Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michelle McLean is Here to Help!

Lucky us! Today, Michelle McLean is here to talk about her newly released book Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers.

This book is perfect for helping out anyone who struggles with any aspect of writing those essays. You won't believe how much information Michelle has included inside! Check it out...
I’ve been asked by several people why I wanted to write a book like this. It all started with a few How To blog posts. But impromptu tutoring sessions with my younger brother and sister were always in the back of my mind. They went something like this:

Sis: Just tell me how to start the essay.

Me: You gotta state your thesis in your introduction.

Sis: I know that. But what, I just state it?

Me: *sigh* No…lead up to a little bit.

Sis: *bigger sigh* Just tell me how to start it. What’s the first sentence?

Me: *snatches pen* Fine. Here. *writes first sentence*

Sis: Cool. What do I write next?

Me: Seriously?

Sis: *gives me her best grin*

Me: Fine. Here.

Sis: Cool. What comes after that?

This would continue on for a while…until I got fed up or her essay was finished.

Now, my sister is a very smart girl, and she’s actually a good writer. She knew the basics of what she needed to do. She could look up the rules in her writing book. But even given the rules and instructions, she still wasn’t sure how to go about actually doing them.

When I started posting How To posts on my blog on subjects like poetry and essays, I got a lot of comments from students and former students who were just like my sister. They knew what to do…they just didn’t know how to do it, and the other guidebooks out there weren’t helping. They either listed the rules without exact directions on what to do with those rules, or their instructions were so full of technical jargon and confusing language they did nothing but frustrate their readers further.

So I expanded my posts into Homework Helpers: Essays and Papers…a book that takes a dozen different types of essays and walks the reader through every single step, from start to finish. In order to further illustrate the process, I included rough draft, edited, and final copy versions of every single type of essay in the book. I also have chapters with tips on research, instructions for proofreading and citing sources, and a chapter with tips on how to write a good SAT essay.

Awesome! This book is going to help so many people! As a teacher I think it's an excellent resource. So many people just don't know how to get started, or to wrap it all up, or to fill in the middle... well, you get the idea! :)
So, where can you buy the book?
And if you haven't already had the pleasure of meeting Michelle on her home turf, you can find her here:
Operation Awesome blog
Thanks so much for dropping by Michelle and telling us how the book came to be! It's sure going to help a LOT of people!!
So everyone, were you a fan of essays - or did they drive you around the bend? :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 10 Songs

Ninja blogfest master Alex J Cavanaugh has done it again. Another awesome blogfest idea. Another brain boggler for me. I mean, seriously Alex! 10 songs! From a lifetime of music??? You're kidding right?


Apparently not.

I usually add in a few bonus choices, but I'm not going to cheat this time -even though 10 is incredibly hard!! I should include a warning - most of these songs are not from recent years - in fact several of them are before my time - I tend to like all kinds of music. :) Some of you younger folks may not know them at all!

I limited myself to one song per artist - that was really hard. And one of my favourite artists of all time didn't even make it on the list!!! I didn't put these in order. Couldn't. It was hard enough Alex!!! Okay. 'Nuf said. Let's move on.

Jack & Diane - John Cougar Mellancamp. Those first few chords are iconic. You KNOW this song when it starts. Saw him in concert and this song rocked the house. I think the audience knew every single word! Lots of fun!

Papa Can You Hear Me? - Barbra Streisand. This one's from her movie Yentl. It's got a haunting melody and the first time she sings it in the movie it is beautiful. But when she sings it at the end of the movie and does a duet with herself, I get chills. What a voice!! Stunning!

California Dreamin'. I'm a sucker for harmonies and good voices. This song can be incredible when sung well. It can also be destroyed quite easily! I've heard a lot of good versions - of course I'm including the MaMas and the Papas in that - but I think my favourite is by Queen Latifah singing under her real name Dana Owens. She puts a great jazz spin on it!

The Rose by Bette Midler. This was one of my dad's ultimate favourite songs. In his last few hours, he asked me to sing this for him a few times in the hospital. He loved it. Every time it plays, I'm flooded with memories of him. It had to make the list for dad. :)

Human Family by the Nylons. Love these guys. They're an acapella group who create the most beautiful harmonies. They sing a lot of do-wop stuff from the 50s and 60s. They also do a terrific version of O Canada! Human Family is one of their own creations with a message we all need to hear. Buy Back the Amazon is another in this vein. Beautiful messages wrapped in gorgeous harmonies! What's not to love?

