Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Among Friends by Father Jim W. Sichko

Thank you, Father Sichko for visiting my blog. Welcome! Tell us why you decided to create this book.

Father Sichko:
love stories. I’m thinking I’m not alone in that, either. Billions of
dollars are spent on novels, movies, and even video games. Why? God
made us to function through story. Not only did He reveal Himself in
the greatest-selling Book of all time, but He made story a vital part of
how we communicate with each other.
Think about it. We are a storytelling people. From the moment
we are born, growing up through school and beyond, we love hearing
stories being read and told to us. We love sharing experiences that
we have lived, seen, or heard. For me, as a storyteller, preacher, and
speaker, stories provide the opportunity to communicate in a powerful
way with people in everyday language with down-to-earth tales.
I think back to my own days at St. Mary Catholic School in
kindergarten and how we loved to sit in a circle and listen to Mrs.
Richard read to us. We learned from the plot, the characters, and their
actions. She read with a passion and belief that captivated our little
minds. Most importantly, the stories struck at our hearts.
Why do you think Jesus told stories to make His point? Indeed,
He is a master storyteller in all of His parables found in the four
Gospels. He would use everyday situations that people understood. He
used characters that people would recognize in themselves and others.
Even more interesting, Jesus didn’t always provide the answers. He
let people figure out His meaning by telling them, “He who has ears,
let them hear.”
God gave me a very interesting life story, as you’re going to see
throughout this book. I like to think He gave me this life so I could tell
stories from my journey. As you might guess, when I travel to speak
at different places, I am often asked two questions. First, “Are your
stories true?” and, second, “How do these experiences always happen
to you?”
My answer is simple: Yes, the stories are true, and yes, they do
happen to me, and they happen to you! The real question that needs
to be asked is, “Do you and I have the eyes, the ears, and the hearts —
not to mention the minds — to recognize the wonderful opportunities
and teachable moments from the experiences of our day?”
Through sorrow, pain, joys, and exultations, our experiences
teach us; they stretch us. For me, stories empower and illumine the
life of Our God who is ever present with us on this journey through our
experiences that we call “Life.”
Allow me to tell you a few…

Among Friends Tour

Among Friends: Stories from the Journey

Among Friends Cover “This book is my Midrash.” With these words, Father Jim draws us into his life story full of laughter, tears, and service. Among Friends is a compilation of short stories and insightful lessons experienced on his many travels as a clergyman and motivational speaker. Whether recounting his sobering flying experiences, meeting the Pope, his encounter with the “Weed Man” or telling us about his “lead foot,” Father Jim teaches us lessons through powerful storytelling. As he takes us along on his journey from getting kicked out of seminary to hosting celebrities, such as Dolly Parton, Harry Connick Jr., Martin Short, Bill Cosby, and former First Lady Laura Bush, at his small Kentucky parish, Father Jim shines a light into the corners of the human heart to expose our need for God and the love He alone can give us. You will laugh, cry, and be taken back by his honesty. In all, Father Jim shows us what it means to love God, love others, and live life Among Friends.

jimFather Jim W. Sichko Father Jim W. Sichko is a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, KY. He was ordained to the Ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ on May 23, 1998. He travels throughout the U.S. giving missions, retreats, and days of recollection. Known for his storytelling, Father Jim weaves everyday life experiences with the rooted messages which lie within the Gospel. He is booked for speaking engagements through 2015. Each engagement lasts a minimum of three days and averages 3,000 people per night. Father Jim completed his undergraduate work at New England Conservatory of Music in Vocal Performance and received a Master of Divinity degree from Sacred Heart School of Theology.

Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/15/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 25, 2014

From Being Dumped to Being Married--Happy Anniversary

It's hard to believe that we are celebrating our 29th anniversary (especially because I'm only 21 myself). I still remember the first time I met Del. It was Sunday, May 20, 1984. I was speaking in sacrament meeting in the DeJong concert Hall on BYU campus. My talk was on celestial marriage. I didn't want to speak on that topic because after a few bad experiences, I was a little anti-marriage. A friend of mine convinced me to speak on it.

