I Hope You Dance by Robin Lee Hatcher | Book Review

i hope you dance cover

I Hope You Dance

Robin Lee Hatcher

BOOK SYNOPSIS: Grant Nichols is a genius in the kitchen and a klutz on the dance floor. But his friend’s wedding is shaping up to be a shindig the likes of which Kings Meadow has never seen—including dancing. Lots of dancing. Then he learns that a local dance teacher, Skye Foster, is offering dance lessons for the wedding party. The first lesson is free, so what does he have to lose?

A former rodeo queen, Skye Foster teaches children ballet and tap during the day, but with the popularity of ballroom dancing and her own love of Country Swing, she’s been teaching adults in the evenings.

Grant and Skye are no match on paper. But when they step onto the dance floor, they create a melody all their own.

REVIEW: I Hope You Dance an extremely short and quick read–I finished it in less than an hour. Though I have to say that I really wanted to get this book over with. I have never felt so eager to close a book, and it made me guilty to think about it this way because I personally understand what authors go through to go about writing a book. I’m all for supporting authors and their hard work, but this book seriously makes me question how this author is published traditionally and why indie authors get so much backlash on their book quality as I’ve definitely read better indie books than this one. So let’s get down to it, shall we?

I love romance books. I do. I especially like the clean ones, the ones that are actually romantic. So no, I never caught on to Fifty Shades or Twilight. I preferred the standalone romance novels with cheesy, grandiose gestures and innocent friendships that blossom. I prefer the novels that are not quite romance books but have more substance to them. I Hope You Dance–well, it is certainly the former, as it is a very clean romance (being a Christian novel), but the latter? Not so much. I Hope You Dance is just about Skye and Grant and how they fell in love. To me, their romance “blossomed” in just a matter of days (I believe the book said they met for a few weeks… but it was only days after the first kiss that Grant proposed…). I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at multiple scenes in the book. It wasn’t just the fact that the entire plot in I Hope You Dance was clichéd–because I like clichéd–but there was a lack of something else. The book had just a single note to it. There was no backstory, no history for any character besides the obvious familial background. I didn’t feel connected at all to the characters, I couldn’t root for them, and honestly, I found the pair to be even a bit ridiculous.

Moreover, there is no real conflict in I Hope You Dance. Other than the small fight Skye and Grant had over how many kids they wanted about 15 pages before the end of the book. (Here, I rolled my eyes again.) But I guess you can say that Grant can’t dance and Skye can, so that’s another conflict for ya.

I feel like I should’ve known better when I read the book synopsis–the last line was sorta ridiculous and I should’ve expected this from the book. I guess if you’re a die-hard romance reader or you like books that have no complexity in plot or characters, then you’d like this one.

Basically… another book that wasn’t quite for me. Another disappointing book from Booklooks…. maybe my luck will be better next time.

For those reasons, I Hope You Dance received a rating of 2/5. It wasn’t entirely unreadable, but it wasn’t enjoyable at all, either.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Pretty Age by Barbara Mueller | Book Review

SUMMARY: A Pretty Age by Barbara Mueller is about two young women, Sophiny and Antoinette, at a convent boarding school in Concord, Kansas. When a missionary visitor comes to visit the school, a series of things happen that turn their lives upside down.

REVIEW: I do enjoy reading historical fiction, but I have to say that I could not bring myself to finish this book. I felt that none of the characters were particularly likable, and I didn’t feel like I could be invested at all into the story. The beginning was too drawn out, and I’m not sure what the rest of the book is like, but I read through about a third of it before deciding that I simply was not interested in the story. It’s hard for me to pinpoint this specifically, but I think I might’ve a problem with how the story was written. It was extremely confusing to read, and as a person who reads for fun, I just wasn’t interested in spending time and figuring out what the author was trying to say.

Though I really tried to like this book and get into it (and honestly, I’m not picky when it comes to reading material…) this book was simply not for me.