Beautiful by the Bare Naked Ladies. These guys are hilarious! You probably know them from "If I Had  Million Dollars." They have awesome voices and great harmonies. This song is soft and sweet and charming. And like most of their music, the words are well worth a listen.

Piano Man. Billy Joel obviously. Awesome! I know it's the classic choice for Billy - but things become classic for a reason! It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday... (sing along - you know you want to!)

Your Song. Elton John. The master. There are so many fantastic songs this man has created and performed. I was lucky enough to see him perform live once and got chills as he sang this song. Beautiful. Almost went with Crocodile Rock here because not only is it a fun song, but my sister used to play it on the piano. She was good!

Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen. Bizarre song. Addictive too! I was never as good as my sister, but I was so dang proud of myself when I conquered almost all of this song on the piano. Years later I'm still able to play about a third of it - and I haven't owned a piano in years and years. This song just stays in your head!

Ain't No Sunshine When He's Gone. Or She's Gone, depending on who's singing. :) There are so many beautiful versions of this song. I'm not altogether sure why I love this song so much, but it gets me each and every time I hear it. Otis Redding. Van Morrison. James Taylor. Kris Allen from American Idol. Bill Withers. Sting. So many fabulous singers have redone this song, and for me it never gets old.

See - no cheating!! Although I made myself write this in one shot without backing out of any choices. I'd better get off now before I add 20 or 30 more! I'll be at school today, but I'll try to catch up with everyone over the next few days. I bet I see a 100 songs I wish I'd chosen!

What's your #1 favourite song of all time??

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mini Updates

I've promised updates over the past few months on a few things, so here we go...

1) My Kindle. I'm still loving it! It's so easy to use. I love buying books - especially new releases - right away. I also like being able to support my blog buddies who have their books in e-versions only. I have about 15 or 20 blog buddy books on my Kindle right now and know I'll be buying more. The prices are usually better on the Kindle which is nice too. I still buy a ton of 'real' books - I'm a bit of an addict, especially for my classroom - but I'm loving the ebooks too.

The battery is great. It actually seems to hold longer when I'm using it frequently which is kind of odd. The charge tends to last several weeks.

The only down side I've experienced so far is downloading. Some books don't instantly arrive. Others do. I have a 'lite' internet connection and I think that's the problem. It sometimes takes me several attempts to get the book onto the device. I have to resend it from the Kindle site. All of the books eventually arrive, but it can take a bit of time.

Overall though - loving it!

2) Word Verification. Ages ago I asked my fellow bloggers how they felt about having to type in word verification. The results were mixed. A few friends had real nightmares and have VERY good reasons for having both word verification and comment moderation. Overall most people hadn't experienced many problems though. The first week I removed the word verification, I had a few comments from people who obviously didn't read the blog - and really just wanted me to click their link. Don't know if there was anything evil lurking at the other end of the link because I never clicked. It was painfully obvious these weren't real commenters interested in my site. Since then I've had zero incidents.

Hope I didn't jinx myself.

3) Blog Buddy Books. I've read several now and I've gotta say - I've gotten to know some mighty talented folks! My most recent reads are:

Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson - a fantastic MG adventure - my students are LOVING it!
The Hating Game by Talli Roland - a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy with fabulous characters
Breakthrough by Stephen Tremp - a wild science fiction adventure into the land of wormholes
When Danger Calls by Terry O'Dell - an awesome romantic suspense with characters you think you know
CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh - fabulous sci-fi adventure with tons of suspense

These are all great reads!!! Hope you have a chance to read them too!

Next up?

The Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner
Chasing the Dark by Lisa Rusczyk
Veiled in Shadows by Allan Russell
Notes From Nadir by Lisa Maliga

There are so many more great books I'm waiting to buy from my other blog buddies, but I'm still paying off those Christmas bills! I'll get to everyone - promise!
So, now you're updated! What's new in your world??? :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

20 Minutes

20 minutes isn't a lot of time. But lately it's all I've been able to scrape together for any writing projects. My life has been upside-down-crazy-busy lately - nothing bad, just unbelievably busy.

