The Silent Ninja Friendship is Golden

The Silent Ninja Friendship is Golden by Aaliyah Blackmon is a children’s book about a young girl who loves karate. Padge is an ordinary kindergartner who loves karate. She wants to advance quickly and practices every chance she gets. This includes on the playground at recess. All goes well until a new fifth grader starts to make fun of her. Padge doesn’t understand why the fifth grader would do that and her only logical conclusion is that she must be really bad at karate.

Each day at school the bullying continues. At first Padge is in denial and gets into a fight with her best friend Julie over it. Padge tries to apologize but Julie won’t accept. The bullying continues yet Padge is determined to fix it herself. Julie witnesses the fifth grader physically bullying Padge and the fight is over between the two friends. Julie makes Padge tell a teacher and the bullying finally stops.

The book ends on a happy note with Padge leveling up in karate and her former bully becoming a friend and fellow student. Julie is there every step of the way and levels up as well.

This book was a great read for children just a bit older than my six year old who has not started first grade. She did however enjoy it when I read it to her. Even my four year old listened attentively, although she would have liked more pictures. The story line was simple and the message clear. My daughter wanted to keep reading and instead of the week it took to read, it only took a couple days. My daughters main complaint was the title she kept looking for the ninja the whole book. I could see her point. The title did promise a ninja that the story never delivered. For me I was disappointed in the art work. Call me old fashioned but I think if you are going to include illustrations then they should look professional.

Overall I have no complaints about the writing. It was a children’s book written by a twelve year old and I don’t know that I wrote that well at her age. The story was age appropriate and entertaining. If you need a good story to help your child with bullies this is the book for you. I’m giving it 4 stars.

The Importance of Proper Review Requests from a Reviewers Perspective.

Review requests may seem like a tedious and pointless exercise but they are essential to getting reviews. Let me explain why. Even as a new reviewer I get several requests for reviews everyday. Right now four or five requests isn’t a lot and by any means overwhelming. However, I am not a full time blogger or reviewer. I have a full time job, two kids and writing of my own to do. I review books to build brand awareness and helpbook3 out fellow authors.

When I get a request I don’t want to do the work. I want all the information right there in the email I received. If there is additional content you think might interest a reviewer include a link; never rely on that for all your content and descriptions. If I am busy I won’t click it. If I have a lot of requests I won’t click it.

Unfortunately reviews like everything else today is a numbers game. Your request is easily lost in the crowd. Make your request stand out. Tell the reviewer (briefly) why you are a writer or why you wrote your novel, something, anything, (relevant) to grab their attention and make you stand out.

The other thing to keep in mind is to research your reviewer. Pay attention to their preferred genres so you aren’t wasting everyone’s time. If the reviewer says they will book1consider books outside their genre you should send reasons in your query to convince the reviewer to try your book. Unfortunately, your book is a harder sell than the others. You should also remember if a reviewer typically reviews fiction they probably aren’t your best bet for a non-fiction review unless they specifically list it in their preferences.

I face the same problems every other does. I send out requests and never hear back. Assume if you don’t the answer is either no or not yet. Be patient and wait. Search Goodreads and other internet forums for other sources but never give up. In this blog entry I have included a bad example of a request as well as a sample letter of what I send out.

Not so good:

I found your name on a book review website and am looking for feedback on my YA fantasy. You seemed to like that genre and was wondering if you would like to read it?

What I sent out:

I am an indie author requesting a review of my second book “For Their Sins”. It is a paranormal fantasy that has a slightly different twist on vampires. It is told from a first person perspective and covers the life of one 300 year old vampire. It was a fun project and a great stretch of the imagination. The ebook format is 428 pages long. It is also available in paperback  and I would be happy to send it in what ever format you desire. The link to the Amazon listing for further content and cover is listed  here. The summary is below. 
Alexandria Diego never wanted to be special. She was content to lay in bed with her lover forever. One decision will change everything. Suddenly, Alexandria is launched into a life of infamy, which carries a heavy burden that only she can bear. When a vicious war between her people, the Venandi, and their rivals, the Mordere, breaks out it forces Alexandria to change her tactics and be more cautious. But, when her love is captured by the enemy, Alexandria risks everything to get him back. 
It does contain some mature content. 
I would love for you to read it and hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you are interested. 
R. Tran
I would be happy to answer questions or offer any advice I can. I haven’t been an author long and I’ve had to learn everything as I go. I would be happy for any advice that others can offer me as well.

Lost Without a System?

Getting a novel out of my head and to publication is usually harder than it should be. I don’t have a formalized system and rarely make notes. I also hand write them and have to go back and type manuscripts at a later point. For this example I will show you how I developed the idea for my novel “For Their Sins”.

