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Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Did You Do For Fun As A Child?

By Kristy McCaffrey

What did you do for fun as a child? Chances are you’re still drawn to whatever activity brought you joy. And if you’re not doing it at this point in your life, then you should be.


When I was ten years old I began a habit that I still continue today. Every time I went to the movies, I transcribed it into my Movie Log. It began after I’d seen Star Wars and was mesmerized by the scope and spectacle thrumming through me as I watched such an amazing mythology unfold before my eyes. I soon contrived to see the movie nearly 30 times in the theater and was compelled to start a Movie Log to keep track of each viewing.

My very scientific Movie Log.

I still add every film I’ve ever seen to the list. By now, my kids and husband tease me about it, or as my daughter recently said, “You really ought to put it in a file on the Cloud before you lose it.”

The reason this activity brings me so much joy is related to my vocation as a writer. My Movie Log is my collection of stories. Every writer, in order to have a vast reservoir of material to work from, must amass stories in some form. This is my way of keeping them all close. I can review the list at any time. I can remember how I felt when I experienced that particular tale. I can track how deeply a story made an impression on me by the number of times I engaged in repeat viewings. (Flash Gordon, anyone?)



This activity still brings me satisfaction today, which is why I’ve continued it. (I also suspect I’m a little OCD, but I digress.) What childhood activity did you engage in that made you blissfully happy? And more importantly, are you still doing it?


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THE WREN is on sale this weekend!!
Grab a digital copy today.


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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Prairie Rose Publications Celebrates 3 Years!!

By Kristy McCaffrey



I'm considered a hybrid author because although I self-publish (my Wings series and Alice: Bride of Rhode Island), I also work on projects with a small publisher -- Prairie Rose Publications. Three years ago, Prairie Rose was founded by two women -- Cheryl Pierson and Livia Reasoner -- both wonderful writers with years of experience in the industry. They sought to provide a home for writers who were looking for that extra support (editing, formatting, book cover designs, and marketing) while also offering some of the best contract terms available today. It's been a real pleasure for me to be a part of the PRP family.



Prairie Rose is celebrating its 3rd Birthday this week with lots of fun over at the PRP Blog. Although the festivities began on Friday, there's still more to come.

Catch up on what you missed:

Friday, August 12 -- Welcome to PRP's Third Birthday Bash

Saturday, August 13 -- New Quick Reads

Sunday, August 14 -- Boxed Set Bargains For One And All

The partying continues until August 19 with LOTS of book giveaways!! Each day at the blog one lucky commenter will win prizes so be sure to check back each day.

Also, sign up for PRP's newsletter (you can choose your genre -- western, romance, or sci-fi) and be entered for a Grand Prize on August 19.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Cover Reveal and Kindle Unlimited

By Kristy McCaffrey

I'm so pleased to share the cover for my upcoming book ~ THE BLUEBIRD, Wings of the West Series Book 5 ~ Coming October 31.


Molly Rose Simms arrives in Colorado to meet her brother, but instead finds herself searching for the mythical Bluebird mining claim with a man known as the Jackal.

Subscribe to Kristy's newsletter to stay updated.

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I also wanted to share that my entire backlist (except for ALICE: BRIDE OF RHODE ISLAND) is now available in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's subscription reading service. Because a requirement of the program is to be Amazon exclusive, the books are no longer available on other platforms (iBooks, Kobo, Nook or Smashwords). This will be a limited run for my Wings series (they will probably come out next spring and be distributed wide once again), so please take advantage of the opportunity to catch up on any books you might've missed. Also, the Wings series will be going into print this fall.

**The following books are now available in Kindle Unlimited**

To learn more, visit Kristy's Amazon Author Page





















Thursday, July 28, 2016

Twitter

By Kristy McCaffrey

To tweet or not to tweet—it’s a conundrum, especially for today’s author. Social media is such an awesome way to connect with readers and like-minded individuals that it simply can’t be ignored these days. While Facebook and Instagram offer a more interactive and friendly medium, Twitter can be overwhelming in terms of the flow of information and the necessity of posting in only 140-character bursts of words, links, and images.

The 10-year-old social platform has been likened to a town square in which we’re plugged into our collective hive mind: people share opinions, argue, and gossip, sometimes on a global scale.

“The platform provides a voice and a microphone for everyone, and that’s what’s exciting,” says Twitter’s executive chairman Omid Kordestani.

Twitter has 320 million users, well behind Facebook’s 1.59 billion active users. It’s also been expanding slower than newer apps such as Snapchat. Due to the unrestricted nature of public conversations, some users have left Twitter after being bullied or harassed. But changes are in the works for Twitter.


