Monday, May 30, 2011

Recommending 'The Great Lenore' By JM Tohline

Read A Sample
It had been some time since I read a book with such depth, magnitude, and substance.

The Great Lenore is the debut novel of the young and talented J.M. Tohline.  The synopsis proved the story would be interesting.  The sample proved the writing was elegant.  And the cover proved I would be comfortable reading the book in public (because I have no problem admitting if the cover is too girlie, I'm not whipping that baby out in front of strangers).

I never doubted I would like the book.  In fact, I never doubted I would love the book; I had that much faith in J.M.  His blog posts convey a man who has mastered his craft; he knows much about writing and publishing, and what it takes to tell an exceptional story that is marketable today.  His passion and professionalism emanates from every word he types.  With me, online persona counts.  I'm not an expert, but I like to think I'm skilled at picking out the real deal.  J.M. exceeded my expectations long before I held his book in my hands.

When Lenore Montana's death is falsely reported, the compelling young Brit has a chance to wipe the slate clean.  A fresh start falls into her lap; now, she can escape her cheating husband and abandon the life she despises.  She leads us all to consider the thought-provoking question: what would I do if I could completely start over?

The Great Lenore is told from the perspective of Richard, an opinionated writer who finds himself visiting the heart of Nantucket high society.  Through Richard, Tohline introduces a variety of characters who remind me of a group of kids playing the human knot game.  Their relationships are intertwined; they tangle together through the bonding principles of passion, prestige, and deceit.  As a spectator, Richard's commentary represents the voice of those living outside these elitists. The reader has opportunities to recognize what the characters cannot see themselves.

It is safe to say I expected a lot from The Great Lenore.  It is also safe to say it delivered everything I hoped: passion, suspense, and a burning desire to continue reading.  Lenore punched me from the first sentence.  It intrigued me; I immediately imagined plot lines and scenarios, anticipating the direction the story might take.  It made me part of the book.

I applaud writers who bring their stories to life.  I enjoy inviting myself into their world - casting myself as an innocent bystander; the 'extra' in every scene observing as the story unfolds.  My favorite books suck me inside the pages - the same way Richard Tyler is sucked inside in The Pagemaster.  I read for the experience.  Tohline gave me the experience I craved.

The Great Lenore is a book about life.  It explores dreams, opportunity, and decisions.  The characters make you feel; they take on a form outside the ink housing their DNA cells and become part of your daily interactions.  They make you think.  They make you question your own degree of happiness. Lenore extends beyond an engaging story; it's substance lays the framework for readers to reflect and learn.

Tohline's debut pairs a contemporary story with the defining elements of literature's greatest classics.  The simplicity of his words roll right off the page, yet the complexity of the story will haunt you long after the final chapter.  Every word in this novel counts; the author is a master at saying a great deal in what feels like very little.  J.M. Tohline writes with the experience of someone who has tackled the craft far longer than he's been alive.

GIVEAWAY:

To celebrate the release of this phenomenal novel, which I highly recommend be added to your summer reading list, I am giving away one last free copy.  Anyone who leaves a comment answering the following question is entered in the giveaway:

What is one thing you would do if you could start your life over?

Comments must be posted no later than this Monday (June 6, 2011) Tuesday, June 14 at midnight, EST.  I will transfer all entries into a spreadsheet and use randomizer.org to generate a winner.  The winner will be notified and announced on June 7 June 15.  The prize will ship from Borders.com on June 15.

The proclaimed winner will need to provide his or her mailing address so I can order your copy.  Once shipped, I will e-mail you the confirmation notice and include the tracking information. This contest is open to participants anywhere in the world.  

If your e-mail address is not linked to your blogger profile, or you do not comment via a profile where I can retrieve your contact information, be sure to include a way to be notified (e-mail address or Twitter ID).  I will only contact you if you are the winner of the giveaway.

As always, spreading the word is greatly appreciated.  I'll add extra entries for any of the following (just let me know what you did):
  • Mention and link this giveaway in a blog post (+5 entries)
  • Share this page on facebook (+3 entries)
  • Tweet this link (+2 entries) - please tag @ImPaulJoseph in the tweet
  • All of the above (+15 entries)
Thank you to everyone who participates and helps spread the word.  Good luck to everyone!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have

My first post-college job was as an instructional assistant for fifth grade special education students.  It was that or subbing, so I decided to go for the gig that provided a salary, full benefits, and a consistent schedule in the same building each day.  At twenty-two, it was okay.  Most days, it was mind-numbing, but it was still a foot in the door.