Most of my novels start out with a random thought or idea that gets stuck in my head. In this case it was the idea of having two types of vampires, some that had children and some that reproduced through a bite. The idea was stuck in my head for days as I asked myself questions like it was a game. Most would call this my brainstorming phase, but I never write anything down; probably because a lot of my thinking is done while driving or in the shower. When you’re a busy mom you take quiet time when you can get it. My questions were things like: Who is my hero/heroine? What was the problem he/she was trying to solve? What is the setting?

Once some of the major questions were answered I tried to think of major plot points. In this case I knew I wanted Alexandria to be my heroine and for her to be fighting the Mordere, which is bite in Italian. I knew the Venandi, which is Latin for hunting, would be charged with finding sinners and sending them to their judgement. But I needed anchor events before I could start. So I asked more questions and eventually came up with her childhood, her affair with Collin, Savas’ fight with the Impaler, and the showdown with Anya. Even though it may not sound like much it was enough to get me started.

I like to write organically and see where the story takes me. That’s exactly what happened with this novel and it led me down paths I had not intended. Alexandria’s first love affair was not planned it just sort of happened. Another character was killed off that  I originally did not intend to. Then there were entire sections and a whole ending that had to be re-written. It doesn’t bother me though. When I try to plan every thing I can’t seem to write and even when I do it feels forced, so I just don’t do it. If I have a really great idea I will take notes though and reference it later.

One of last steps before editing is typing. Yes I still hand write the majority of my IMG_7155manuscripts in this day and age. I do so for a couple reasons. One: I can take a notebook anywhere, and I mean anywhere. Most of my lunch breaks are spent in my car or at the fast food joint in work eating while writing or reviewing what I’ve already written. It’s a lot harder to do with a laptop. Two: I love the feel of an ink pen gliding over paper. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to see the notebook pages dwindle away as my writing fills it.

Editing, re-reading, editing, title and cover design are always my last steps. Usually by the time I reach editing I have already read the original document at least three or four times. I never know what kind of last minute changes I may want to make so I always do so again. In this case I rewrote the ending just a day or two  before publishing. The original ending never felt right so I changed it.  Then I read the last several chapters again editing it as needed and “For Their Sins” was ready for the world.

It’s not a system or a formal process but this crazy method works for me. I’m sure there are plenty of authors and English teachers out there screaming at me now to do things properly. I give those people my sincerest apologies; I simply can’t do it. Perhaps one day I will try it your way. For now I will take the magic when it happens and not try to force it.

A Few Good Books

Like most people I started reading when I was a kid. I loved it. My favorite stories then were by R.L. Stine. I couldn’t get enough. Why I loved being too frightened to go to bed at night I don’t know, but I think that was only part of it. R.L. Stine always created a story that drew the reader in. I could picture myself in his story. The words weren’t static letters on a page they became images in my head. Most of his books also had a good


mystery to them too. I always found myself turning the pages and never wanting to put the book down.

In my early teens I stopped reading. I don’t remember why. Perhaps it was simply because my teachers and parents wanted me to read, so I didn’t want to. I can’t remember. Then some one handed me Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice at the beginning of my junior year of high school. The obsession with reading was back. Once again letters were no longer inanimate objects. They danced off the page forming movies in my head.  I read through Queen of the Damned before Christmas break and the books are so much better than the movies.

Then I was introduced to the Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. At first I was intimidated, it’s 800 pages long. Once I got started I couldn’t stop. I fell in love with fantasy novels and I had a little bit of a crush on Richard Rahl. After that I was hooked. Ibook2 read any fantasy book or novel I could find that sounded interesting. I tend to like magic over swords and heroines over heroes. Magical races are always intriguing to me so if they are included it is an automatic bonus.

My favorite book of a all though is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. If you haven’t read it you really should. It’s one of those classic books people put on their book shelves to look smart like Shakespeare, I love his tragedies by the way, but its worth the read. Its another long read even the abridged version is well over 800 pages. I loved every bit. The story has everything, revenge, love, a hero, a villain, a princess. It is epic fiction and the movies have yet to get it right. They keep trying to improve perfection, it can’t be done.

My Goodreads profile has a listing of most of the books that I can remember the names and authors for the books I read. I assure you there are many more that I am missing. I read a lot of books from the library and can’t remember their names. The list is eclectic ranging from classics to romance novels. I love any book that has the ability to draw me in and make me feel a part of it. Most of them have their own unique world. New ideas and spins on old ones are always a must for me.

