Friday, May 18, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday: Your Favorite Summer Reading Spot?

Feature and Follow Friday is a blog hop designed to provide exposure to the bloggers participating and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each features a chosen blog for the week. Click on their links to see this Friday’s features. MEET NEW FRIENDS!

Question of the Week: Summer Break is upon us! What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading & relax?

My Answer: Easy. I have only ONE CHOICE--actually, ONE OPTION--for a place to go for summer reading:

SANDY POINT RESORT in the NORTHWOODS of WISCONSIN. Day and night, my favorite place on the planet. The icing on this cake is . . . I own the joint.

New Reality Show: The Real Book Reviewers of

Posting book reviews in a public forum as large as is like swimming in an Internet ocean. One never knows what creature lurks behind alias (alien?) corners.

I posted my first book review on Amazon back in 2002 for Diane Dean-Epps’ Maternal Meanderings. Today, like many of the books I have reviewed, it’s available on Amazon for a penny.  It was brief and 2 of 3 readers found it helpful.

Over time my reviews became more in depth—some very helpful to readers, others decidedly not helpful at all. And then there are the reviews that generate controversy—reviews that stir the pot and unleash the trolls.

TROLL: A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually "threadjacks" or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned.

Reading troll threadjacks is like watching a bitch fight among the BRAVO TV housewives. In other words, it’s a waste of time, but it also provides a bit of mindless, guilty pleasure. It’s like sipping a cocktail of sweet relief knowing I’m not living in their worlds mixed with a full jigger of schadenfreude.

Earlier this week, one of my reviews attracted a troll, and I couldn’t help but break the DNFTT (Do Not Feed The Troll) rule, and poke back a little bit. After everything I had recently learned about how to successfully handle a bully, let’s just say I was in the mood to expose and fight back.

The book, no coincidence, is by former BRAVO TV housewife, Bethenney Frankel, and it’s her first effort at fiction. From what I’ve seen of her on television over the years, I found her to be funny and refreshingly honest. My opinion of her thinly veiled autobiographical novel, Skinnydipping, reflected these same characteristics, and I expressed this in my review. It’s no great work of literature and isn’t meant to be so. It’s light reading, funny and fun. Four stars.

Well, “my” troll didn’t like that I wrote anything positive about the novel. Using the alias, “Julie,” it not only called me a “moron,” but it also claimed I had “low standards for literature.” Silly as they were, it was easy to laugh off the comments, and I wouldn’t have fed it anything had I not learned that “Julie” posted similar insults on every positive review and issued supportive comments on every negative review.

Clearly, this troll was on a mission to trash the book, the author and any reviewer who even remotely enjoyed reading Skinnydipping. This practice is against Amazon’s standards and needed to be exposed. I mean really! I am many things, but I’m NO moron!

The troll’s final comment on the thread attached to my review was “deleted by Amazon,” before I had the chance to read it. After that, “Julie” crawled back in her hole, defeated. Show over. Moving on. Like I said, it’s like swimming in a vast Internet ocean with trolling creatures around every dark and anonymous corner.

Troll attacks is one risk book reviewers (and authors) take. Most of us understand that in a forum like Amazon, many shoppers don’t actually read the reviews. They look at the stars and jump to conclusions. They base their helpful, non-helpful votes on whether or not THEY liked the book—and in more cases, whether or not they like the author.

Posting reviews on Amazon is done strictly on a volunteer basis. It’s a hobby—perhaps a way to keep track of the books you’ve read—and a practice that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

I’ve made many friends by reviewing books on Amazon and I’ve also made a few enemies. It’s apparent not only in the comment forums, but also on my own books sold by Several over the years have received anonymous one-star “reviews,” some of which I believe are from trolls with retaliation on their small minds.

Perhaps the trolls are incapable of understanding that alias accounts and transparent tactics emit a powerful stink that gives their “reviews” and their comments no power whatsoever.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Barbed Garbage

We spend a lot of time walking, running and biking around our desert neighborhood. Our adventures are often rewarded with wildlife sightings including coyotes, javelinas, roadrunners, deer, prairie dogs, voles, hawks, bunnies, and lots of lots of quail.

The other day we were delighted by a very rare sighting of a covey of tiny baby quails pecking at what was a loaf of bread tossed on the road the day before. Willow snapped this photo with her phone just before they scurried away and hid behind the creosote bushes.

In addition to the fauna is the beautiful cactus flora, including an endless variety of cactus. And right now, the desert is abloom. The colors are so vivid they will stop you in your tracks—even if you’re running.

Unfortunately, we also spot a lot of trash. In spite of a lifetime of earth days, “don’t be a litterbug” slogans and recycling education efforts, it astounds me that there are still people who feel they have the right to throw their crap out of their car windows instead of saving it for a trash receptacle.

We therefore instigated a family community service project and became regular trash collectors for the neighborhood. And last evening, my girls and I went for our last sunset walk of the season. Community Service hours are due for Student Council, so we figured we’d wrap up the project for the school year.

It’s been a fun way to spend time with the girls—especially because they’re so funny. Camille, for example, loves walking in the middle of the busy street when no cars are present, because I think it gives her a sense of power. And both girls make up stories about some of the items they find: study notes, grocery lists, Slurpy cups, Rock Star cans and the like. “Drinking ‘n driving,” Willow says with a disapproving scoff each time she finds a discarded beer can.

