The Upside of Down: The Sky Above and The Mud Below by Joel Bernard

I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a fanatic of post-apocalyptic survival books. I can’t say precisely what it is about the genre that appeals to me, perhaps the promise of a new beginning, but whatever it is, The Upside of Down: The Sky Above and The Mud Below by Joel Bernard fit the bill. 

The story is written from the perspective of the characters in a somewhat futuristic but not too distant future when climate change has caused a global catastrophe. Wildfires, storm surges, flooding, drought, superstorms, tornadoes, and the like were catalysts to a vast migration. People from the southern US were moving North, and those from the coasts were moving inland. 

Although I enjoyed the book, there were some issues. The first drawback I found was that the sheer number of characters was overwhelming. Constantly switching back and forth between characters, perspectives, and even storylines, made it difficult to form an attachment to some individuals. Then some of the characters were dead, and we only hear from them after they are dead, which does very little to advance the plot since all they can talk about is being dead. 

There seemed to be some vagueness about what happened to Moses, a likable character that lived in a church and could “get things.” It appeared that he had become an integral part of one of the wandering groups but then was killed, and there was a ceremony of some sort to mark his passing. However, none of these events are presented to the reader directly. I’m not sure if the chapters were edited out or the author didn’t smooth the plot development out quite right, but Moses got lost in the story. 

I believe the author meant this novel to be a morality tale. The situations presented and the scientific information presented in hindsight musings told the story of a civilization that did not heed scientific warnings. The result was this calamitous new world humans struggled to survive in. Unfortunately, the story lacked immediacy. There was a lot of cloud gathering and navel-gazing by the characters, who realistically would be more focused on adapting to their harsh surroundings as they exhaustingly traveled hundreds of miles on foot to their hoped-for destinations. 

So although I enjoyed the book, the meandering storyline in The Upside of Down: The Sky Above and The Mud Below by Joel Bernard might not be something everyone would enjoy.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can see my review here.

Publishing a Hardcover Book on Amazon KDP

Amazon has started offering hardcover publishing on KDP. This is a nice feature for select books as you don’t need to pay anything up-front and you earn 60 percent royalties after the printing costs are deducted. Not all books are worth the conversation to hardcover. However, children’s books, photo books, and a well-selling fiction or non-fiction manuscript will look spectacular in hardcover. 

Amazon’s hardcovers do not come with a dust jacket and some have said the quality isn’t what you might find at a traditional publisher. On the other hand, I was delighted with my children’s books. 

So here’s how you get one of these lovely babies via KDP.

Once you select “create a hardcover” from your KDP dashboard, the process is fairly straightforward. The hardcover details are automatically transferred from your paperback/ebook setup. 

Under the tab “Hardcover Content” add your ISBN if you have one, otherwise, Amazon can assign one to you that you can use on its platform. Choose your print options and size. Upload your manuscript and create a cover. 

And that’s it. Really. The printing costs, of course, will be much higher than the paperback version, so the price you set for your book should reflect that. Check it out! It might be just the thing for your manuscript or children’s story.

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Pick up your own copy of Millie Flores’ Women of the Bible Activity series, available in Kindle, paperback, and now hardcover!

Amazon Ad Challenge with Bryan Cohen

In January, I signed my author self up for Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Challenge. This was actually the third time around for me. The first time I was too intimidated to participate. The second time I did each and every assignment and attended each and every session. This third time, I tried my hand at creating ads for a different book, and man, has it made a difference in my book sales on Amazon.

I highly recommend the Amazon Ad Challenge for anyone looking to get some more publicity for their book. Bryan does an excellent job explaining how to read the Amazon Ad dashboard, create ad copy, and launch a low-cost ad that gives results. 

This isn’t an instant rocket ride to stardom by any means. In fact, Bryan cautions authors that they must be like the Zen lemur and cultivate patience. However, I have been delighted with my modest results. 

This process works best for series since your royalties will increase exponentially due to the phenomena of “read-through.” This means a reader buys your book or reads it on Kindle Unlimited because it was featured in an ad. Then, they like your book so much, they buy the next book in the series, and so on.

