Want Some Philosophical Sci-Fi? Read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land

A man underwater, with hands in a prayer-like gesture, above the words "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Starting a new senior editor job while still very actively reading, writing my books, critiquing and editing others’, networking with other readers, writers, and book bloggers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, AND feeding my family, taking care of our house, and helping others is a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it! I like being busy, and recognize that every opportunity to associate with other awesome people, every day with decent health and good sleep, every moment with my kids (who I wasn’t sure I’d be able to have, as I recounted here), every opportunity to work and earn money is a BLESSING. And you people who read my reviews, chat with me on social media, or follow me: you’re all wonderful.

Some true reviewers of science fiction books would say I’m not a real science fiction fan until I’ve read and reviewed at least one Robert Heinlein book. Heinlein was known as the “dean of science fiction writers.” He was named the first Science Fiction Grand Master ever. Four of his books won Hugo awards, which are the pinnacle of recognition for the sci-fi genre. Because I admire him as a writer, have a goal to read the rest of his works, and want you to be well-informed, let me tell you about Stranger In a Strange Land.

What is Stranger in a Strange Land About?

The premise is interesting: a man raised by Martians comes to Earth and learns its customs, but because he has learned other powers, eventually starts his own church.

Who Would Like Stranger in a Strange Land, And Why?

If you’re a fan of literary fiction—the kind that revels in long narrative and beautiful speech, you’ll like this book. If you like esoteric characters or philosophical examinations of religion, you’ll like this book.  I liked the first half of the book, although it was a bit slow and cumbersome for me. The second half started getting too strange, so I didn’t finish. But that’s just me.

What’s the Deal?

You can get Stranger in a Strange Land from Thriftbooks.com for $3.79.

Visual, Anyone?

via GIPHY

Do you have a favorite science fiction author? If so, tell me in the comments!

Five Movies That Teach Empathy…And Deals on Each of Them

There are a lot of things people say we need these days: fewer guns, better schools, less rain on the eastern U.S. coast, more rain in the West, a certain person out of political office, etc., etc. I would argue that, above and beyond any and all of those things, what we need is more empathy. It’s a personality trait that’s hard to define, especially to younger minds, and harder, perhaps, to develop and express. In a recent council my husband and I had with our kids on the subject of empathy, the best we could do was: “walking in other people’s shoes.” That is, indeed, a part of it: using one’s imagination to picture what it must be like for someone to experience something. But the actual act of using one’s imagination to do that can be difficult, especially if one thinks quite literally, like children do, or if one has limited experience. And let’s be honest: none of us has experienced everything so we’re all limited in some respects. And the expression of empathy is another important “ball of wax” too. So, I’ve put together a list of a few movies that demonstrate, in practice, what the exercise of empathy can look like.

 

 

Some of them are “family” movies, but not all, because it’s as important for adults to expand their ability to empathize as it is for kids to develop it. Oh, and I found deals on all of them for you! You’re welcome!

Ender’s Game

One might ask how a movie (and book) about a boy who ends up at an exclusive space school for kids training to defeat a once-ubiquitous alien race that almost wiped out the human species has anything to do with empathy. Bear with me, because I think this movie demonstrates empathy beautifully.

Ender’s too young to remember the almost-extinction of his race, but not too young to’ve learned about Mazer Rackham, a former fighter in that battle who saved humanity. At the school, he meets Rackham and, through him and letters from his sister back on Earth, becomes more acquainted with Earth’s past. Even as his understanding awakens, his battle skills sharpen, until he leads squadrons of soldiers in what they think are simulation attacks on the “bugger” race that originally attacked them. When he and his squadrons finally, through a “preemptiveness” mentality and great skill, annihilate that entire race, he’s told that the simulations were in fact real. Because of he’s learned about what Earth went through, he realizes the horror of what he’s done. At the very end of the movie, he’s given an opportunity to atone for what he did. In the sequels to the book upon which this movie is based, he spends the rest of his life doing so.

Deal?

You can get an Ender’s Game DVD on Amazon for $2.99.