For those reasons, this book receives a rating of 2/5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Home Studio Recording Equipment for UNDER $300

home studio

When I got my recording equipment and started a small home studio back in 2014, I got a lot of questions on my Youtube Channel and Twitter on my recording setup and where I got my equipment. I did make a video back then, but it was never posted on my channel because it was never edited, hehe. Since my next video is taking a while to finish, I figured that now is a good time as ever to finally film, edit, and upload a little “tour” and explanation of my home studio!

Because I cannot possibly include everything in a ten minutes, I’ve written this blog post to supplement what I said and showed in my video.

DISCLAIMER: though I am not sponsored by Amazon or any of these audio companies, I do get a small commission if you choose to purchase a microphone or equipment through these links :)

As mentioned in my video, there are four parts to a very BASIC home studio. Yes, basic, because I’m a student, and I have a very tight budget.

At the very, VERY least, you need to have:

  • A microphone
  • Phantom Power/Audio Interface (If you have a condenser Microphone)
  • Mic equipment (Shock mount, cables, a pop filter (if you sing) and a mic stand, if that does not come with your mic!)
  • Audio editing software & laptop

The good thing is, it’s not as daunting as you might think! I got my entire set up for under $300 (prices breakdown below).

(more…)

On being an Author, Writing, and Publishing

I received a question yesterday on my Tumblr regarding how I’m a published author:

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.19.10 AM

I could answer it on there, but I figured this makes pretty good blogging material, and I need enough space to answer it, anyways. :)

This is the story of my “publishing journey”

Sophomore year of high school was when I realized I actually liked writing. Unlike many other writers, I didn’t just “know” at a young age that was what I liked doing. For me, writing was a complete pain. A hassle. Something I do to get through literature classes. Ironically, this newfound love for writing was facilitated by one of my favorite literature teachers, and to this day, I thank her for helping me realize that writing isn’t such a hassle. At the age of fifteen, I wrote my first original short story, and that was where it all began.

In Georgia, we have something called the Governor Honors Program. It’s a very prestigious program, and what happens is that you basically choose a “major” in a subject area (math, lit, art, music, whatever!), and you intensely study it for a summer. So in junior year, I applied for the area of Communicative Arts (which is just a really fancy way of clumping lit, drama, poetry, etc. together), figuring that I had a pretty decent shot at the program and  I can really hone my writing skills if I make it.

I’m not going to lie; I think back then my writing skills were still underdeveloped, my love for it is still growing, it’s just not there yet. In hindsight, I wasn’t a particularly strong candidate because I wanted to pursue STEM in college and I had no idea how to convincingly tie all of that up–I think I didn’t come off as a confident person who was going to use the field of study for the rest of her life.

But I diverge: needless to say, I did not make it into the program. So I decided to spend the summer in another way. I knew that all the seniors at my high school had to fulfill a “senior project” requirement, and I figured that I can get that out of the way by writing a book (!!). Somewhere along the line, the project got a lot bigger, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

In some ways, I’m pretty glad I didn’t get into Governor Honors. I will not deny the fact that it would’ve been an awesome experience and it IS an excellent program, but spending the summer by myself and completing a book was turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Publishing

Most of the time, this is what people are most interested/curious about: “How did you get to publish?”

This question also comes up: “Which publishing house?”

Here’s the truth: I self-published.

YES, I know there is more “prestige” associated with having an agent, being a part of a publishing house, and with all of that, the potential to become a bestseller or… whatever. I had those conceptions too prior to publishing. It was my parents who really pushed me to go the self-publishing route.

At the time, I knew I couldn’t query; I couldn’t follow the traditional path of publication. I was already rushed for time, I didn’t know whether or not I can complete the book in the timeline. In two months, I knew I could barely get a book out and have it comprehensively edited… I’m not going to also have time to wait for a response from an agent. I know that process can take up to a year… or years. Time I do not have. For the senior project to be complete, I needed a product, and that was to be my book. I cannot wait years for the publishing house to edit some more, publicize it, and publish. That just… wouldn’t work.

