Friday, December 26, 2014

#Cybersafety: 8 Ways to Use New Gadgets Safely & Securely

Did you get a new smartphone, tablet, or gaming device as a gift this holiday season?

One of the reasons these devices are so popular is because of their portability and accessibility. But it’s important to remember that despite their convenient size and sleek packaging, these gadgets are just as powerful and connected as any laptop – which also makes them just as vulnerable to malware.

Here are 8 ways to ensure your loved ones use their new gifts safely all year-round:

  • Keep a clean machine: All Internet-enabled devices need protection from malware and other threats. Before you start playing, make sure your devices are up-to-date with the latest software and operating system, web browsers and apps and anti-virus protection.
  • Think before you app: Read the privacy policy and user reviews before you download an app to understand what data (location, photos, contacts, etc.) the app can access on your device. Some games that are free for the initial download may contain hidden costs or pay-to-play features. Remember to always download apps from trusted marketplaces, like iTunes or Google Play.
  • Activate parental controls: Parental controls are a great way to be proactive about your child’s activities online.  When enabling parental controls, use age-appropriate settings to filter, monitor and block your child’s activities.
  • Protect your child’s privacy: Many online and video games allow players to speak or even video chat with one another. Kids should know that they shouldn’t share personal information with others, even people they think they can trust. In this case, personal information extends beyond the basics (home address, birthdate, email, real name, etc.) and kids should know not to share personal details like where they go to school, where their parents work or their weekend plans. Make sure your child’s username does not reveal their full name, location, gender, age, or any other personal information. (Examples of good usernames: Gamer2013 or Lizard12). If an avatar or profile image is an option, make sure your kids use something other than a photo of themselves.
  • Ask questions and talk to the experts: If you are giving a video game or gaming console as a gift, video game store employees and other parents can be valuable resources for guidance. Game review websites often have photos and videos to help a parent get acquainted with content and age-appropriate material. Learn more at:
  • Monitor downloads:  Don’t let your child download anything without your permission. This includes cheat programs that may claim to help your child advance levels in the game, but could really be carrying malware.
  • Report cyberbullying:  Online games are your child’s virtual playground, and bullies exist on the Internet - just as they do on an actual playground. Talk to your kids about their online gameplay and make sure they know who to talk to if they encounter a bully, online or off.  Do your part by reporting misbehavers to a game publisher or its online community moderator. 
  • Be mindful of remote connectivity:  It’s a good idea to disconnect your devices from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.
For more online safety tips, visit STOP. THINK. CONNECT. :

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I hope Santa brings you everything you're wishing for this week!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: WE WERE LIARS

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent book!

I was concerned when I read so many reviews stating there was a "twist" at the end that my reading would be tainted anticipating that (unknown) twist, but no. The twist still blindsided me even though I was looking for it.

Here an example of why I enjoyed Lockhart's writing: "He wasn't just Gat. He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee. All that was there, in the lids of his brown eyes, his smooth skin, his lower lip pushed out. There was coiled energy inside." (page 19)

And the twist at the end, I must admit, made me a fan of Lockhart's plotting.

The book did use the F-word a lot, but there was no sex or violence in the story.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 19, 2014

#Book Review: Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling

SO MUCH GREAT ADVICE! I highly recommend.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of books on the craft of writing, and I've come to judge these books based on how many passages I've highlighted or bookmarked. And man ... I marked up this book! I've been a fan of Ray Rhamey's for a long time (especially his Flogging The Quill website), and I was excited to read this book to learn more from him.

What I loved:
1. This book contains SO MUCH great advice - from big ideas of storytelling down to little facets of word choice.
2. His writing style is very easy to read.
3. He's included practical tips and exercises for the reader to put into immediate practice.

What I disliked:
1. Sometimes Ray criticized himself when he gave actual writing examples. While some people may see this as humility, I felt it undermined his authority as an expert in the field.
2. Much of the book's beginning chapters read like a laundry list of Ray's personal writing pet peeves.
3. I read the Kindle version, and many of the pictures were hard to see. When I clicked on them they were blurry.

The list of things I loved FAR outweighed the list of things I disliked. Not only would I recommend this book to all of my writing friends, I will also read this book again and again to master the concepts presented within its pages.

[Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual Newly UpdatedThe Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual Newly Updated by Editors of Family Handyman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

EXCELLENT resource book!

When I first saw this book, I wondered, "Why would someone utilize this big heavy book when they could just use Google and/or YouTube?" Well, I had both my 21-year-old son and my 48-year-old husband read through this book, and here are their answers to my question:

My son said, "I'd use this book instead of Google, because it's not going to disappear on me ... where the power or the Internet connection could."

My husband said, "I'd use this book instead of YouTube, because I can easily carry this book into another room with me. And the layout is great for easy reference, versus YouTube where I'd have to keep replaying the video."

My son also had other comments regarding this book. He thought it was very complete with simple to follow instructions. He was also impressed with the progressive project instructions.