 

Passengers

Similarly, one might wonder how a movie about a man woken prematurely from a cryostatic sleep on a space ship bound for a colony planet millions of light years away could demonstrate empathy. One might, in fact, really wonder that when one discovers that the man, after years of complete solitude on this ship, wakes up a woman and tells her that she was accidentally woken up early too but that he’s there to help her. He’d found that his premature awakening meant that he would age and die before the ship ever reached the planet. Waking the woman meant condemning her to the same fate. He was the opposite of empathetic, right? Yes.

Through a series of twists, though, Aurora, the women he woke up, is faced with the possibility that Jim, the man, might be killed and she would be completely alone for the rest of her life, aboard that ship. She realizes the desperate straits into which he was plunged. She doesn’t forgive him for lying to her, as well she shouldn’t, but he strives to atone for what he comes to realize as the worst of mistakes by discovering a way to put her back into cryostatic sleep. She refuses.

It’s not for kids because there is nudity and some scary moments. But it’s great for some adult empathy developing, and…

Deal?

The blu-ray version is $9.38 on Amazon.

Inside Out

Straight from CommonSenseMedia.org:

Parents need to know that Inside Out is an outstandingly original, heartfelt story from Pixar about growing up and learning to handle your biggest emotions. Told primarily from the perspective of the feelings inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind (brought to life by the voices of Amy PoehlerMindy KalingBill Hader, and more), the plot has many moments of peril/tension — including bridges/islands crumbling, a train tumbling over a precipice, and characters falling into a deep, dark pit. (Spoiler alert: One key character also permanently fades from existence; that and scenes in which it seems Riley is “borrowing” her mom’s credit card and running away are definitely upsetting.) Some of Riley’s fears are also on display, including a giant, scary clown. Parents are likely to get hit hardest by the film’s heart-tugging moments (bring tissues!), but anyone with empathy will feel for Riley as she experiences life’s ups and downs. Ultimately, Inside Out has important messages about needing to feel — and express — all of your emotions, whether happy or sad. Although most of the content is appropriate for elementary schoolers and up, younger kids may need a bit more explanation about what’s going on, since there are references to abstract thought and the subconscious, and it can be a little confusing when other characters’ emotions are shown.

Deal?

A new copy is available on eBay for $6.

Inception

Remember how I said empathy is all about getting into other peoples’ heads? That’s literally what 90% of this movie is about.  The main character, Dom, has the technology to get into their dreams to learn their deepest secrets and even plant ideas in their subconsciousnesses, but to do so he and his team of dream operatives have to dive deeper into his own secrets than he’s comfortable with. Indeed, such a dive puts more than just their minds on the line.

Deal?

You can watch Inception on your Kindle for $8.99.

Beauty and the Beast

One might say that true love is a form of the purest empathy possible, one in which the person who truly loves is most easily able to understand the person he or she loves. It’s also the form in which that empathy is most easily expressed, and ideally, the most often returned. The tale of how empathetic love develops between Beauty and the Beast, especially the original version, is a sweet depiction.

Deal?

The theatrical 2017 version of the tale is available on Amazon for $3.99.

What movies have you seen that demonstrate empathy or its expression? Comment below!

 

 

Happy Books: A Comparison

I’ve been reading several self-help books lately to help me through some tough times, and I’ve reached a decision. Actually, multiple decisions. One: job hunts are not fun. (Fortunately, mine just ended. Yay!) Two: talking things out with close family, friends, and good therapists helps me a lot. Three: all self-help books are different from each other. No one should go to any one self-help book and expect a definitive answer or answers to all of their challenges. That being said, every self-help book that I’ve read has offered a piece of what I’ve needed. To help you find whatever help you might need, I provide a short description of seven self-help books and a comparison of how they rank on a few important features, which I’ll explain.

The Value(s) of a Self-Help Book

In this context, a self-help book is any nonfiction book that deals primarily with the improvement of self-perception in the reader. This could be for the purpose of helping that reader have a better marriage, career, or family life. The list I’ve compiled here is no more a representation of all the self-help books on the market than I am a representation of all humanity, or even of all book reviewers. But this list is comprised of books that focus on self-improvement for the sake of improving happiness.