Over 1,500 authors have registered for the Free Amazon Ad Challenge. I’m one of them! Want to join me? Click here to register for next week’s event: https://AuthorsAdvertise.com

I will warn you that these challenges (which are free and offered quarterly) are intensive. You won’t get any other writing done. But the benefits are worth it! 

The next FREE Amazon Ad Challenge is set for April 12. I know I’m blocking off the time on my calendar. If you are serious about earning royalties, I suggest you sign up too!

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor

In 2021, I lost my mother, and the waves of grief that periodically overwhelm me make me feel as if I’m drowning in the loss. Mary-Frances O’Connor’s book, The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss, was recommended on some site or other and I just knew I would have to read the book.

The Grieving Brain is a mixture of detailed scientific processes and discoveries and personal stories, no less detailed, centered around how we experience grief. It appears that on some level, our brains are unable to understand how someone who had become irrecoverably part of our DNA is no longer in the same plane of existence as we are. That inability to fathom this concept remains even after we have begun to build a new life, one that no longer includes our beloved. Our brain needs to be retrained, as it were. 

This is not a comfort book per se. The author makes no bones about not having the right answer on how we can go on with life while grieving. However, understanding that these intense feelings are part of our core structure and that we are not alone in our experience of loss, well that does do something to momentarily ease the pain.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Looking for a feel-good book to read this spring? Then check out The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman.

Lili’s husband was killed in a car accident in front of her house three years ago leaving her with two small daughters. Her sister stepped in to help when Lili had a breakdown. The company that Lili does illustrations for sends Lili to a weekly gardening class as part of the requirements for her next project. The class revolves around turning an empty lot into a flourishing vegetable garden. This is a story of grief, new beginnings, growth, and hope. 

Lili’s efforts at creating a life for her family are a bit irreverent, completely honest, and blessedly hysterical. The chapters are divided by short commentaries about gardening that had me in stitches. Lili finds that life, just as with gardening, provides us with no guarantees of a happy outcome and that’s ok. 

I don’t believe this novel will appeal to everyone, however, being a middle-aged woman who loves gardening and has experienced grief, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman was right up my alley.

The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala

First, I need to preface that according to the Meyer-Briggs assessment, I’m an INFP-A so I’m not exactly the target audience this book was aiming at. However, it was a recommendation from the Introvert Writer Summit I enjoyed at the beginning of March and being introverted, I hoped that there would be something useful for me in it.

And there was! I felt validated as both an introvert and writer as I read it. Some of the weird stuff that I thought just made me nuts was addressed. For example, the children’s book series that I’m currently working on–well, the main character Lupita is a fully formed, slightly awkward, 5-year old clamoring in my head for me to tell her story. She just appeared to me one day and here we are, taking dictation for book 3. This phenomenon was addressed in Chapter 4, INFJ Psychic Ability and Character Development. Apparently, this happens to other writers too! WHOOP!

The book also talked about how introverts prefer to work intensely for large blocks of time, don’t like meetings, and lead interesting lives which will make fabulous memoirs. (So me!) In addition, there are discussions about what it means to be a Sensitive Intuitive writer and how hangups with financial success hold them back from making a killing with writing. (Certainly true!) And why INFJs, INFPs, and Sensitive Intuitives might not find it in their best interests to try and become a full-time writer. Fascinating stuff!

So I highly recommend The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala if you are an INFJ writer. You’ll also find it helpful if you are an INFP or Sensitive Intuitive. After all, knowing ourselves is the first step in truthful writing. 

If you’d like to get an idea of what type of writer personality you have, here’s a link to a free online personality test.

conscious Breathing: The Art of Meditation by Larry Snyder, MD

Having read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, I felt I could more than handle Conscious Breathing: The Art of Meditation by Larry Snyder, MD. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this little gem was not only a more accessible guide to meditation but also that it addressed the number one obstacle to mindful living, addiction.

My favorite chapter was entitled “Anxiety, Addiction, and Acceptance.” It begins by defining addiction and demonstrating how it contributes to anxiety. When we accept that addiction and anxiety are part of human existence, we can find ways to mediate their effects on our well-being. The author gives the example of two individuals injured in an auto accident. One seeks retaliation against the other driver through a lawsuit. The other concentrates on physical therapy and recovers sooner. What we focus on influences our future happiness. 

