Empowered to Network

Month: March 2015

My Favorite Blogs and Why– Part II of V

Digital Dictionary Blog Follow Like ConceptsIn my last blog, I mentioned how the amount of social media continues to increase, giving us all a chance to learn and share information. As our lives get complicated with more and more responsibilities, it makes it harder for us to read everything that comes through our inbox.

I decided to share with you some of the blogs that I read that are fascinating to me for two reasons. First, their material is helpful and creative, focused on improving our craft, whether you’re a writer, an indie author, self-published or traditionally published author. Second, they are often posted, available at all times and have something unique. I admire that these bloggers find and dedicate their time to enrich our lives.

Last week I mentioned the following five:

Molly Greene Writer– She is a well-known blogger and published author of fiction and non-fiction, both outstanding pieces of work.

Author Unpublished Cary Morton’s describes her blog as “Brutally Honest Reviews” and also features on Fridays called “Free Fiction Friday” and it’s a list of fiction books, mainly Young Adults that are for free in Amazon. Don’t miss it.

Benjamin Wallace Books has carved the way for writers to incorporate videos in their blogs which make them more personal. Sarcastic and very funny, he is also very knowledgeable and shares many helpful hints.

Positive Thoughts – They send pictures that are just breathtaking and typically include an inspirational quote inside the picture. This is a great source for tweeting and sharing with others.

New York Public Library –Their resources are endless; writing tips and advice, info on author publications, current events, trends and many more. Also this a great source for tweeting to others.

This week I add four more to my list:


Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers is another great blog. First, I love the look, combining classical with high-tech functions. Their suggestions focus on writing improvement and beyond. In the last post, “Tips When Writing Multiple POV Novels” (a challenge in itself) Angela Ackerman had author Lisa Gail use her novel Soul Crossed to walk us through her suggestions, in a very detailed way. In one, concise post, we received so much useful information, and most of it, from the author’s perspective. I’ve seen this blog use this format before and have thoroughly enjoyed it. They also have the largest thesaurus collection of anyone I know in their blog section under “Thesaurus Collection.” You can add your ideas to their Suggestion Box. I strongly recommend this blog!


The Book Designer

The Book Designer is as they say, “practical advice to help build better books”. For some unknown reason, the first time I saw the title of this blog, I thought that it only related to the design of book covers. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In my opinion, Joel Friedlander has done a marvelous job in bringing almost everything that a writer would want to know or need for their craft, under one umbrella. Topics from marketing, book reviews, cover design, social media, interviews, and so forth. I have not had the opportunity to read everything in this site but I refer to it when I need to drill into a topic. I encourage you to visit this site and get familiarized with its contents. You will be pleasantly surprised.


The Write Life

The Write Life is a beautifully organized blog site that I love not only for the information that it publishes but for its simplicity of use. The pictorial icons that they use to get access to the articles give the site a very interactive feel. As they describe in their “About” section, written by Alexis Grant, Managing Editor, they are a “community, featuring contributors who specialize in ebook promotion, blogging, finding an agent, and more. We give writers with experience and knowledge a place to share what they’ve learned, so we can all keep moving forward.” And in my opinion, they definitely meet their mission. You can be a contributor and write for their blog as long as you meet their guidelines published on the site. I just happen to run into this blog during some recent research that I did on self-publishing. While it was not in my original list of twenty, after reading a few of the articles, I couldn’t help but to include it. Terrific Blog!


A Writer’s Path

You can always count on Ryan Lanz to publish his Inspiration Point quote at least weekly. His blogs could be as simple as a quote, an article, a book review and even an interview. It’s like a box of chocolate—like many other blogs. But one interesting feature that I feel sets him apart is his Writer’s Tool Box. He has created a concise list of ideas to improve your writing from other writers and sources, in addition to his own experience and documented them in, what he terms a “Tool Box”. He makes the list accessible to subscribers. It is a very original idea. He is also very approachable and willing to help others.

My Favorite Blogs and Why– Part I of V

Social media has given us an immense amount of choices and information. Between our jobs, family or other responsibilities, it is difficult enough to find time to read books, let alone blogs. We are constantly getting bombarded with great blog information. Sometimes, I email the blog link to my email so I can save it and read it when I have time. I read every blog I subscribe to and wish I could subscribe to many more. I’ve enlisted into a speed reading program hoping I can improve my reading skills and try to catch up with the mounds of information that are now available in the market.

I decided to share with you some of the blogs that I read that are fascinating to me for two reasons. First, their material is helpful and creative, focused on improving our craft, whether you’re a writer, an indie author, self-published or traditionally published author. Second, they are often posted and available at all times. The bloggers are dedicated writers and authors that find the time to enrich our lives.

I cannot be grateful enough to them for everything that I have learned. There are many; so I will have to limit my blog to five parts to include my top twenty. I hope that you enjoy reading them and help support them so that they continue feeding us with their knowledge.