I rank them on these metrics:

Credibility

Some of the best general how-to books I’ve read were by people who weren’t PhDs but had lots of personal experience and had done a lot of research. Conversely, some of the worst how-to books I’ve read have been by people with PhDs. So the credibility of a self-help book’s author(s) isn’t necessarily their education level in the subject matter, although that is a factor. It’s also determined, in my mind, by their personal experience with the topic, the amount of research they’ve done on it, and the types of source material they draw from for that research. If an author quotes several Huffington Post articles as their main documentation, if you will, for humanity’s depravity, they aren’t as credible as one who pulls from multiple academic studies, original pieces discussing patterns of depravity over time, and from current events as related by people who were present at those events.

Personal Examples

Personal examples from the author’s own life or from those with those he or she has interacted go a long way in convincing me that what they are saying is true or that they truly understand me and why I’m reading their book. Those examples also have value if they show how someone successfully applied a principle from the book

Application/”Workbookiness”

some self-help books offer nugget after nugget of golden wisdom, and while they have value just for that, they’re much better and more valuable if they provide workbook pages, quizzes, call-outs with questions that make you think (and better yet write down) of ways you can implement what they’re saying in your life the very next day. Others are more workbook than they are wisdom.

Humor

Especially on the subject of improving one’s outlook on life, a little bit of humor can go a long way.

Motivation

Some self-help books can leave you more overwhelmed than when you began. The most effective ones are the ones that break things down into manageable chunks, and encourage you from wherever you are.

The Books and Their Rankings

Without further ado, then, I provide rankings between 1 and 5 (with 1 being the highest or best and 5 the lowest or worst) on the above metrics for the following self-help books:

The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Phd

 

 

 

 

 

You Are a BadA* by Jen Sincero

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

 

 

 

Strengths Finder by Tom Rath

 

 

 

 

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

 

 

 

I don’t rank them in comparison to one other, but rather on a scale of how much value they’ve been to me and how much I think they’ll offer to you. They’re not in any particular order, and I leave it up to you to determine which one is the best for you.

I’ve also looked at the website of five different book retailers to find the best deal on each of these books for you. Those retailers were:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

ThriftBooks

BetterWorldBooks

BooksAMillion

You’ll find the links to those deals if you click on the titles of the books in the table below. They are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click through and buy a book, but it doesn’t change the price of the book for you.

 

 
Credibility
Personal Examples
Application
Humor
Motivation
Self-Esteem Workbook ($5.92) 1 (recommended by my therapist) 4 1 5 1
You Are a BadA* ($8) 2 1 5 1 (warning: guffaws are possible) 2
Feeling Good ($3.79) 1 1 3 5 3
What to Say When You Talk to Yourself ($3.79) 4 5 4 5 2
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ($1.99 Kindle) 1 1 1 (especially if you get a Franklin Day Planner) 4 2
The Gifts of Imperfection ($10.99) 1 1 (so good) 4 2 3
Strengths Finder ($25.63) 1 2 2 4 1
Braving the Wilderness ($14.95) 1 1 5 2 3

 

What books would you add to this list, and why?

Book Review: When We Wake is a Refreshing YA Sci-Fi Read for $3.47

Sometimes, you need a fresh perspective on old subject matter, whether it be in life or in books. When We Wake provides a new perspective on what many would consider a very tired genre: dystopian. But this is a refreshing, unique perspective on life after governmental collapse. Why should you read it? Well…

What Is When We Wake About?

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027. She’s happiest when playing the guitar. She’s falling in love for the first time. And she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should be the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. The future isn’t all she had hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better world?

Who Should Read When We Wake, And Why?

It’s only loosely “dystopian” because it straddles two time periods and focuses more on the personal side of things than the political. Maybe because I write in this genre (sci-fi, pre-apocalyptic), I was fascinated by Karen Healey’s take on our future. I thought it particularly interesting that she set the book in Australia. She ties the setting in really well with the plot, using both the country’s actual history and its imagined future to provide impetus for the conflict the main character strives unknowingly against. Tegan is a well-drawn character, and I love the diversity and scope of characters Karen includes. I loved the sequel too. Both were refreshing, compelling reads!

So, if you like dystopian books like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Glimmer by Phoebe Katanadis, or Whisper by Lynette Noni, you’ll like When We Wake.

What’s The Deal?

You can get When We Wake for $3.46 on BetterWorldBooks, with free shipping!