Of course, my goal was never to be an instructional assistant.  It was the job I had, not the job I wanted.  Assistants worked under a different contract from the teachers.  My hours were longer.  I endured crappier pastimes like monitoring the cafeteria, which was conveniently omitted from the job description when I applied for the position.  Yet, one advantage was the dress code; assistants were not required to show up in the same professional attire as classroom teachers.  Ties were not necessary, but I wore one four days a week (we had 'Casual Friday').  Sneakers were permissible, but I wore dress shoes.  I wanted to be a teacher, so I dressed the part.

To be clear, dressing as a teacher had no impact on me landing a job, but it helped me feel like a teacher long before I was one.  I didn't look any different from the other adults.  I didn't have 'trainee' or 'poser' tattooed across my forehead .  I didn't demonstrate my lower hierarchical ranking by wearing a different uniform.  I made it known that my credentials and qualifications matched the other professionals in the building, and I maintained an image that correlated with my goals.

Six years later, I am attempting to follow the same philosophy in a different industry.  As an unpublished writer, I often find myself feeling like a fraud.  How can I call myself a writer at this stage in the process?  What have I accomplished to be worthy of the title?  What business do I have chiming in on discussions pertaining to the?  Who wants my advice?  Who wants to hear what I have to say?

Sound familiar?

It took me over a year before I would comfortably refer to myself as writer.  Even then, I would include the verb aspiring as a disclaimer.  I feared being outed as an impostor.  Finally, I came to my senses and learned a writer is simply one who writes, and by writing seven days a week, I was allowed to assume the title.

Of course, there is a difference between writing and writing professionally, and although I'm very much aware I am not a professional writer, I feel it is important to dress the part since that is my ultimate goal.  If I want to be taken seriously, I must own my writing journey as I would any other occupation.  Others must see it is a part of who I am.

As writers, we don't convey our style or image through clothing.  Instead, our websites, blogs, and twitter streams introduce us to others in the industry.  Our online profiles share our hobbies, interests, and inspiration.  Just as the suit worn to an interview creates that first impression, our online persona - our words, thoughts, and even head shots - paint the picture of who we are and what we stand for.

If we own our writing - if we present ourselves as professionals who are passionate about our work - then we are dressing the part and others will see us the way we want to be seen: as writers.

Dress for the job you want, my friends.  Whatever that job may be, dress the part.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bullies Bite The Little One: A Guest Post At Another Slightly Scary Story

Friend and writer Draven Ames is featuring me on his blog today.  This is my first guest post; I'm honored Draven invited me to visit his site and share some thoughts on bullying.  You can hop over and read the post by clicking here: Bullies Bite The Little One.  I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bullies Suck: A Guest Post By Jeff Bennington, Author of REUNION

Bullies Suck!
By Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION

Bullies hurt, bruise and sometimes cause permanent emotional damage to their victims. Bullying is growing like an epidemic, like the bubonic plague and it seems as if there are no limits to the extremes that a bully will take his hate. I have watched you tube videos that were made by bullies as they beat and kicked and punched their victims and it is so incredibly sickening and heartbreaking that our society has digressed to this level of existence.

I’ve read several reports about bullies, who they target and why they do what they do. In a word, I’ve observed that what is actually happening is a crushing. Bullies seem to desire to crush the spirit, crush their victims physically and emotionally to gain a feeling of strength. This need to crush usually stems from a need to feel a strength that the bully actually lacks.

Although there have been conflicting studies about the victims, some claim that the victims are often smaller and weaker or have other physical attributes such as weight, speech or vision disabilities. But in my opinion, attributes, ages, percentages and profiling is irrelevant because it is clear that our schools and parents are not doing enough to prevent bullies from doing damage. Don’t get me wrong; I know schools are trying. I know that parents are fed up. But the problem is what it is.

Bullying is devastating our youth. I hate it, and I’m sure you do too.

The problem with bullying, beside the long-term emotional damage that it can cause, is that when bullying gets extreme it can escalate into two higher levels of victimization.

1. Bullycide – Suicide caused from the results of bullying (From bullyingstatistics.org). http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullycide.html

2. School violence/shootings.

No matter how old you are, I’m sure you were familiar with your school bully. You knew who he was and you tried to stay clear of him. Today, however, bullies are intimidating their victims to the point of suicide or to retaliate through extreme violence such as stabbings or school shootings. The reasons and the complexity of the issues are far reaching. Kids today can be bullied at school, on the bus, via their cell phones, online and through all forms social media. Bullying is so much worse today. Bullying can consume a student’s world, bringing a victim to the point of hopelessness.