Molly Greene: Writer

Molly Greene’s blog is my favorite. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction, both outstanding pieces of work. One of her most helpful books is “Blog It” and as she describes, it is “The author’s guide to building a successful online brand”. This is a must have! She is genuine, approachable and consistent in delivering quality articles. I am subscribed to her tweets so as soon as she issues her post, I get it. Even her older posts are useful. I can’t say enough about Molly Greene. She has a large following because she’s earned it.

Her topics vary from social media, to writing tips, to sharing other authors’ works and so forth. You will greatly benefit by being subscribed to her twitter, blog and newsletter.

Author Unpublished – Brutally Honest Reviews

Cary Morton’s describes her blog as “Brutally Honest Reviews”, and believe me when I say that they are. I had my share with my first published book. But her honesty and thoroughness are to be admired. She explains bit by bit the weaknesses and strengths of a book. After reading some of the books she’s reviewed I can tell you, she is right on the mark. There is nothing worst that to waste your time on a book that is poorly edited or constructed. Her reviews are honest and creditable. She is also very approachable.

I’ve read many blogs that say it’s a no, no to contact your reviewer, especially when you have a very bad review. Well, I did when I got my one star from her, with the purpose of thanking her for the points she made, which after deep reflection I agreed she was right. It helped me tremendously to focus on some of my weaknesses and learn from her comments. Then I asked her if I wrote another book, if she would give me another chance and review it. Her answer astonished me. She said that not only would she give me a second chance, that she would give me a third, a fourth, a fifth; a review for each book I wrote. She would not hold against me that my first book lacked luster. But instead would continue to be the professional reviewer that she is. So if you want an honest review of your book, she is the person to contact. She also has a feature on Fridays called “Free Fiction Friday” and it’s a list of fiction books, mainly Young Adults that are free in Amazon. Don’t miss it.

Benjamin Wallace Books

Ben Wallace is a wonderful author of adventure books. Imaginative and highly creative, Ben re-invented himself, his blog and marketing strategy by changing the way he reaches his fans. He uses super hilarious videos to convey his message. He had stopped writing for a couple of years and it wasn’t until recently when he decided to make some drastic changes and become what he calls, A Professional Writer. This is one of the most original blogs I’ve seen and I really think he’s onto something. He has carved the way for writers to incorporate videos in their blogs which make them more personal. It’s almost like having a conversation with the author. Sarcastic and very funny, he is also very knowledgeable and shares many helpful hints. This is a great blog.

Positive Thoughts

This for me is a must have. I read it every day as a source of inspiration. What I like about this blog is that it provides positive quotes from all aspects of life. Most of the quotes are from the blogger and not from authors. I get many tweets with author quotes so no need for more. They send pictures that are just breathtaking and typically include an inspirational quote inside the picture. This is a great source for tweeting and sharing with others. If you want to be inspired and send these thoughts via social media to others, this is a great source for sharing.

New York Public Library

Another one of my favorite blogs/newsletter is published by the New York City Library. Their resources are endless; writing tips and advice, info on author publications, current events, trends and many more. Due to the amount of information, it is not one that I visit on a daily visit. But at least, once or twice per week, I dedicate about half hour perusing through posts that challenge my mind. This is another blog that I send to my email to later read it at my leisure. Also, when I tweet, I use this as one of my sources and many times, it has been well received.


These are five of my twenty favorite blogs. In my next posts, I will continue to share with you others and my reasons why I find them helpful. Which blogs are your favorite ones? Please feel free to share your feedback.

Still Kicking

plant in arid land - climate warming and drought  conceptHave you ever felt like a victim of life’s circumstances? Well, lately, those are the only words that have resonated with me after experiencing the many challenges I did during the last three weeks. But today, after deep reflection, I decided to fight back.

As a writer, we all have the power of expression. And I choose this venue to express my lessons.

  1. I feel that life is like Boxing; one punch after another. The more trained we are, the better we can defend ourselves. Without preparation, we have a good chance of a knock out. So how do we prepare? That can only be answered by our inner self.
  2. If we are knocked out, should we give up? Giving up can translate into many actions; being passive, not taking any action, deflecting blame to others, etc. Or will we choose to fight back? Another answer for our inner self.
  3. If we are defeated, do we give up on Boxing all together? Sometimes I feel defeated; perhaps I’m not in the right job or pursuing the wrong dreams. But at the end of the day, defeat can only succeed if we accept it in our life. For me defeat is not like failure; failure can be turned to lessons. Defeat seems so final.

As a cancer survivor, I experienced many of these emotions and I thought then, that life would not be throwing me anymore curve balls. But I was wrong. Life is full of curve balls.