 

 

What Writers Say Is Hard About Writing, And Some Suggestions For Them

Recently, in a couple of writers’ groups in Facebook, I asked what some of the hardest parts of writing are. Mind you, I’m familiar with many of them, having been on my writer’s journey in earnest for five years now. But I wanted to capture common writing trials. This is so that I could present a few helpful suggestions to you, things I’ve found helpful or that other writers farther along in their journey have recommended to me. Writing, of all pursuits, is best done “organically,” I believe. We’re all better–and our books are better–when we help each other out.

So, in no particular order, I present to you:

Three Writing Trials and What To Do About Them

Writing Trial #1: Perfectionism

Rachel Virginia White, a member of the Storymakers Conference Facebook Tribe, says she struggles with “not focusing on making every single word perfect.” I struggle with this too; I want every word I write to be perfect even in the first draft. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that that’s unrealistic. Even Shannon Hale, one of my favorite authors, says that when she’s “writing a first draft [she’s] reminding [her]self that [she’s] simply shoveling sand into a box so that later [she] can build castles.”

Suggestion #1: Big Magic

To combat that trial, Whitney Owens Hemsath, a fellow Tribe member and an author featured in a flash fiction anthology, recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. “It speaks to perfectionism,” she says, “rekindling passion, finding joy and wonder in the creative pursuit of inspiration, when to publish in spite of mistakes, how to handle criticism, how to deal with burnout, the proper mental attitude to have towards your creative projects, etc. It was inspiring, yet realistically refreshing.” Kindle or hardback copies on Amazon sell for more than $14; I found a deal for $12. Also, you can get a used copy from Thriftbooks.com for $5.27.

Whitney also says: “Don’t compare your books to ones you’ve read that you think are great. Comparison is the thief of joy. Those books [that make you wish you could write like that]? They probably still have one-star reviews you could go read. You gotta write what feels authentic to you, what you would enjoy, and know that some will love it and some will hate it. Guaranteed. You have to write your best, not someone else’s best, or [the reader] can feel the lack of authenticity. And you have to write your current best, not the best version of your writing you hope to obtain in 20 years, or else you’ll never move on from a project and get to the 20-years-better version of you.” Good words, Whitney.

 

Writing Trial #2: Editing/Rewriting

For some, writing the first draft is the easy part. Jamie D. Greening, a member of the Great Thoughts Great Readers Facebook Group, says: “For me, the hardest part is editing.” Cleaning and improving the first draft, or even revisions after that, can be daunting, tedious, and confusing.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources to help writers in that process. Here, I name only a few that have helped me:

Solution #2: Read These Books

If you’re having trouble with plotting or structure, read Save the Cat, which I reviewed here. It will help you spot ways to simplify or restructure that you may not have thought of before. Also, Jack M. Bickman’s Scene and Structure provides a great explanation of why and how scenes and chapters (scenes and sequels) need to be  written so that the story flows effectively. It also provides a list of common errors in scenes and how to fix them. Thriftbooks has it for $5.11.

If you’re having trouble with your characters not feeling real enough, I recommend Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint. I can’t tell you how many times it’s been recommended to me. You can get it on Thriftbooks for $7.27.

If you’re having trouble uniting a character’s growth with the things you want to have happen in your story, read Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland. Almost every paragraph of my copy of that book is highlighted. You can get a Kindle copy on Amazon for $3.99, and the accompanying workbook for $1.99. That’s a steal!

Writing Trial #3: Sitting Down and Writing

Maybe you don’t struggle with writing or revising, but with just finding the time or motivation to sit down and write! This was the struggle cited by Marilynn Simon Rothstein, author of Lift and Separate and Husbands and Other Sharp Objects. Life can be a bit anti-writing at times.

Solution #3: Persistence

In those moments, I recommend A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. She says: “If your burning reason to write is because it makes you happy or releases the wild voices from your head or helps you analyze the world around you, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You must learn to please yourself in the process of your practice or you will become vulnerable to discouragement, despair, and giving up” (p. 13). Amen. Thriftbooks has it for $4.35.

No matter where you’re at in your writer’s journey, or what questions you have, there is a book, tribe, or group to help you. Good luck!