Still, there is hope. People are talking. Kids are starting to stand up against the class bully and parents are beginning to see that bullies aren’t what they used to be. We live in a world of instant communication and the anti-bullying message is traveling fast. But everyone must do their part. Here’s a few suggestions…
  • Empower your children to stand up for themselves.
  • Model personal responsibility and respect for others no matter how different they are.
  • Teach children that their strength does not come from outward appearances, physical attributes or ones ability to tease or ridicule, but from lasting qualities of character such as integrity, kindness, respect, fairness, citizenship, etc.
  • Share this article with your family and friends and refer them to Paul’s blog. As an educator, he talks about this topic regularly.
  • Insist that wherever you are, bullying and bullies are not tolerated no matter what.
Below, Paul has posted a short video that I’d like to share with you about a girl who lives in my home state of Indiana. This video paints a clear picture of the hurt that bullying can cause and demonstrates the power of peer ridicule.



Finally, I wrote a book called, REUNION, a supernatural thriller that covers both bullying and school shootings. It’s a book about a group of kids who survive a school shooting and reunite twenty years later. As adults, they continue to live with the trauma, and then through a strange turn of events gather together at their old school. It is a chilling and emotionally engaging tale about what it’s like to live with bullying, post-traumatic stress disorder and surviving a school massacre. I’d rate it PG-13 and have allowed my own teenagers to read it. I hope you get a chance to read and share it with your teens and teachers. REUNION is a thrilling read, is getting great reviews and has an important message.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to “follow” Paul’s blog and then go get a copy of REUNION. You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION and the blog, The Writing Bomb





Monday, May 9, 2011

This Blog Is One Today

Hard to believe it's been a year.  I remember a year ago - I woke up bright and early to join my parents in the annual 5K Breast Cancer Walk their neighborhood runs on Mother's Day.  It was too cold for May.  It was also the year mom took a wrong turn, so the members in our group ended up walking off a few extra calories that morning.

I got home around noon.  I showered, threw on something comfortable, and sat down at my computer.  And, on a whim, I created this blog - for no reason other than the fact I needed something to occupy my afternoon.  True story.

This year, I cranked out 111 posts and participated in two blogfests.  I conned 184 people into joining this site accumulated 184 followers and received 14,615 hits.  I've had repeated visitors from England, Norway, Malaysia, and Australia. Among the 839 comments received, some were from published or soon-to-be published authors.  I've also made great new friends.

In honor of my blogoversary, as many like to call it, I am reposting links to my most popular posts.  I'm also posting links to my personal favorite posts that, for one reason or another, don't fall into the popular category.

Thanks for stopping in today.  Here's to the start of a productive week for everyone!

My Top 5 Posts:


1.  Interview with J.M. Tohline

2.  Don't Want To Work Today

3.  I'm Ten Months Pregnant

4.  For Entertainment Purposes Only

5.  Dear Parents, You Can't Do That.  No, Really, You Can't.

My 'Less Popular' Favorites:


1.  Bullies Thrive As Casualties Rise

2.  My Name Is Paul, And I Am A Writer

3.  Are Celebrity "Novels" Compromising The Publishing Industry?

4.  Every Book You Hate Is Loved By An Agent Somewhere

5.  Young Adult Literature: Why I Choose To Write It

Thanks to everyone who joined me this past year.  Your comments, visits, and support is greatly appreciated.

All the best,
Paul

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sadly, I'm Not Oprah

If I were Oprah, everyone who entered this giveaway would receive a free copy of The Great Lenore.  I wish I could do this.  I really wish I could do this. 

Sadly, I am not Oprah.  I do not have a talkshow, and I cannot give a free copy of The Great Lenore to everyone in the audience - or in this case, everyone who entered.  And since many great friends entered and supported this month's giveaway (thank you), I'm rather uspet by this realization.

Of course, the winner is not up to me.  Randomizer.org handles that.  I'm simply a viewer watching a reality show, waiting to see who advances to the next round.  So, let's see who advances this time, shall we?

Congratulations to....

Michele Shaw, who some of you may recognize as @veertothewrite.  Michele is a good friend of mine from the online writing community.  She is a great supporter of fellow writers and has returned to enter this contest each time I run it.  I'm happy to see her win.  I'd be happier if everyone could win.

The final drawing for a free copy of The Great Lenore will take place the first week in June.  Stay tuned!

And to be clear, I don't wish I was Oprah.  I do wish I had Oprah's money.