I looked out over the congregation and there he was. Bright blond hair and a big, warm smile. I was immediately drawn to him and wondered who the new guy in the ward was. I soon found out that he had been called as the "dad" of our family home evening group . . . and I was called as the "mom." I really had no idea it would become a permanent arrangement. :)

Our courtship was a little bumpy. We started dating, but then he had a serious car accident and had to go home to CO. He invited me to come see him, but never called. I spent the summer in CA working to save for my next year at BYU. I waited for him to call. All summer. But he didn't. So when I went back up to BYU, with my roommate's encouragement, I called him. And I gave it to him. I told him he was a big jerk. And that was that.

I dated other guys and had no contact with him. He dated other girls. Lots of other girls. He even drove up to Salt Lake from CO to see a girl. Right past Provo, where I was living. But he didn't stop to see me. (I learned all of this later).

During Christmas break, I went home to Santa Barbara and worked at the theater during my break. One day I came home to a box of long-stemmed roses. I thought they were from another guy. When I read the card, with Del's name on it, I almost fell over. I was still mad that he dumped me. How dare he have the nerve to send me roses. And wish me a Merry Christmas. And ask me to call him. No way was I going to do that. And then I did.

He flew me out to his house in CO and that was it. I knew I wanted to marry him (but I made him work for it, because I was still mad he dumped me). We were sealed in the Los Angeles temple on April 25th.

In all of my imaginings as a young girl, I could never have dreamed up the amazing marriage and life I have. I never knew that marriage could be so wonderful or that a man could be so good and so perfect for me. A man who is so patient and kind and loving. He wakes up in the morning with a smile and is cheerful all the time. He is full of love for his fellowman and loves God with all of his heart. He serves others without complaint. He loves me despite all of my many weaknesses and he loves all of our kids. He is faithful, trustworthy, and compassionate. He builds me up and supports me in my writing dreams. He stands by me and is loyal. He's funny and makes me laugh (even when he tells the corniest jokes). I love to hear his laugh. I have been so very blessed for the last 29 years and I look forward to an eternity of happiness with him.

Happy Anniversary to my one true love!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Indie Author Conference

Have you written a book, or want to? Are you confused about the options out there to publish? Traditional? Indie (self-publishing)?

Over the last few years, amazing opportunities have opened up for authors. No longer do writers have to go through gatekeepers (agents, acquisitions editors, editors, publishers). Authors are free to publish their books themselves through the Kindle program.

While it's great that Amazon has paved the way for authors to take control of their own publishing careers, it's also made it possible for a glut of sub-par books to be published--books that haven't been edited or gone through a process to make sure they are ready for publication. There's a lot to consider before hitting that publish button on Kindle. Things like: cover, price, back cover blurb, typesetting, and most importantly, making sure the story is ready for the world (the characters feel real, the story arc makes sense, there's some growth for the characters the characters have goals, the dialogue is natural, the scenes are structured properly, there's enough conflict, etc).

Seems like that's a lot to consider, right? It is. But there's help. There's going to be a amazing conference targeted to indie authors on June 7, 2014 in Provo, UT.

If you are serious about getting into the indie market as a published author, you should make plans to attend this conference. You can find out more at Indie Author Hub.

This conference will be awesome! Lots of great classes and tons of knowledgeable people who can teach you the ropes so you can avoid common mistakes.

Go sign up. Today!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Post by Donna Cook

Please welcome Donna Cook to my blog. 

Author Donna Cook
Donna Cook is an Arizona native transplanted to Boise, Idaho, where she is delighting in the change of scenery. When she’s not writing she spends her time chasing the kids, exploring delicious eateries downtown, and dancing with her talented husband. Her fantasy adventure, Gift of the Phoenix has won several awards, including Semifinalist in the Kindle Book Review Book of the Year Awards, and Notable Read in the Shelf Unbound/Half Price Books Indie Book of the Year competition. It was also nominated for the Whitney Award, which recognizes LDS writers. She’s currently working on the sequel to Gift of the Phoenix.

Donna says:

I graduated from college with a degree in creative writing, then didn’t write a thing for 10 years. There were a couple reasons for that.

First, in spite of a lifelong dream to become an author, college sucked all the joy out of writing. The emphasis (or so it seemed to the younger version of myself) was on literary writing. “Genre” was practically a dirty word. The more our stories delivered fluffed up metaphors and self-importance the better. Bonus points for dark, dark angst.