Tips For Going to FanX, For Geek and Non-Geek Alike

Note: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I get a small commission if you click through to an advertiser’s website and buy the product.  Otherwise, it doesn’t cost you anything.

Comic conventions are a $4 billion industry in the U.S., according to Rob Salkowitz, an author on the subject. That means A LOT of people are paying A LOT of money to engage with representations of their favorite books, movies, video games, and/or celebrities. If you’ve ever gone to one of them, you’ll easily recognize that those who go tend to be passionate about their pop culture. They dress up (or “cosplay) like their favorite characters, sometimes in elaborate costumes. They’ll rally at celebrity panels, sometimes quite loudly. And they wait in long lines to get in, sometimes for hours. If you haven’t gone to a comic convention, let me tell you what it’s like.  I just got back from Utah’s comic convention, called FanX. Trust me, even if you’re not a fan of “peak geek,” you’re likely to find something fascinating there.

FanX logo

The Salt Lake FanX Convention began in 2013. At its first event, over 70,000 people attended. The next event, held 6 months later, drew over 100,000. I remember trying to get into that one. The line wrapped around the Salt Palace Convention Center, which covers about three city blocks, at least three times. Almost everyone was cosplaying. With two young kids and wearing only regular clothes, I didn’t even make it to the line. I just returned from the 2018 convention, however, with my now-older kids. It was awesome, fascinating, crowded, energetic, expensive, huge, and amazing.

Here are some takeaways I gathered for future use, both yours and mine!

Tips for Enjoying The Experience

If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw my Instagram Story of what FanX looked like. If not, follow me so as to not miss stories like that in the future! The Salt Palace is a huge venue, and FanX filled every square inch of it. We easily walked three miles just on the convention floor itself, not counting the three-block round-trip walk to and from our car to the convention center. So…

Tip #1: Wear Good Shoes

Whatever you’re wearing, even if it’s sandals, make sure they’re comfortable! I suggest Roxy shoes similar to these:

 

I have some and they are so comfortable!

Tip #2: Find a Good Deal

FanX tickets cost between $20 and $260, depending on which day you go and how much access you want to the celebrity photo ops, autograph sessions, and panels. We went on Friday, the middle of the three days, after school, because it was important that my kids didn’t miss any school. We couldn’t go on Thursday, and we wanted to avoid the craziness of Saturday. Friday tickets were normally $35 if bought online beforehand, $40 at the door. I found a deal on Groupon for $24.50 tickets. It made the entrance process more complicated than it already was (i.e., you could only enter through the North entrance portal), but it was worth it. Kids under 8 were free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Tip #3: Take Public Transport

It took us an hour and a half to get from our house 29 miles away to the convention floor. This was through non-rush-hour traffic, a journey that usually only takes half that time. There’s a Trax station right next to the Salt Palace. I highly recommend taking public transport to get there.

Tip #4: Take Lots of Pictures

…like these:

Blogger Jamie Moesser and her son, posed around a replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonite.
My youngest and I, with poor Han Solo
Haunted House decor
My nephew as Ant Man, in front of a Haunted House booth. Photo credit: Heather Francom.
An inflatable StayPuff Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbuster movies.
Antman with a Ghostbuster and his foe. Photo credit: Heather Francom.
Man dressed as Link from the Nintendo Zelda games.
Link, from the Zelda games (which I love!), with my nephew. Photo credit: Heather Francom.
Spiderman
Spiderman and Antman together…with some kind of mutation on his arm? Photo credit: Heather Francom.
Star Wars Stormtrooper
Antman with a Star Wars stormtrooper. Isn’t Antman cute? Photo credit: Heather Francom.

If you go with kids, like I did, they’re going to pull you from booth to booth. Be strong, and make them slow down and pose for tons of pictures. There will be so many photo ops!! So…

Tip #5: Take Lots of Time

There are hundreds of local and national vendors selling everything from Harry Potter jewelry to fan art to custom game controllers to Overwatch weapons. That doesn’t even count all of the book booths! It will take you a minimum of two hours to walk all of the aisles, if you don’t buy anything, take any pictures, or do anything extra. I have friends that are there right now, and will have attended and been jam-packed busy, the entire three days. There’s something there for everyone.