Odds and Ends:

Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby.  I'm excited to score a slice of Derby Pie.  I'm also excited to spend tomorrow reminiscing about the eight years I spent in Louisville. 

Derby Trivia:
  • The Kentucky Derby Festival is a two-week long celebration composed of over seventy events.
  • The Festival kicks off with Thunder Over Louisville, an airshow and fireworks display put on over the Ohio River.  Thunder is the largest annual fireworks display in North America.
  • The majority of KY schools are closed on Oaks Day (today), the day before the Kentucky Derby.
  • The annual Chow Wagon Festival is held at Waterfront Park.  The event features southern cuisine, including BBQ pulled pork, roasted chicken, brisket with Derby sauce, ribeye sandwiches, gyros, kabobs, Italian meatball subs, funnel cakes, ice cream, fried candy bars, strawberry shortcake, fresh lemonade, fajitas, frozen daiquiris, frozen margaritas, corn dogs, sausages, and more.  Hungry?
  • The Chow Wagon Festival also includes nearly thirty live concerts featuring local and regional entertainment. 
  • On average, the Derby brings 150,000 visitors to Louisville each year.
  • The Derby is a 1.25 mile long race for three-year old thoroughbred horses only.
Sunday is Mother's Day.  I will join my parents in their neighborhood's annual 5K Breast Cancer Walk at 9AM.  Afterwards, I will return to the cul-de-sac and stuff myself at the potluck breakfast buffet.  (I will also finish the walk first.  Just sayin...)

My blog will turn one-year old on Monday (I started it last year after drinking too much coffee at the Mother's Day breakfast buffet).  In lieu of cards, please leave comments.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dear Parents, You Can't Do This. No, Really, You Can't.

My teaching career would not be complete without memories of outrageous parent complaints. 

You didn't let my son get his calculator.  You hate him!  No, I didn't let your son get his calculator because it was in his locker, and my direction was that under no circumstance was a student to leave the classroom once the standardized test had been distributed.

You didn't give my son his pass.  You hate him!  And you ruined his day!  No.  I didn't give him his pass because I did not receive a pass to give him.  Although I enjoy looting them for extra cash, that was not the case in this situation.  It turns out, this pass wasn't that valuable.

You didn't give my child an award.  You don't like my child.  No.  I did not give your child an award because your child missed twelve out of fifteen assignments, does not participate in class, and has a cumulative average of 63%.  It was tough, but I was able to find a student with a higher average and more deserving record.

My daughter failed a test and said it's because you think she's stupid.  Your daughter failed the test because she got more questions wrong than she did correct.  I'm willing to bet she did not study.  I'm also willing to bet the study guide is smashed at the bottom of her bookbag, and that she opted not to attend my after school review session on account of a Starbucks appointment.

But this one, this one right here, sends my blood pressure to a level currently uncategorized by medical professionals.  English teacher Judy Buranich is being harassed by parents and community members for spending her personal time writing erotic novels.  The video below (and by the way, kudos to this former student for putting matters in perspective) pretty much expresses my thoughts on the issue:



Once again, an excellent educator is being raked over the coals because private citizens are interfering in a matter of no concern to them.  I'm thankful my parents had more important things to do (like raise my brother and I) and didn't go looking for ways to destroy one's career. 

The fact that Ms.Buranich publishes her novels under a different name proves she separates her two careers.  As far as I'm concerned, the conversation ends here. 

Why was she discovered?  Because someone went digging.  As teachers, we can't stop others from launching private investigations on our personal lives; we can only make sure we remain law-abiding citizens so nothing incriminating is discovered. 

Judy Buranich did nothing illegal.  She did nothing wrong, either.  She does not deserve negative publicity, nor does she deserve to be treated in this degrading manner.

If Ms. Buranich assigned her racy novels as a classroom reading assignment, I would understand the cause for concern.  If she were fighting to have them added to the curriculum, promoting them on school grounds, or including them in her classroom library, this would be a different case.  She isn't.

In school, Judy Buranich teaches English.  At home, Judy Mays writes erotic novels.  And if anyone thinks other teachers don't have hobbies some would find questionable, they are sadly mistaken.

As an American, Judy Burancih has the right to teach English.  Judy Mays has the right to publish novels that are racy, filthy, and loaded with strong sexual content.  As an American, you don't have to read it.  But, as an American, you should respect someone else may want to.

I'm on Team Judy!  Team Judy all the way!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kicking Off May With A Great Giveaway!

Read A Sample
J.M. Tohline's debut, The Great Lenore, will be released from Atticus Books on June 15. That's NEXT MONTH!!  It is currently available for pre-order from all major booksellers (Amazon, B&N, and Borders), and from Atticus Books with free shipping.