My husband loved the large pages and the well-designed layouts for each project page. He appreciated how the book covered so many basics - like why there are so many different types of nails. He did wish that more of the projects offered "home remedies" for issues (like a stuck screw) versus needing to go out and buy more equipment to solve the problem. He also wished some of the projects went further into detail. But overall he said he'd love to own a copy of this book and it would be an excellent resource for anyone to have on hand.

So what about my opinion of this book? Well, to be honest, I do not like to fix things myself. However, when I looked at the table of contents in this book - - - I was surprised to find organizational and storage tips to maximize the space in your house. Here's a simple tip that never ever even occurred to me:

"It seems like you never have enough wall space to put hooks or towel bars in your bathroom, so why not make your shower walls do double duty? Hang two shower curtain rods instead of one. Hang your shower curtain on the inside rod and use the second rod to hang towels." (page 505)

Sure ... that might not look pretty if you're entertaining guests, but if you're living in limited space with multiple people (or teenagers) that's an awesome solution to the problem of wet towels on the floor!

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review, and I can assure you that my review was in no way influenced.

Bottom line: If you haven't finished your Christmas shopping, newlywed shopping, birthday shopping, or housewarming shopping ... buy this book as a present!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Great #Online #Safety Discussion at Nampa Library

My daughter and I, along with a representative from the Attorney General's Office, discussed online safety Monday night at the Nampa Public Library.

We shared statistics from the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign, such as 75% of children will share personal information in exchange for goods and services.

Officer Benkula, from the Attorney General's Office, explained how easy it is for a predator to know your location when you use your smart phone to access social media sites.

I explained my perspective (as a parent) of what happened in real life when my daughter was nearly abducted by an internet predator.

My awesome daughter explained her perspective of what happened when she was sucked into this guy's world and how it made her feel about herself and life.

I did a short reading from my debut novel WHO R U REALLY? (which was inspired by the events that happened to my daughter).

We answered questions about safe online habits, what scenes were real in the book, and how my daughter is doing now. (Which, by the way, she is doing awesome. These events happened in real life over six years ago. She is happy and healthy and making great choices.)

It was especially nice to meet the man who wrote my FAVORITE review of WHO R U REALLY?! click here to read it

And a big thanks goes to the wonderful librarians of the Nampa Public Library. Thanks Ashley and Laura!

To read Ashley's review of WHO R U REALLY? click here!

If your school, book club, or library is interested in scheduling an event, please click on the "appearances" tab at the top of this page.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Great #Book Discussion!

We talked about everything from online safety to bulimia last night with this awesome group of young ladies.

We also discussed what was real and what was fiction in the WHO R U REALLY? ... They were shocked to learn that the "white chair" scene actually happened in real life, and they were disappointed to hear that the real life predator was never arrested.

These ladies wrote down lots of great questions before we began our discussion. I really enjoyed the evening with them, and I'm so glad they invited me to join them to talk more about the book, about being an author, and about online safety.

If you have a book club, youth group, or classroom that you'd like me to come and visit, please click on the "appearances" tab at the top of this page.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Idaho Librarian Reviewed WHO R U REALLY?!

"This book is sure to spark a dialogue between parents and teens as well as tell an appealing cautionary tale to a younger audience and would be a good addition to any middle school, high school, or public library." The Idaho Librarian

I'm thrilled and honored that The Idaho Librarian (a publication of the Idaho Library Association) reviewed Who R U Really? and gave it such a glowing review.

To read the entire review, written by Ashley Garmire, click: The Idaho Librarian

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's a #Book Blog Tour + #Giveaway

If you'd like to win a copy of Who R U Really? check out the stops listed below and enter the Rafflecopter to receive a hardback copy of this thriller written for the young adult audience!

Blog Tour Schedule

December 3rd
BiblioSmiles – Spotlight
Author A.B. Whelan  – Interview
Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Tens List
Mythical Books – Spotlight
Becoming Books – Spotlight
Chocolatte Reader – Review

December 4th
Kelly P’s Blog – Spotlight
FLY HIGH! – Guest Post
Shelf of Imagination – Review

December 5th
Auggie-Talk – Spotlight
Spiced Latte Reads – Spotlight
In This World of Books.. – Review

December 6th
Into the Mystic – Review

December 7th
Blue Eye Books – Review

December 8th
Verbosity Book Reviews – Review
Home Is Where the Wine Is Book Blog – Review
deal sharing aunt – Review

December 9th
XoXo Book Blog – Spotlight
Lori’s Reading Corner – Interview
Reviews from a Dreamer – Review
My Creatively Random Life – Review

December 10th
BookHounds YA – Interview
Cover2CoverBlog – Review
A Writer’s Dream – Review
A Writer’s Life – Review

December 15th
Word to Dreams – Review
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – Review
Book Babble – Review

Click HERE to enter Rafflecopter

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#IWSG - A Writer's Resource

Over a hundred talented authors from around the globe contributed content for The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. It contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas: writing, publishing, and marketing ... this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.

ISBN 9781939844088
235 pages, FREE

Barnes & Noble
Smashwords (which offers the Kindle version for free)

How can such an awesome resource for writers be FREE? It's because the writers who contributed believe in helping and encouraging each other along this path of publication. If you'd like to join this wonderful group of writers, visit the Insecure Writers Support Group website and sign up today!