Because utilizing Twitter can be confusing—especially to newcomers—with the use of hashtags and timelines displayed in reverse-chronological order, the company has been tweaking the site with features such as “While you were away,” which bumps popular tweets to the top of users’ timelines, and “Moments,” which offers users the ability to see at glance what people are saying about a particular news story or cultural event. Earlier this year, Twitter announced that it would expand the 140-character limit to 10,000 characters. Core users voiced their dissent, stating that the limitation is what made it unique, but current CEO Jack Dorsey stated that the strength of Twitter wasn’t in its limited word count but rather the real-time feel of the site. “What makes Twitter, Twitter is its fast, public, live conversational nature,” he said.

If you decide to join Twitter (with either a public or private profile), it’s helpful to learn the basic vernacular.

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Tweet: a 140-character message.

Retweet (RT): Re-sharing or giving credit to someone else’s tweet.

Feed: The stream of tweets you see on your homepage, comprised of updates from users you follow.

Handle: Your username.

Mention (@): A way to reference another user in a tweet by his username. Users are notified when @mentioned. It’s a way to conduct discussions with other users in a public realm.

Direct Message (DM): A private, 140-character message between two people. You can decide whether to accept a Direct Message from any Twitter user, or only from users you are following. You may only DM a user who follows you.

Hashtag (#): A way to denote a topic of conversation or participate in a larger linked discussion. A hashtag is a discovery tool that allows others to find your tweets, based on topics (for example #TheBachelorette). You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time, even from people you don’t follow.

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Another helpful tool in organizing your Twitter feed is the use of lists, allowing you to group accounts of similar interest so that you can better view tweets. This can be done inside Twitter or with programs such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. There are many other Twitter-related apps, so it doesn’t hurt to investigate options to help manage the flow of information into something useful.

It’s interesting to note that certain features of Twitter—such as hashtags—weren’t invented by the company but were shaped by the users themselves. Twitter is an interactive and constantly-changing medium, and therefore a reflection of the people who use it.


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Works Cited
Friedman, Ann. “Social Media’s Megaphone.” Sky Magazine. April 2016.

Smith, Brandon. “The Beginner’s Guide To Twitter.” Mashable. 5 June 2012. <http://mashable.com/2012/06/05/twitter-for-beginners/#vwvY_SOfPEqG>.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Meet Author Vivi Holt

Please welcome author Vivi Holt to my blog. She writes inspirational historical western romances and has a new release out today!! Always an exciting day for an author.




What kinds of books do you love to read?

I love all kinds of books in a variety of genres. There are some genres, like horror, that I don’t read, but otherwise I’m pretty open to any genre if the story is good. Some of my favorite books of all time are anything by Jane Austen or the Bronte Sisters, Rebecca, Gone with the Wind, the Little House series, CS Lewis, Brave New World, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, anything by Francine Rivers – and so many others I can’t think of right now. But they cut across all genres. It also keeps things interesting to me to change genres and read different types of books.

What do you like about historical romance?

I write sweet, historical romances – I love the history, of course. I actually live in Australia, so learning more about American history is fun for me. I’m officially an American citizen though, because I lived there for many years and my husband is from Atlanta.

I like also that sweet historical romance gives the opportunity to tell a story without any of the explicit language some genres use. I don’t like to read those types of books, and so it’s always great when I discover a book that I love that’s a clean read. It’s great when you discover a new author who writes books you know will be a safe read, so that’s what I try to do for my readers.

Some of the books I write are also Christian, so I love having that opportunity to weave encounters with God through the tale. My new book, Of Peaks and Prairies, isn’t a Christian book, per se, but it does reference prayer and is a sweet read.

Tell us about your new book.

Of Peaks and Prairies is the first book in a new series, Paradise Valley. It’s going to be a series of sweet, historical romances. The setting will be Paradise Ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana Territory. This book follows a young woman, Genevieve, and her journey to wholeness after a childhood of brokenness. She leaves Fort Worth, Texas, running from her troubled past, and hitch-hikes on a cattle drive, north to Montana. The story is full of drama, romance and suspense. It also follows the journey of Sarah Songan and Bill Hanover from the second Cutter’s Creek book – after their wedding. So that’s been fun as well.



What will you be writing next?

Next, I have another installment of Cutter’s Creek coming out. That will be in early August. The book is called The Betrothed, and has a bit of a different angle to the other books. It will start out in England, where Lady Charlotte Bainbridge will decide to run away from home to start a new life in America. She’ll discover that it’s not so easy to establish yourself without money, status or family to back you up, and she’ll have to rely on her new friends to help her along the way. One of these friends just happens to be an attractive young man from her home town – so the romantic tension will be high! If you sign up for my mailing list you’ll get a free book, and I’ll be able to let you know when the book will be out. Here’s the link for the newsletter sign up.