Oh, I recently finished the ARC, and Tohline's novel is worth every word.  He is a talented young writer who shares both skill and wisdom.  It's a fascinating story you will not want to put down.

In celebration of this event, I'm happy to send one lucky winner a FREE copy his novel. And the best part is, entering this giveaway is probably the easiest thing you will do today!

CONTEST GUIDELINES:

To Enter: Fill out the entry form below no later than 11:59 PM on Thursday, May 5, EST. That's it! No gimmicks; no fine print. I'm not selling cars, folks.

If you entered this giveaway in March and/or April and were not a winner, your previous entries are still included. However, you can now enter again, which will only better your chances.

Early Friday, randomizer.org will generate a winner and I will notify you via e-mail. I will also announce the winner in my next post.

Prize Requirements: Anyone who visits this blog and fills out the entry form is eligible. As stated above, the winner receives one (1) FREE copy of J.M. Tohline's The Great Lenore, a personal gift from me to you. The novel will be shipped from Borders.com once it goes on sale. The approximate shipping date is June 15, 2011.

The proclaimed winner will need to provide his or her mailing address so I can pre-order your copy. Once shipped, I will e-mail you the confirmation notice and include the tracking information. This contest is open to participants anywhere in the world.

Bonus Entries: Additional entries will be awarded for doing any or all of the following:
  • E-mail the author at jmtohline (AT) gmail (DOT) com for a set of business cards that can be distributed in your town to help spread the word. The cards will be mailed to you at no cost. (+10 entries)
  • Mention and link this giveaway in a blog post (+5 entries)
  • Share this page on facebook (+3 entries)
  • Tweet this contest (+2 entries) - please tag @ImPaulJoseph in the tweet.
  • All of the above (+25 entries)
Thank you in advance to all who participate. Good luck to everyone!

This contest will return the first week of June for the last time.  Stay tuned!

So X, Y, & Z Didn't Happen, But Do They Really Count As Letters?

I quit after W.  It wasn't my plan, but the more exhausted I became - and the worse my seasonal allergies evolved - I realized I was done.  I was out of ideas; my creative allowance for the month expired.  And I saw no point in whipping up gibberish simply for the sake of posting.  I try and spare my followers.

I'll admit, it makes me feel like a failure.  At the same time, if a student came to me upset for scoring a 23/26 on a quiz (which is purely hypothetical since my OCD would never allow a quiz to be worth 26 points; assignment values may end in two numbers only - five or zero), I'd tell him or her they did an excellent job before admitting to myself I too would be heartbroken.  An 88% is not an A, and an A is the only acceptable grade for some of us.

Man, I'm a mess!

The A to Z challenge was intense.  It's the most ambitious blogging project I have entered to date.  Overall, it was enjoyable, though I 'd be lying if I pretended I had time to reap all the benefits.  The manuscript is always my top priority of the day.  All other excursions take a back seat, so I found myself struggling to visit and leave comments for the other challenge participants.

Still, the advantages made my participation worthwhile.  I must acknowledge my new friend Duncan Horne, who I connected with early in the challenge through our commonalities as both writers and teachers.  Duncan's a talented writer living in Kuantan, Malaysia.  I've enjoyed reading his posts and learning from his words.  He's witty, intelligent, and as cool as they come.

***This just in.  This marks the EXACT moment in my life when I learned Osama Bin Laden is dead.***

So now I'm a bit distracted, and can't promise these thoughts will be coherent.  In closing, if I were to  participate in A to Z again, it would have to be during the revision stage of my current W.I.P.  I think one of my greatest struggles (aside from blogging daily and attempting to be somewhat profound in each post) was participating in the challenge at the same time I was drafting my novel's climax.  If I were editing, the foundation would have already been laid out; the fact I'm still creating (and creating one of the most critical parts of the plot) has my brain overloaded.  Focusing on anything else is practically impossible these days.

I would like to thank Alex, Arlee, Jeff (Happy Birthday, friend), Stephen, and the other co-hosts of the A to Z Challenge.  Congratulations on a huge success.   I remember when the goal was a minimum of 300 participants - major props on recruiting over 1200!

Finally, a big thank you to my new followers.  Aside from returning to a more relaxed blogging schedule, I look forward to interacting with each of you beyond this challenge.  I have exciting posts planned for May, including my monthly novel giveaway which will post later this afternoon. 

And congratulations to everyone who survived the 2011 A to Z Challenge. 

Cheers!