Don't get me wrong - I like to be busy. I don't handle tons of down time really well. I was one of those kids in high school who left for some practice or other at 7:30 in the morning and got home close to 6 after another one. Then went to the part time job. I loved every single minute of it.

But lately life has become a little over the top! I haven't had more than 20 minutes at a time for writing since the first part of November. I had high hopes for the holidays and they were fantastic!! But, still, no more than 10 - 20 minutes of writing time.

So far, it's taken me 3 chunks of time to get this blog post written! :)

I've learned to be able to submerse myself quickly into my story - survival technique! - but it's not the most productive system. I'd really like to count on an hour or more at a time. I've read on other blogs and Twitter about people having several hours at a time. Wow. Just wow. My characters might faint from shock if I were to hang out with them for that long!

Maybe one of these would make time behave more nicely :)

How do you handle those days and weeks where time is at an absolute premium? Are you able to write in small chunks of time or do you need to have longer stretches? Any helpful hints??? :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dogsled Dreams

Woohoo!! Blog Buddy Terry Lynn Johnson's Dogsled Dreams is being released TODAY!!! :)
Dogsled Dreams is a Middle Grade novel sure to please. Here's the blurb:

Twelve-year-old Rebecca dreams of becoming a famous dog sled racer. She's an inventive but self-doubting musher who tackles blinding blizzards, wild animal attacks, puppy training, and flying poo missiles. All of her challneges though, seem easier than living up to the dogs' trust in her abilities.

I've taught Middle Grade aged kids for a long time. I know them really well. Rebecca IS one of them. No question. Rebecca could easily be one of the kids I've taught over the years. Terry's voice is perfect. I especially love the comments Rebecca makes to herself throughout the book. Spot on. She made me smile and laugh all through the story.

I know MG kids are going to love the plot line too. It's full of fun, mystery, worry and LOTS of adventure. One of the best points, in my opinion, is that the readers will easily be able to imagine themselves in Rebecca's shoes...or boots. The adventure isn't out of reach for them and it isn't something they couldn't do - as long as they are willing to work hard and commit. Great fun with a great lesson as well.

If you can't tell, I LOVED this book! I'm going to use it as a read aloud to my students once we're back in class later this week. I know they'll love it too!

And, if you don't believe me, check out these AMAZING reviews!!!

"A captivating and exciting debut novel." ~ Superior Outdoors Magazine

"A warm, coming-of-age story about hopes and dreams, but most of all, finding the true meaning of family and friends, whether they have two legs or four!" ~ Darcy Johns, Youth Services Librarian, Nova Scotia

"Any teacher using Gary Paulsen's Woodsong would want Terry Johnson's Dogsled Dreams as part of their classroom library." ~ Diane Johnson, Iditarod's Education Director

"Exhilarating." ~ BiblioReads

WOW!! Can you believe those reviews! Hurry and get your hands on this book NOW!

Heres the Barnes & Noble link - it's got the best price at the moment! Enjoy!!!
Check out Terry's website and her blog for lots more interesting stuff! Congratulations Terry - your book is sure to be a great success!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eye Candy Blog Fest

Happy New Year everyone!! 2011 - can you believe it??? Wow!

The wonderful Vicki Rocho over at Rambles & Randomness is hosting today's blogfest. Eye Candy. Love it!

In her words:
Here's my proposal: The Eye Candy Blogfest. To participate, on New Year's Day, just post a favorite picture. A warm beach scene or sunset. Your kids or pets. A favorite painting or sculpture. A celebrity hottie. An optical illusion. Something you made.
Whatever you want, just as long as it is something that makes you smile every time you look at it. EASY, right?

So - here are a few things that make me smile!

I live in one of the prettiest spots in the world! In my opinion anyway! :)

Anything steampunk makes me smile. Some people are so incredibly creative!! Love this spider :)

Books and the freedom to choose which ones to read!

And of course the thing that makes me smile the most is my family - but I'm keeping their photos to myself :)

Happy New Year Everyone!
I hope you enjoy all the best in 2011!!