Tip #6: Watch People

I promise you, no matter who you are or where you’re from, you will find the people at FanX to be fascinating.

Everneath, a YA Retelling of the Persephone Myth: Book Review and Deal

According to myth, the ancient Greek god Hades abducted the goddess Persephone. He took her to the Underworld and forced her to marry him. Hermes rescued her, but Hades tricked her before she could return to the surface. He fed her pomegranate seeds, and by so doing, ensured that she would have to return to him every six months. This is the how the Greeks explained the seasons: Winter was Persephone’s Underworld time, and Summer was not.

There have been almost 140 retellings of that myth, according to GoodReadsKaitlin Bevis identifies eight that are young adult re-tellings. One of those is Everneath by Brodi Ashton. It’s the first book in a trilogy, followed by Everbound and Evertrue. Overall, I enjoyed the whole series, although the second book not as much as the first. For those of you who like YA romances, this is a series to get, especially with the deal I’m going to tell you about.

What Is Everneath About?

From GoodReads:

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished. She was sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now her captor has allowed to return to her old life…before she’s banished back to the underworld forever. She has six months before then for good-byes she can’t find the words for. She has six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack. He was the person most devastated by her disappearance, and the one she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. She has to decide between cheating fate to remain on the Surface with Jack or returning to the Everneath and becoming Cole’s queen.

Why I Liked Everneath, Everbound, and Evertrue, And You Might Too

I absolutely LOVED Everneath; ten stars all the way. It was good in part because Ashton switched deftly between flashbacks and present day, while still moving the plot along. And the main characters of Nikki and Cole are wonderful and HUGELY complex, Jack a little less so. I really liked Everbound too, but it felt like a slightly different book. Because it had less love triangle and more action and took place in a very different setting, it took a little getting used to.  There is a good amount of teenage angst in all three books. The reader’s suspension of disbelief might be stretched sometimes. But all in all, these are enjoyable books for fans of the YA genre.

What’s The Deal?

On Amazon, you can get the first book for $3.75, the second for $4.99, and the third for $5.24, all on Kindle. There is a novella between books one and two, called Neverfall. Goodreads refers to it as the actual book 2, but it’s not necessary to follow the main plot.

How the Tepid or Too-Busy Reader Can Benefit From Publishing Trends  

In a recent poll conducted for HeadOverTales.com, 80% of respondents said that they read 5 or fewer books a year. This is consistent with some reports that reading is declining as an enjoyable hobby in our country. In that same poll, the most reported obstacles to reading more were lack of time and not knowing where to find good books. These results are interesting in the face of unprecedented growth in the overall book publishing industry. More books than ever before are available to those who want to read them, but that doesn’t change the fact that people seem to be busier than ever and overwhelmed by or unable to find those resources on the web that would match them to the books they’d most likely enjoy. So, if you’re a tepid or too-busy reader, what would help you most ? I’ve provided tips like these for making more time to read, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s also helping you understand that the publishing world is changing a lot these days, and if there ever were a time that you could most benefit from those changes, it is now.

Why?

1. Non-fiction rules:

Self-help, memoir, cookbook, political commentary books have consistently been selling better collectively than all fiction titles for at least the past three years. This means that there are more self-help and how-to books available, which means that the tepid or too-busy reader has much more of a chance of improving their lives through what they read. Even in the face of so much content being available for free on the web, the old axiom still applies: you get what you pay for. Those self-help and how-to books that are published tend to be more impactful and richer than anything available for free. This is BookBub’s  list of the 38 best self-help books (of them, I’ve read 4); I’m working on compiling a list of my own and putting together a reading challenge for you! I’m also reading You Are a BadA* by Jen Sincero and The Self-Esteem Workbook by Dr. Glenn Schiraldi, and highly recommend both of those. 

 

More novellas and anthologies:

Whether in response to economics or shorter reader attention spans, more short stories and compilations of short stories are available than ever before, according to PressBooks.com. For the reader who doesn’t have a lot of time to read, or isn’t sure what kind of book they prefer, these kinds of books can provide either quick, easy reads or samplings of such. Anthologies of genre awards such as the Hugo Award Showcase, for example, provide a great list of speculative fiction award-winning literature, in short form.