This isn’t to say I don’t like literary writing. I do like it, and I still write this way sometimes (minus the angst and ego, I hope). This also isn’t to say it wasn’t a good program or that I didn’t learn a lot. It was and I did. In fact, I chose my college specifically because of its writing program. But college was my first exposure to literary elitism, which didn’t resonate with me. I was still too immature and insecure to say, “Forget that, I’ll write what I want to write.”

Instead, I clammed up.

The second reason I didn’t write for a decade had nothing to do with the program. They say that in high school you think you know everything, but by the time you graduate college you realize just how much you don’t know.

That was certainly true for me. I did (and still do) want to write stories that speak to the human condition. That reflect the complexities of our lives. That exude the kind of wisdom that only comes from experience.

I decided I needed to live life and get some experience.

If only I knew to be careful what you wish for. (But that’s a topic for another post.)

Fast forward 10 years and you find a mother of three young children and a writer in hibernation. What woke the bear from a long winter’s nap?

The Harry Potter craze was in full force. J.K. Rowling had released four books and two movies. Since I’m late to pretty much any trend, I was just now picking up on things. I started to wonder what this Harry Potter kid was all about.

So I watched the first movie. Then I watched the second. Then I devoured all four books.

It was my first true exposure to the fantasy genre and it lit me up. I remembered how fun stories could be. For the first time in years, I longed to tell a story of my own. I saw this magical world of Harry Potter and I wanted to play, too.

So I did. I started gathering ideas in a notebook. I listed everything that excited me, no matter how small. My love of lighthouses inspired the magical Rock of Light. Dolphins worked their way into the story. Cool boxes, the sea, mazes, they all fed my imagination and transformed into something new. The entire story centered around the myth of the Phoenix, something that has always fascinated me.

I finally had the self-confidence to tell the story I wanted to tell. And I was loving it.

In a way, I’m like the Phoenix: my dream of being a writer was reborn from the ashes. I suspect the Phoenix is something a lot of us can relate to. How many of us have been knocked on our backs just to get back up again? I think we all know what that’s like.

gift of phoenix tour

Gift of the PhoenixGift of the Phoenix When three strangers are brought together by the discovery of a common enemy, they must fight to keep the magic of the Phoenix out of dangerous hands before their world is destroyed forever. The Three must learn to unite in spite of what separates them, and unlock the magic of three stones that seem to harm as much as they help. But uniting will not be easy for Nicolai, the simple peasant with a powerful secret; Marcellus, the warrior prince who’s no longer heir to the throne; and Corren, a gifted wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all. Full of magic, mystery, and a touch of romance, Gift of the Phoenix is an epic fantasy that takes the reader deep into the heart of a wondrous world and the three men destined to defend it.

Praise for Gift of the Phoenix “An incredibly impressive book that grips you from the very start. There is plenty of action in the story, some wonderful characters and magical, atmospheric settings. Donna has created a fascinating realm in this story which, even if you don’t consider yourself a fantasy fan, you’ll definitely enjoy.” – Excerpt of Stephanie Dagg’s review at Books Are Cool. “As an avid reader of fantasy, I often encounter boring or overused plotlines—this was neither! With a fresh new take on fantasy adventure, Cook constructs an enchanting world of magic, kingdoms, rebirth, and death.” – Excerpt a review by Artemis at Fantasy Book Lovers Unite “Gift of the Phoenix reminds me of a mix of Paolin’s Eragon and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but stands on its own as a unique fantasy-adventure. Cook creates a magic system that is intricate and unique, which can be hard to do in a genre littered with magic. The story is very complex, and yet very easy to follow… layers upon layers of intertwined plots that all culminate to a fantastic ending. I would recommend this book to anyone of any age.” – Excerpt of a review by Will Wortner at Zero2Fiction

Awards Gift of the Phoenix has won several awards, including Semifinalist in the Kindle Book Review Book of the Year Awards, and Notable Read in the Shelf Unbound/Half Price Books Indie Book of the Year competition

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fortune Cafe: Review

Fortune Cafe Tour

  Fortune Cafe

The Fortune Café
a novel in three parts

MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Café will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the café, Emma accidently cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.

LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky . . . until her parents meet her fiancé’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Café, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brave, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiancé. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiancé dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows.  

TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Café, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this novel in three parts. It was fun, kept me turning pages, and I felt like each story was complete. I liked how they all naturally intertwined. I even stayed up late to finish this novel because I wanted to know what happened next. The idea of the fortunes coming true was a really fin twist. And my hometown of Santa Barbara was mentioned. I also liked the setting descriptions and felt like I was right there, walking along the beach or sitting in the restaurant or shopping on the boardwalk. And I could almost smell the ocean breeze.

What I enjoyed most was the characterization. I felt like the characters were real people with real issues. I worried about them, wondered about them, and cheered for them. I was especially touched by Emma and her concern for her mother and the way she wanted to care for and protect her mom. I also really liked Evan, especially how he interacted with his daughter.

Each of the three parts are written by individual authors, so the writing style is different in each story, but the whole book was cohesive and smooth. A great read!

If you want a fun romance written in a unique way, you'll enjoy this book. I recommend it!

4 stars

About the Authors JulieW

Julie Wright started her first book when she was fifteen. She’s written over a dozen books since then, is a Whitney Award winner, and feels she’s finally getting the hang of this writing gig. She enjoys speaking to writing groups, youth groups, and schools. She loves reading, eating writing, hiking, playing on the beach with her kids, and snuggling with her husband to watch movies. Julie’s favorite thing to do is watch her husband make dinner. She hates mayonnaise, but has a healthy respect for ice cream.
MelanieJMelanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and romance novels. After meeting her husband online, she is now living happily married in Southern California with her growing family and a series of doomed houseplants. Melanie is a former English teacher and a sometime blogger who loves to laugh and make others laugh. In her down time (ha!), she writes romantic comedies and pines after beautiful shoes.
HeatherMHeather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes historical thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore, her latest is Finding Sheba. Under Heather B. Moore she writes romance and women’s fiction. She’s the co-author of The Newport Ladies Book Club series. Other women’s novels include Heart of the Ocean, The Fortune Café, the Aliso Creek Series, and the Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology Series.

Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/30/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Behavior Problem?

After months of testing and discussion and eventually going to mediation with the school district, my youngest son moved from his neighborhood elementary school where he was not getting any services, to another school where he is now getting services. Apparently, in large school districts, such as the one we are in, the district can pool resources and assign certain services to certain schools. We had wanted to keep him in our neighborhood school so he could interact with neighbors and kids he goes to church with, but our neighborhood school does not offer any of the services he needs.

He moved to the new school about 6 weeks ago. Everyone at the new school is awesome and they've been patient as he's adjusted to his new surroundings, new schedule, and new people. Things seem to be going well. He's had a few instances where he didn't want to come in from recess or stayed in the bathroom too long, but we've been moving in a good direction.

He spends half his time in a general education classroom with peers without disabilities and spends the other half in a classroom where he gets individualized instruction and more intensive help. It seems to be working well.

His general education teachers are wonderful. Every day they send home a homework folder with what all the general education kids are doing as well as what my son's specific assignment is. Sometimes, they write notes on this paper (when he forgot to return a library book, when he wouldn't write his spelling test, etc). Monday, I glanced at the homework sheet and was upset to see the words, "hid" and "bit." I imagined him hiding in the bathroom or classroom and then biting some other student. I immediately talked to him about it and told him that wasn't okay. He just gave me a strange look, but I hoped he got the message. I want him to be able to attend his general education class and know that certain behaviors may prevent that. I thought about it and worried about it all night, especially because he'd never bitten anyone and hadn't ever exhibited that behavior at school.

Tuesday, I looked more closely at his homework paper, including the spelling words list. Guess what words are on the list? Yep. Hid and bit. Those were the spelling words his teachers wanted him to learn for the week, they were not a comment on his behavior. No wonder he gave me a strange look when I talked to him about it. He probably thought I was crazy (he may be right).

I had to sit down and laugh. I had been all worried about a behavior that didn't even exist because I hadn't looked closely enough at his homework paper.

Maybe I'm a little paranoid because I'm so hopeful he'll be able to spend time with his non-disabled peers. I'm just glad it was his spelling words, and next time, I'll take the time to actually understand his homework paper.