As I said earlier when I read a good book I see it in my head like I’m watching a movie. When I write it is exactly the same way. I see entire scenes of my books played out before me repeatedly  until I get it just right and written down on the page.  I get inspiration from other authors and their books.  I draw on what I’ve read to help me figure out how to piece my scenes together, or how to fix a problem in my own work. Now, most of the time I am either reading or writing. even my lunch break is spent eating over a notebook writing or a book reading. I wouldn’t have it any other way.book1

Five Little Things

I thought I would share five things about me that you probably don’t know. Sorry they aren’t embarrassing and my site is family friendly so no luck there. These are just random tidbits about me that unless you met me you wouldn’t know. So where to begin? We’ll begin with the most extreme and work our way back to tranquil.

I am a roller coaster fanatic. I love them. Really, I can’t get enough. When I was a teenager my family didn’t have a ton of money so I would ask for a season pass to Six Flags for both my birthday and Christmas gifts. My whole summer was spent at the park until I started working, then it was nights and weekends.

I’ve been to Cedar Point in Ohio and rode every coaster. I want to go back as soon as my girls are old enough. I’m also dying to ride the new Batman coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I keep trying to get friends together for a trip. All the way to Texas for one coaster, it seems perfectly logical to me. I’m just sad I haven’t got to ride it yet. The link above will show a video in case your wondering what all the fuss is about.

Only slightly less risky was petting a 300 pound tiger and two tiger cubs. I know it seems worse than the roller coasters, but it was a one time experience. The Tiger was in a cage and everything was in a controlled environment.

When I was in high school and my first couple years of college I wanted to be a veterinarian. A wonderful lady at church named Mary Starks had connections at the St Louis Zoo and knew my interest in Veterinary medicine. She arranged a tour of the hospital at the zoo.

They also took me behind the cages to see Max the tiger and his two cubs. I will never forget how soft his fur was or how big his paws were. The cubs played like any other kittens and had to be bribed to come close enough to the fence for a pet. If I can find the pictures I will post them to my blog at a later time.

In case you haven’t guessed my husband is Vietnamese. I however am not, I’m as white as they come being mostly German, Polish, and Croatian. There’s a little British Isles thrown in there as well making me a good old American mutt. Needless to say I grew up eating hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and spaghetti. Spaghetti was at least twice a week because my dad loved it.

I am pointing it out because I love Vietnamese food now. When we first started dating the food was an adventure. Not that it was bad, we just had a rule: never ask what IMG_7378something was until you decide if you like it. I’ve eaten some pretty interesting things. Some of it was amazing, I love goat curry. Some of it pretty bad, don’t try pig Fallopian tubes. While other things are an acquired taste, durian and balut being the two biggest ones.

Now that my mother in law lives in California I had to learn to make a lot of my favorite dishes myself. I try to learn something new every time we visit. There are also great blogs to follow my favorite is The Ravenous Couple . The quickest thing for me to make that will feed the family for several days is caramelized chicken, but they really love Pho, too bad it takes a full day to make. The picture shows a quick version called Pho Ga featuring chicken instead of beef.



Now we move on to the tame facts. The first is my collection of teapots. Its not out of control yet. I do find myself in resale shops flea markets and garage sales searching for that perfect quirky old pot. I have a few newer pieces that can be used because Isaac loves tea. My preference though is the old and unique.

IMG_7382This little teapot started the whole thing. My grandfather brought it back from Japan after WWII. I used to stare at that teapot when I was a little girl. When we had to pack up our grandparents house it was one of the few mementos I received from him. His flag from his service in the army was the other. My grandmother, his wife, left me a tea service and I have a cream and sugar set from my other grandmother. Things have progressed from there to a nice collection. I think my love for the first teapot explains my taste for the old and unique though.

Finally we reach the last tidbit. I sew and quilt. I started sewing when I was a kid. My mom showed me this valuable skill. She even taught me how to read a pattern, apparently that is a dying art. I’ve made several dresses, pajamas, and Halloween costumes for my girls. The girls started picking out their Halloween costume for 2017 in November of 2016 they were so excited about last years costumes. Requests are never finalized until September 1.


Quilting came much later. I just started that about three years ago. My little brother in my fraternity was having a baby and she needed a quilt. (All members of our Frat are brothers AAAE) I combed Pinterest for something easy and cute, drew out a plan, did a lot of math, bought my fabric and figured it out. The elephant quilt is what I came up with. It was pretty cute for my first quilt. Since then I’ve made several more. There are pictures of some below. I have one I am working on now and hope to have it finished by the time summer is over.

So that’s it five little things you didn’t know about me before. Some of them interesting others, maybe not as much. I’m sure there are more and If I think of anything interesting I’ll share those too.