However, back then, I had a different mindset, one of a fighter. When I received my cancer treatment, I used to sit in the lobby waiting, surrounded by many people like me. Like many of them, I was determined to fight my disease with all of my strength and with a strong faith in God. I had a young child who needed me in her life.

One day, as I patiently waited for my treatment, for some unknown reason, I took out a green old notebook I kept in my purse and started to write. When I was done, I had written what I would call, inspirational thoughts. The words flowed so easily that even as I wrote them in pen, I rarely crossed out a word. It was almost like if I was taking dictation from Above. I ended up writing 12 sets in total during my entire treatment. And just as I started writing, I stopped, without any reason. The inspiration was mysteriously gone.

So today, after many years of having my poems stored in my computer collecting dust, I read them and my life became clear again. I selected my favorite one. It’s translated from Spanish to English but I don’t think that much is lost in the translation.

I refuse to be a victim of life’s circumstances anymore. I will fight with my armory of love, faith and gratitude. Why today? Because since yesterday, there have been signs everywhere I’ve turned. Maybe I wanted some confirmation, but whatever I perceived was real to me.

Before deciding to write this article, I vacillated back and forth with insecurity; will this make sense; what will people think, will I feel shame later, like Jerry McGuire and his Mission Statement.

But then, as I was riding in my car on the way home and came to a stop light. In front of me, a golden Camry stood still, waiting for the light to turn green. When I looked up at the tag on the car, in Spanish it had the letters “SIN PENA”, which in English it means, without shame. For me, that meant do not fear.

I hope you enjoy my inspirational thoughts, prayer, poem, whatever you wish to call it. It was my second one and focused on faith.


Even though I cannot understand Your divine perfection, allow me the opportunity to have the strength to confront all of the challenges that cover my path. I thank You today and always for Your compassion and for letting me demonstrate to You every minute of my life my love and respect. As an imperfect human being, I need Your guidance. But I promise to fight my way to live my life filled with dignity, faith and hope.


Revisiting an Old Story

Short Story

The War Games from How Salsa Saved My Life

By Vivian Towers


“Bang , Bang”, I’m startled by the loud, Salsa music lyrics that blasted from my seventeen year old brother’s room. “Bang, Bang” pretty much described the relationship between my brother and me. At thirteen years old, my curious teenage nature drove him crazy.

My parents called the upstairs of our house the war zone, with barricades and yellow tape marking our territories. I had my bathroom, he had his; the hall in front of my room was taped as mine and the one in front of his room was taped as his. We even established passwords for our friends to make sure they were not infiltrating our camps with information from the enemy line. The stairs remained neutral territory as we had yet to find a way for a practical division of nations.

Our troubles began when some tacky stuff from his room disappeared; a poster of Janet Jackson and her Super Ball slip (really?), a statue of a Manneken pis boy from Brussels and the green gruesome monster hand he slapped me around with every Halloween night. Of course, he blamed me for stealing his things when I’m sure one of his closest friends did me the favor. Being blamed for something you’ve never done is torture, especially when it comes to my brother. After the incident, I found broken figurines and missing Legos. I treasured those with all my heart and he knew it. His way for retaliation left me no choice but to declare war.

Shouting matches flooded the dining room, living room and any area that we frequented around the house. The day when we got into a small fist fight became the day when my parents finally intervened and set the War game, as they called it.

World War III had erupted in the Torres family and a peace treaty was nowhere in sight. So my dad, a retired vet, proposed the idea of establishing a war zone. Enemy lines and neutral areas would be marked with yellow plastic ribbons. Our rooms became our barricades and safe zones. Finally, he drafted a temporary seize fire agreement which we both signed. We would not fight, nor talk bad language, carpool together and stop invading each other’s space. If we defied the rules, we would be grounded for no less than a week.

Though tensions were high, we tried to follow the agreement at school. The amount of and obvious dirty looks we gave to each kept our friends at a good distance when they saw us approaching. Afraid that the Torres bomb would go off, the teachers got involved and scheduled our classes to be apart from one another. Almost like using a map, they delineated our paths not to cross.

My brother suggested carpooling with some of his friends to avoid my presence but my parents drew the line.

“One day, this will all be over and both of you will be laughing about this silly spectacle. Sooner or later one of you will need something from the other. While we do not support your current relationship, we know that the day when you come together will be memorable and you’re relationship stronger,” Mom said one evening during dinner. My dad chuckled but I was not amused. At least for now, the dim light at the end of the tunnel didn’t show signs of igniting.

Four months later, I was invited to my first school dance by Peter Garcia. He’s such a “hottieee”, everyone would say. Nervous of my dancing skills, my girlfriends got together after school and in my room practiced for hours. We watched “YouTube” videos and listened to music from different genres.