Over the course of our neighborhood scavenger hunts, I’d say the items found most often are plastic grocery bags. They’re EVERYWHERE. And they are particularly treacherous to collect because more often than not they’re stuck to cactus and filled with needles. Straws may run a close second, but aluminum cans and plastic bottles are also shamefully prominent.

The most unusual find of all time has to be the discarded paper containing an acceptance speech for the Mrs. Arizona contest. We kept checking local media to see if one of our neighbors had won the event; however, ultimately made no discovery of crowned royalty in the hood.

Wrapping up the project for the year, we feel our social status may be that of mere trash collectors, but it helped us believe we were doing our part to keep our desert kingdom beautiful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

I'm participating in my very first bloghop. Here's how it works:

Hosted  by Parajunkee's View & 

To participate, follow Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. Grab the button, Post and answer this week's question, which appears below. With this hop, the main objective is to follow! You can find great new blogs, visit some of your favorite blogs and see how they all answer the question. 

I prefer you follow me through Network Blogs, via my author Facebook Page or through Linky Followers. Thank you.

Q: This Sunday in the U.S. is Mother’s Day, in celebration, what are some of your favorite books with strong mother/child relationships?

A: Room by Emma Donoghue

This book/story disturbed me far more than it entertained me, but considering the subject matter, I'm sure my opinion is not unique. It is narrated by a five-year old child, conceived by a woman held in captivity, who raises him a tiny "room," the size of a tool shed. Narration by a five-year-old is a tough perspective from which to write, I'm sure, but kudos to Emma Donoghue for pulling it off. This child's precocious nature and vocabulary is ultimately explained and is credited to his VERY close relationship with his mother.

Months after reading this book, I will say the story has stayed with me. Each time I read or hear about an abduction case in the news, I can't help but envision this tiny room, so clearly defined in the story, and contemplate what this type of captivity does to the victims--in this case both the mother and the child.

Considering this week's TIME MAGAZINE cover story on "Attachment Parenting," this novel is a very power illustration of this concept. The big difference, of course, is that this mother (the mother in the story, "Ma") had no choice but to continue breast feeding her child until he was five.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Bullying Saga: A Happy Ending Results in Cautious Optimism

“Mrs. Cozzens,” said the principal, “I’d like you to know that your daughter just left my office [with those who bullied her], and they all appeared to be the best of friends.”

Sweet words to soothe the ears of a worried mother. But even though it feels like a happy ending to a nine-day period of turmoil, I remain cautiously optimistic regarding our daughter’s social experience at Sabino High School.

It was not a smooth nor easy path to get the bullies off her back and their rumors/comments off the Internet, and I’m certain that without our heavy-handed parental involvement, our daughter would still be coming home in tears.

Throughout the process both our daughters begged us to let it go. “You’re making it worse, Mom,” claimed my older daughter. “Please just stop. I want it all to stop,” moaned the younger, who for days seemed a mere fraction of her former self with slumped shoulders, glassy eyes and a furrowed brow.

It took strength and diligence—including four unreturned phone calls to the school and finally the need to re-explain and clarify the facts several times to the administrators so that THEY had the story straight—before we achieved the outcome we desired. We were very clear: we wanted the posts removed from Twitter, for the bullies to acknowledge their actions/violations, an apology to our daughter, and the promise that she would no longer be targeted.

The ultimate lesson we have learned is that it’s essential for parents to get involved in order to truly deal with the issue of bullying. The kids are terrified of not only reporting the offense, but also of sticking up for their bullied friends for fear of becoming targets themselves.

Bullying Policy Poster at Sabino
Meanwhile, administrators talk the talk. They hang posters, provide lectures, and emit the message that bullying won’t be tolerated; however, it was painfully clear to us that they still needed a little work/experience in dealing with bullying situations in order to transform them into positive outcomes.

The bullying policy at Sabino, for example, suggests that victims “keep talking until someone listens.” And “all reports of bullying will be held in the strictest confidence.”  We didn’t know that “keep talking” meant we’d have to repeatedly call the school and finally appeal to a higher-level administrator before we’d reach a satisfactory resolution. Nor did we understand how tricky it is to keep complaints confidential. Rumors spread in high schools as quickly as germs spread in daycare centers.

Know this: If your child is the victim of bullying, you must have PROOF before the administrators can or will fully deal with the situation. They will not verify allegations based on hearsay, rumor or gossip. If he or she is a victim of cyber-bullying, make copies of the Internet posts immediately. (We took screen shots of the Twitter pages). If they receive threatening texts or texts of a bullying nature, again take screen shots of the phone screen or request transcripts from the cell service. If a child is verbally harassed or assaulted on school grounds, secure credible witnesses who are brave enough to “testify” on behalf of your child.

Finally, do not believe the five most dangerous words when it comes to bullying: MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY. It won’t go away unless you identify the bully, expose the bully with credible proof, and stay on top of the situation until the victim is once again smiling, standing up straight, and cheerful about going to school in the morning.

We believe the outcome of our efforts has helped to teach our children a valuable lesson. They have both—especially the younger of the two girls—grown stronger, and even taller, because of it.

Happy girls on their way to school