So I went the self-publishing route, worked on my own terms, and published my book without spending a dime.

Do I regret it?

In one word? No.

In the midst of all of this, I had wished that I queried, I wished I took more time and had the time to wait for agents and publishing houses. I wanted my name to be associated with a publishing house. I wanted major book suppliers to carry my book as soon as it is out. Maybe if I had gone traditional publishing, it would be more “impressive”…

writing, publishing

Image | morguefile

But here is the reality:

Traditional publishing is not necessarily better than indie/self-publishing. People always associate bestsellers with traditional published authors–however, there are still many less-successful traditionally published authors!! Being traditionally published does not guarantee success.

And here’s the thing…

  • I signed no contract.
  • I work on my own terms.
  • I market my own book.
  • I make my own timeline.
  • I pay myself.

There are plenty of traditionally published authors living paycheck to paycheck… being traditionally published does not make you an instant hit. Plus, even though big publishing houses have more marketing resources, a lot of smaller (new/emerging) authors get very little of those resources and end up having to do it themselves anyways. There are also widely successful indie authors who sold thousands upon thousands of copies of books and became NY Times Bestseller. And, if anyone is particularly worried about whether or not Barnes and Noble stock their book, then the answer is that if there is demand, they will stock it. It is very possible for indie authors to get into brick-and-mortar-bookstores… there just has to be demand. Which, I might add, is the same with any publishing route.

The thing is, the publishing industry is changing. In this day and age, anyone can publish. Sure, that means that self-publishing is still associated with some subpar, unedited books… but so long as I can continue to produce quality content, how I publish makes no difference. 

I’m not telling you to go indie or go traditional. All I’m saying is that, although there is still stigma associated with being self-published… the reality is that the publishing industry is evolving, and indie publishing may have many benefits that people simply do not see. For me, having this independence to work on my own timeline was exactly what I needed for my project.

The Future?

With all of that being said, I do plan on querying at least once in my life. Many authors aren’t defined as solely “indie” or solely “traditional.” There are plenty that are a mix of both, and are successful.

For now, since my project is now officially over, I am promoting/marketing my book for the first time. I sold ~50 copies the first time around with my project, and raised $600 for a literacy charity… but now that the project is over, I have lowered the price of the book and intend on keeping the proceeds and have that go towards college. My situation is very unique–usually authors launch a book and go, while I’m not “launching it” and actively promoting until now. Is it going to work out? I don’t know. But I also like the fact it’s all in my control, and I can manipulate the process however I want ;)

my published book

So you Want to Publish…

Now that I am finished with explaining my experience with publishing, I have five tips to help you get started if you too, are interested in getting into this industry:

1) Figure out your options, and RESEARCH. Make sure you know exactly what you’re going into… cause once you publish, the first publishing rights are gone. And even indie publishing contain several (numerous!!) options.

2) Don’t put things off. I know writing, editing, etc. can feel really daunting. But organize yourself and edit/write a certain number of words a day… you will get there!

3) EDIT! Whether traditional or indie, you need to EDIT. If you’re querying, you better be sure there are no there/their/they’re mistakes, or comma splices. Agents are looking out for that. And if you’re self-publishing… well, it’s easier to change your mistakes even after you’ve published, but you don’t want to lave a bad impression.

4) ASK FOR REVIEWS. This is a marketing advice that I missed when I first published. Ask for reviews, and ask for them like crazy. Don’t be afraid to go to extremes to get your reviews!! haha. As the author of The Art Of Book Marketing: Increase Your Book Sales By 700% In 7 DaysHarshajyoti Das, said in his book:

“Through a party and when people get to your house, feed them well and get them drunk, then make them login to Amazon with their accounts and leave you a review before they go home.”

Well, maybe go as far as getting them drunk, but make sure you ask your betas, friends and family :)

5) Become a Goodreads Author. When you’re done with everything and your book is published, make sure you can find your book on Goodreads and became an official Goodreads author! That can help you gain a wider audience.