War games

We were confident that we would rock except when it came to Salsa and Merengue dancing. With our school being predominantly populated by Hispanics, we knew we had to master Salsa and Merengue. But how? We all counted on Jessica who boasted of her knowledge and “natural abilities” but her stiffness extended to her hips. It was not her fault, she was Irish. I was running out of options so I asked my dad.

My dad worked twelve hours a day at CompuLess, an internet company near our home. But one night, he made some time and volunteered to show me. He had been a good dancer in his younger years. He still could “rumba” but my mother didn’t like dancing so it had been a while since he last shook his body. When you don’t practice, you become rusty and, Oh My Gosh, was he rusty. Not to mention, somewhat impatient. I have to remember to never ask him to teach me how to drive.

“Vivian, you have to move your hips. Follow my feet, back and forth” he said several times. Finally, after trying for hours, I gave up and in frustration ran up to my room and cried.

Now, my brother was an excellent dancer perhaps even with the ability to be on television, maybe like “In Living Color” just as Jlo. Maybe he could show me? But no such luck! It would snow in Miami before I would ask for his help. So, I accepted my fate. Aha! Maybe I can “google” Mmm, Excuses to tell your partner why you can’t dance? You can find anything in the internet these days! I had to think of something because missing the chance for my first kiss with one of the cutest guys in school was not an option.

One evening, my parents decided to have a date night and leave me under my brother’s care for a few hours. “Bang, Bang”. I’m startled by the same Salsa song that my brother played the other night. But this time, not only did I recognize the song, but also felt it pierce my soul. Even though I had to finish my multiplication homework, I was too distracted, the rhythm of the bongos and the loud noise from the trumpets made me tremble. My unstoppable fascination for the beat got me out of bed and heading to his room. Determined, I tip-toed down the hall to find my brother’s door slightly open, tempting my inquisitive nature. Ignoring the yellow tapes safeguarding his space and his DO NOT DISTURB sign, I approached his door and quietly peaked inside.

His exquisite, choreographed Salsa moves with his invisible dance partner filled me with envy. I pushed open the door with caution, just to get a closer glimpse of his class act performance. But the loud creak of the old, wooden door interrupted his concentration. He saw me. Oh no, here it comes. He screamed, “Vivian, you’re breaking the rules…” Frozen in fear, I listened and waited for him to finish his bombastic sermon. This time, I knew I was grounded for life. Think fast, think fast. And like magic, I found my voice. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you are the best dancer in the world. I wish I could do some of those moves. But the girls just laugh at me when I dance and I’m going to my first dance with Peter.” My eyes watered. Defeated, I turned around to leave the room.

“Wait, do you want me to show you?” he replied. Speechless, I turned to face him and with wide open eyes, nodded. He grabbed my left hand and placed it on his shoulder, then my right hand, on his waist. His eyes and head movements directed my footsteps, backwards then forward. We began dancing slow at first, but gained momentum as I loosened up my body, mainly my hips. “Bang, Bang, Ah, Beep, Beep”– the music lyrics still played 20140701_1533522.jpg in the background. Though not an expert, I became his invisible partner. My ear to ear smile thrilled him, as he sang louder and louder. He lifted me up by the waist and swirled me around until we became dizzy. Once he placed me back down, we tried to keep our balance, but couldn’t and fell on the floor. We laughed, hugged, bonded. And then, it finally hit me, we were back together and like my mom said, stronger than ever, but phew, that was a close one “Bang, Bang”.

A Form of Social Networking

Social media written on old typewriter

A while back I wrote a story named, “How Salsa Saved My Life” and posted it on my blog. This story was in response to a challenge from Writeon Kindle that requested a story in which dancing helped you get out of a sticky situation.

Months later, I would be involved with my story one more time. I just joined a writer’s critique group for writers and authors. They are a wonderful group of people and focus on helping each other in a professional manner. There are 6 to 7 members and meet at a public library three Saturdays of the month. They bring no more than 1200 words of their stories on a paper copy for each member in the group to read and write their comments. The first few hours, we read each other’s work, not only looking for proof edits but also for ideas to clarify the storyline, characters and other components of the story. While this process is not intended to replace the function of a professional editor, we do enjoy learning from each other’s ideas and writing styles. The last Saturday of the month, we vote for a topic and each member writes a story, again no longer than 1200 words. We meet in a social setting where everyone reads their story. We comment, laugh and enjoy time getting to know each other on a social level.

Last Saturday, the topic was on siblings or other family members. Well, since I don’t have a sibling and writing about my mom is out of the question, I decided to create a story about the brother I always wish I had. I remembered my previous story on Salsa, so I decided to expand on it and change the focus. After doing so, I realized that sometimes you may write a piece you are happy with but as the editorial process, there is always room for change and improvement. I don’t think I will change or use my story again, I try to never say never. After all, like life, writing is a work in progress!

I will be posting the story separately.  I hope you enjoy it.


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