Paperbacks aren’t going away any time soon:

Sales of book hard copies have not dived as precipitously as publishers first thought they would when ereaders and tablets first came on the scene. Some would attribute this to digital fatigue, or people wanting to reduce their screen time. Whatever the reason, this means that readers can still find paperback copies of almost any book priced competitively–and sometimes better than–ebooks, especially if one buys a used copy of a book.

A mysterious eye, set in a dark-skinned, painted face, over the title "Truth Seer"Many more self-published books (i.e., published by authors) than traditionally-published (i.e., published by companies):

Although most readers, especially the tepid or too-busy ones, don’t know how to determine whether a book is traditionally- or self-published, and probably don’t care, they should realize that knowing how a book was published can increase their chances of finding a book they’d like to read, just by looking at the cover and/or first few inside pages. Self-published books are edited and marketed differently than traditionally-published books, so if someone wants something to read that is probably more “indie” or “alternative,” they’re more likely to find that in a self-published book. Self-published books also don’t go through the extensive vetting process that traditionally-published books do, so there is a much wider spectrum of writing abilities to be found in that category as well. Thankfully, there are many more online review sites and media resources available to help them find a read they would enjoy. They just need to be savvy with a few particular hashtags and URLs, like #bookstagrammer on Instagram or #[genre] on Twitter (where [genre] equals your genre of choice). Also, I wrote about how to get custom book reviews here.

 

So What Does This Mean?

Maybe it does all come down to giving you, if you’re a tepid or too-busy would-be reader, a list of those sites, hashtags, and social media groups. Whatever the methodology, this is a truth that will hopefully one day be universally acknowledged: that everyone can benefit from reading more books, and any effort expended by you is worth it for that reason.

 

The torso of a robot holding a white kitten, under the words "The Talos Principle"

Video Game Deal/Review: Talos Principle – Puzzling Yet Relaxing

Sometimes us Mom Gamers want to be able to game and relax at the same time, after a day, say, of chauffeuring, making dinner, helping with homework, etc. Most video games are not meant to relax–but Talos Principle by UI Entertainment does, while also being fun. It’s a puzzle game full of progressively-harder mazes that the player has to overcome to win. And it’s only $29.99 on Amazon!

What Is Talos Principle About?

From GameFaqs.com:

As if awakening from a deep sleep, you find yourself in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. Tasked by your creator with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles, you must decide whether to have faith, or…ask the difficult questions: Who are you? What is your purpose and what are you going to do about it?

Who Would Like Talos Principle, And Why?

You have to solve the puzzles to discover the story; it’s not laid out for you at the beginning. The graphics are satisfactory, but not cinematic or fancy by any stretch, and it did freeze on me occasionally. There are a good variety of environments, as dictated somewhat by the storyline. The music is wonderful, peaceful, with a “new age” kind of feel. The story is told through subtle clues revealed by the creator’s voice and various computer logs.  The puzzles that make up the storyline include elements that start off simply enough. For instance, at the beginning, the player uses “jammers” that look like industrial tripod-mounted cameras to stop wandering bomb balls, freeze turret guns, or open force field gateways. As the player progresses, it encounters not only jammers but also laser connectors, laser-disrupting boxes, and other contraptions. Even though I found several levels that seemed impassable. I kept trying until I figured out the right path, timing, and configuration of devices. Then, I felt like a genius.

Gamers who like brain teasers will like Talos Principle, as will “non-gamers” who’re just looking for something to do to keep their mind active while letting their body wind down. My teenager would be bored by this game, if he had time to play it after school, homework, friends, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Forza. There is no swearing, sex, or even violence that I’m aware of, unless you count your robot avatar being blown up if it makes a wrong choice in a puzzle.

What’s The Deal?

Talos Principle for PS4 is $29.99 on Amazon (used for $15.99).  It’s only available on PS4.

THE ULTIMATE JOB SEARCH GUIDE in white letters over a blue background.

