Any authors who want to be featured, check out this post from last week.) About 5 months ago, my latest fantasy novel was released. If you haven’t bought your copy of Blood Bond yet, check out this excerpt and then pick up your copy on Amazon.

Excerpt

As Soren walked, he noticed a brown dragon sitting apart from the others. The last time he had seen Barth was when the dragon had thrown him off his back before Blinking. Remembering that horrible feeling of falling, he clinched his fist and stalked over to the brown dragon. Barth regarded him coolly as he approached.

“You! What the…why did you do that?”

“You were making a mistake,” Barth said, calmly.

Soren paced in front of him, waving his hands as he spoke. “You couldn’t have told me that and then landed? Instead, you threw me off your back while we were in the air! I could have been killed!”

“And yet, here you are.”

Soren took a deep breath and another. “What if Dex didn’t save me?”

“Then neither of you would have had to worry about the Blood Bond,” Barth said with amusement in his voice. His eyes focused on Soren and when he continued, he tone was serious. “You and Reddex share a Bond that is stronger than any I have seen. I knew he would save you, just as I knew you were acting out of anger. It would have been a mistake for you to leave. Do you regret choosing to stay with him?”

“No.” Soren sighed. “I don’t regret it.”

“Well, there you are. Perhaps you should be thanking me instead of being angry.”

Soren threw his hands up in the air and stalked away. Now he was more annoyed than he had been after dealing with the General. He didn’t want to return to Camden. He needed to work out his frustrations. He spied a rake leaning against a nearby building. Grabbing it, he returned to the place where Dex had originally landed. Though the dragon never complained about sleeping on the rough ground, Soren began clearing the area of rocks. Dex would probably point out he had been sleeping on them for the past week without a problem, but he needed something to do and removing the rocks and sticks, so they didn’t jab the dragon as he slept seemed the perfect distraction. As he worked, he considered erecting a tent nearby but dismissed the idea. He knew he too would probably be sleeping on the ground. He had become accustomed to sleeping against Dex. He found he slept better that way.

As he continued to clear the area, sweat dripped down his face. The manual labor felt good. What felt even better was to be out of the city. There was no chance he would be bombarded with questions out here or that anyone would doubt his observations. His thoughts went back to his report on the advancing army. He knew what he had seen. The cloaked figure was a woman.

“What are you doing here?”

Soren froze at the sound of a voice he hadn’t heard in years. His hands gripped the rake handle until his knuckles were white. He turned slowly. The man stood with a saddle thrown over one shoulder. His hair and beard were streaked with grey. A brown leather apron covered his clothes. The look of disgust on the man’s face was one he had seen thousands of times.

“Hello, father.”

His father dropped the saddle to the ground and took a step toward him. “I might expect to see Jerrick here but not you.”

His father could always tell them apart. He didn’t move as his father approached. He saw his father’s eyes travel down his face to the mark on his neck.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing.”

Soren didn’t see the fist coming. It slammed into his jaw. Pain exploded across his face. He fell to the ground. He lay on his back, slowly bringing his hand to his mouth. He wiped away the blood. Anger coursed through him, and distantly he heard Dex calling to him.

“You don’t speak to me like that.” His father placed his foot on Soren’s shoulder, pressing down until he had him pinned to the ground. He leaned over him, applying a little pressure. “The mark?”

Soren grunted as his father increased the pressure. “It’s so they can tell Jerrick and I apart.”

“They?”

“The King, his men.”

“Ah. I see.” His father glanced up, his eyes widening.

Soren heard the wings. The ground shook as Dex landed. His father took a step back, releasing the pressure on Soren’s shoulder. He backed away as the red dragon advanced. Soren climbed to his feet, placing his hand on Dex’s flank. His father’s eyes flickered to him.

“You don’t belong here,” his father said. “Nothing good will come of this. And soon you will be the cause of another death, and they’ll know it.”

Book Blurb

Man severed the alliance with the dragons fifty years ago. But now an invading army marches north destroying everything in its path. The dragons believe only together can the invaders be defeated. They need an emissary.

Womanizer. Drunk. Failure. Soren is many things. A leader isn’t one of them. But, Dex, the dragon who saves him from a cliff, believes different. Thrust into an adventure he never wanted, Soren’s life changes forever when during a battle Dex’s dragon blood mixes with his blood creating a mystical blood bond – forever linking them.

As the bond strengthens, Soren must decide whether to return to his old life or accept the bond and embrace his role in the battle against the invading army.

***

You can read the first chapter here or another exciting excerpt here. Or stop reading snippets and get the whole book here on Amazon.