The author isn’t judgemental, merely suggestive as he discusses meditation practices. All things are temporary, including our thoughts and emotions. Conscious breathing through meditation allows us to let it all go. The book is short enough that it can be read several times. After all, meditation isn’t something that can be mastered but rather practiced day in and day out. 

On the other hand, just as substance addition is a relapsing neurobiological disease, surrendering our belief in control is something we need to do repeatedly, much like Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the mountain for eternity. Along the same lines, Sisyphus had options. It makes you wonder if he railed against his fate or enjoyed the climb. Considering he tried to outwit death several times, which resulted in his punishment, I imagine he spent eternity looking for another opportunity to control the situation, his addiction, as it were.

Anyway, just as meditation isn’t for everyone, this book might not appeal to all readers. The essays are short and separated by nice, if not exceptionally inspiring, photographs. So many things are out of our control, and not everyone is ready to accept that; thus, the act of “letting go” encouraged in the book isn’t obtainable for some yet. 

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can find my review here.

Grand opening of the Self-Publishing for Beginner’s School

Most of you know that I have self-published a number of books now. Through trial and error, I learned that it’s not an easy process. However, for me, the angst has been totally worth it. After all, my mom was able to read several of my books before she passed away last year. And this year, I sent print versions of the Animal Antics books to my dad, who enjoyed them immensely and wants to know when the third book will be out. So if no one else ever reads my books, at least my parents have enjoyed some of them. Had I waited for a traditional publishing contract, that may never have happened. After all, I write about topics that are far from mainstream.

Anyway, I penned three books to help would-be authors navigate the rough seas of self-publishing which you can find on Amazon (A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing series). Now, I’m extending my offerings to include the Self-Publishing for Beginners School on Teachable. 

The introductory course is FREE. Is Self-Publishing For You? presents the types of publishing available and will help you determine whether self-publishing, traditional publishing, or hybrid publishing will meet your needs. 

The first course ready for enrollment is A Beginner’s Guide to Book Formatting, which deals with the bane of most authors’ existence. More courses will be rolling out on a regular basis over the course of the next year or so. 


So if you’re toying with the idea of self-publishing, then I invite you to check out the Self-Publishing for Beginners School!

Job by Ben Avery

One of the 2021 reading goals I set for myself was to read a graphic novel. I decided to pick a bible-based one to see if this type of literature was something I could do with Claudia with the women of the bible characters. 

I somewhat randomly picked Job written by Ben Avery and illustrated by Jeff Slemons. I was impressed with the drawings. They were detailed and eye-catching. I’d never tried to read a graphic novel on my kindle either, so I was pleased to find that although the text was small, it was easy to read. 

I enjoyed the artist’s representation of heaven, especially Satan’s appearance. The characters, Job, his family, servants, and friends, seemed to be dressed in what I imagined they would wear. Everything seemed to go for a 4-star review until I got to the part where God answers Job and brings up the Behemoth and Leviathan. (Job 40 – 41) The Leviathan is pictured as a large crocodile-type beast, which seemed reasonable. However, the Behemoth was a dinosaur. Since there is a gap of oh, about 65 million years between dinosaurs and men inhabiting the earth, I found it hard to reconcile this particular artist’s rendition. 

I always understood the Behemoth to be some sort of large beast, although what animal is was exactly wasn’t clear. According to Jewish tradition, the Behemoth and Leviathan were primeval chaos monsters that would become food for the righteous after the end of days. Hmmm. Other scholars hint that the Behemoth is another name for the hippopotamus, while the Leviathan could be a whale or shark. Then again, perhaps both creatures were dragons. (eye roll here).

The story ended a bit abruptly for me as well. We are told that Job was blessed with 10 more children, livestock, and crops, but I’d like to have seen a little more of that illustrated. The final little bit again rubbed me the wrong way. I suppose I should have expected it as this was a bible story, but there was no need to throw in any reference to the New Testament. The premise was “the Book of Job asks three questions that are answered in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ok. Whatever. Honestly, Job’s story is an interesting commentary on how individuals behave in crisis and has several useful lessons to teach us all on its own. 

So I ended up rating the book only 3-stars and decided that I don’t think I’ll be writing any graphic novels anytime soon after all.