Questions?

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the Disqus below, or tweet me @notcindychen.

Also, feel free to check out my book on Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

Bridging to an Adult Girl Scout (My Weekend Trip!)

Last Friday, after a frenzied packing session (which normally happens with me… but hey, I didn’t forget anything!!), I hopped into a car with my troop leader of 7 years and my close friend, and we drove up to the middle of nowhere North Georgia, and into Camp Misty Mountain, a Girl Scout camp.

image from http://www.scoutlander.com/%5B/caption%5D

I haven’t gone on a lot of camping trips this year with my troop because my schedule and life had been so hectic. And, knowing that this would be our last camping trip as a troop–as all of us are graduating this year–I really wanted to spend the weekend with these girls that I had grown up with and gotten pretty close to.

Oh, and, since I ordered a camera just one day before I left, I did not get a chance to use that on the trip. So all photos, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of my troop leaders and friends. :)

We spent a lot of time relaxing, and of course, sleeping in (something I didn’t get to do too much this year!!), and I finally let some of that senioritis kick in. ;) We hiked around the camp grounds and saw some beautiful scenery (our cabin was situated next to a gorgeous lake!), took plenty of selfies, and made LOTS of delicious food. Speaking of food… I also tried something called Marshmellow Fluff. Which was odd but interesting. (Ended up taking the rest of the container of marshmellow fluff home and trying to eat it with all sorts of stuff.. haha!)

[caption id="attachment_4016" align="aligncenter" width="640"]11243923_10205338659118983_2998838574113009979_o isn’t this beautiful??

The highlight of my trip, however, was probably the bridging ceremony. Bridging ceremonies can be as informal or formal, as elaborate or simple, or as creative or traditional, as a troop would like. For us… since we’d already had so many bridging ceremonies in the past, we decided to keep it short and sweet. Each of us took turns in saying something nice or memorable about each other, and it was at that moment that I realized how much I’d really miss these girls. I’m a very emotional person, and so naturally, I started tearing up a bit as I said my piece with each of my friends. Then, we embarked on this long long bridge (sticking with the tradition of crossing the bridge at bridging ceremonies, you see!), which was actually WAY too long, to meet our leaders at the end.

bridging ceremony

almost-end of a long, long bridge!

 

The sun was setting as we did this, so it was incredibly beautiful. We were chit-chatting away as we walked as well. I remember making fun of how insanely long the bridge was. And thinking that maybe the leaders are standing somewhere along the bridge, waiting for the right opportunity to jump out and scare us.

… but no. We met up with them at the “end” (it was actually more like the middle of the bridge since it was really long… we didn’t walk the whole way across), and our troop leaders told us how they’re proud of us, how we’ve grown (you know, obligatory adult-to-high-school-senior-chat), and that was when I really lost it and started crying. I’m so emotional. haha!

Then they pinned us individually–officially marking us as adult girl scouts!

bridging ceremony

My troop leaders pinning me :)

 

You can’t tell in the picture, but I was still a bit teary-eyed.

Out of all the bridging ceremonies, this one, as simple as it was, may be the one that stay in my memory for the rest of my life. It’s the last one… and I feel like even though I didn’t take advantage of 100% of the opportunities as a Girl Scout, I made three life-long friends and I have two adults in my life that I can rely on (outside of my parents of course!). The sense of finality of being pinned makes it all the more real: that we’re all moving on to a different stage of our lives.

Even with that said, though, I know I’ll see those girls again, and I’ve made some fantastic memories with them.

That night, we sat around the camp fire and talked while making s’mores with Ghirardelli chocolates (yum!), and then slept in the next morning before heading back. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have to think about schoolwork, but I think this was one of the best camping trips ever with my troop. Looking back, these girls have really made a positive impact in my life and I’m definitely glad that I met them. It was a little bit bittersweet, but it was fun to kick back, relax, and spend one last camping trip with my girl scout troop!

bridging ceremony

my sash!