Top Ten Job Search Tips From The Ultimate Job Search Guide

In my months-long job search, I’ve learned a lot of things. I knew job searches could be hard because I’ve experienced that, but I’d forgotten how hard they could be.  I’ve learned that these days, it’s all about getting past the resume database, making yourself stand out, which can be difficult in a crowded field. Everything’s done online. You upload your resume, submit an application, and then check your email and your phone every five minutes for an invitation to interview. In this environment, you’ve got to work hard to stand out, and every tool you can use to help you do that matters. One tool I highly recommend is Martin Yate’s Ultimate Job Search Guide. To demonstrate why, I share ten of the top tips Yate shares, and a deal you can’t afford to pass up if you’re looking for a job.

Top 10 Quotes/Job Search Tips From The Ultimate Job Search Guide

  • a resume clip artMake a discoverable resume:

“When recruiters are searching for talent in resume databases or on social networking sites, they invariably do so with a specific job description in mind. [Their] software scours the database and builds a list of all the resumes that contain any of [the] descriptors or keywords [found in that job description.] It then weighs the list. Those resumes with the most frequent use and greatest total number of keywords rise to the top of the list. Mentioning keywords in a Professional Skills/Core Competencies section at the front of your resume, and then repeating them within the context of the jobs in which they were used, will increase your ranking in recruiters’ database searches.”

  • Consider the 70% Guideline:

“In your search for jobs, don’t throw out opportunities because one line in the job description speaks of skills you lack. If you meet [at least 70% of them], you are a good candidate.”

  • Target resumes for different jobs:

“The one-size-fits-all resume…doesn’t work anymore; you have to have a resume focused on a single target job.”

  • Compile a Targeted Job Description:

“Collect a half-dozen job postings for your chosen primary target job…then review [them] and find one requirement that is common to all six. Of these six, choose the most complete description of that particular experience/responsibility/skill/deliverable, paste it [to a document as your main heading], and put the number 6 in front of it to signify that it is common to all six job postings. Underneath this, list additional keywords used in the other five job postings to describe this same requirement.”

  • two stick figures seated at a table facing each other, with empty speech bubbles above both their headsShow your potential employer that you can think from their side of the desk by going through the PSRV Process:

“At some level, every job exists for four major reasons:

1. Problem identification

2. Solution envisioning, including strategy and tactics

3. Results projections

4. Value understanding (usually in earnings or productivity enhancements)”

Your resume should show how you solved problems for past employers.

  • Save your resume under a name that is more descriptive than “resume.doc.”

Show that you understand that it becomes part of your messaging when you submit it by naming it something like “Sales Manager/ABC Corp.doc.”

  • cubes of popular social media platforms' iconsSeek recommendations:

“LinkedIn doesn’t recognize your profile as complete until you have three recommendations, and the more you have, the more discoverable your profile will become. The easiest way to get recommendations is to do them for your colleagues and then ask them to reciprocate.”

  • Like and follow company pages:

“A recent study of corporate recruiters found that 87 percent of those who used social media as a recruitment tool said that the best way to get on [the] company radar is to ‘Like’ the company’s page.”

  • a golden hashtagSearch by hashtags:

“You can use hashtag terms to find job opportunities and profession-relevant information. [This] increase[s] your visibility with recruiters who are looking for people like you with hasthtags like:

#resume

#[yourjobtitle]

#[akeyskill)

A Google search of popular job search hashtags also revealed these:

#jobsearch

#jobhunt

#jobopening

#hiring

#nowhiring

#resume

#job

#jobs

#careers

#employment

#HR

#humanresources

  • Follow experts:

“Following experts prominent in your profession gives you content to retweet that adds to your credibility and puts you in good company. By consistently sharing intelligent commentary on your profession and its issues, you might not become an overnight industry expert, but you will be taken that much more seriously by those who could hire you. Here are some good sites for finding those experts:

Twellow

Wthashtag.com

Muck Rack

Twiangulate

Moz.com

Who Would Benefit Most From Reading The Ultimate Job Search Guide, And Why?

The tips above are just a few of those provided in the first 90 pages of this almost 400-page book. What I like most about The Ultimate Job Search Guide is that it lists hundreds of actual interview questions, and goes through how you should answer them and why. Anyone who’s looking for a job can benefit greatly from reading this book. Make sure you get the one published in 2017; it has the most current information.

What’s the Deal?

On Amazon, you can get a new paperback copy for $11.22. It’s very much worth it, my friend.