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Excerpt

Of Peaks and Prairies – Book 1, Paradise Valley

Chapter One

Fort Worth, Texas
1867
Genevieve Waters-Ewing walked from the church with her hand resting lightly on Quincey Ewing’s raised arm. He’d shaved for the first time in months, and she glanced with distaste at a scratch on his cheek where the blade had nicked his weathered skin. Her whole body trembled, and she fought hard to push down the sobs that threatened to escape her aching throat at any moment. He turned to face her with a grin, his ten gallon hat perched unevenly on his square head.
The minister who’d married them was so old and frail, and his hearing so bad, each time she shook her head and shouted ‘no’ during their vows, he simply nodded with a toothless grin and continued on with the ceremony. If she tried to run, Quincey held her close and pinched her arm. In the end she stood her ground, confident that the law would never uphold such a marriage — until, that is, her new husband forged her signature on the certificate of marriage. Now she wasn’t so sure.
She glared at him as her stepfather came up alongside her.
“Congratulations Genny, you’re a married woman now. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?” He chuckled, she caught him winking behind her back at his childhood friend - the man who’d just been pronounced her husband.
“Well, at least it’ll get you out from under my feet,” he continued. “I can’t be payin’ for yer upkeep forever. Your Ma done died on me, leavin’ me with a rug-rat I never wanted, and now it’s time for you to find yer own place in life. Can’t say as I’ll miss ya much, ‘part from the cookin’ an sech of course, but I’ll find a missus to do that soon enough, with you out of the house. ‘Course, you’re not goin’ far — just across the way. I’m sure you could find it in yer heart to help me out a time or two.”
They’d stepped out into the bright Texas morning, and Genevieve squinted her eyes against the sunlight that streamed down through a faint fuzz of thin clouds above. She cast her gaze about - they were on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas, and she could see the plains stretched out before them. The town pushed toward the openness, threatening to civilize its bluffs, rises and hollows. Chaparral tufts littered the landscape, sheltering hare and various rodents, and giving the plains an unkempt look. She smoothed the skirts of her burgundy plaid dress. It was the nicest dress she owned, even so it was well worn, and pulled tightly across her chest and hips where she’d grown in recent years. A long line of small buttons ran up the front of the bodice. The sleeves no longer reached her wrists even when she tugged at them, and her stays pinched her tiny waist. She sighed.

          “If Ma knew what you had planned for me, Fred, she’d roll over in her grave.” Genevieve caught a sob, and pushed it back down with a grimace.

Buy Of Peaks and Prairies Today!!

Only 99 cents for the next 3 days. Don't delay!!


Vivi Holt writes inspirational, historical romances with a western flavour. Of her books, readers say:

"The plot kept me enthralled and the pages turning."
"I cried and laughed."
"What an awesome ending. Can't wait for more!!"

Vivi lives in beautiful Brisbane, Australia with her husband and three young children. Growing up on a farm she learned to love the country life and now she writes about it in her books. History has always fascinated her as well, so writing historical romance seemed a natural progression. She loves horse-riding, hiking, and reading.

Her goal is to write touching, emotional and sweet romance stories that captivate the reader and transport them back in time.

Follow Vivi Holt:





Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Great American Western Romance Week


Today I've got a post over at Hart's Romance Pulse about the psychology behind my Wings of the West series. Although I strove to write a western historical romance saga to engage and entertain the reader, I also followed the growth of the feminine psyche. The ideas of finding one's home, of outward and inward healing of wounds, the power of storytelling in mending the soul, and, ultimately, carving a path in the world were all blueprints while I crafted the books.


Be sure to leave a comment at the blog for a chance to win a signed copy of my standalone novel INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS. There's also a rafflecopter for a Kindle Fire!!


Lots of great posts this week by a bunch of western romance authors. Stop by Hart's Romance Pulse to check it out!!



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Deep Learning

By Kristy McCaffrey

How does your email filter out spam? How does Facebook automatically tag a photo you just uploaded? What powers the crystal-clear voice of Apple’s Siri feature?

The answer is deep learning, a branch of machine learning based on a set of algorithms that attempt to model high-level abstractions in data by using a deep graph with multiple processing layers, composed of multiple linear and non-linear transformations. Said another way—deep learning uses multiple layers of “neural networks” to solve problems.


For example, if a deep learning algorithm was used to evaluate a photograph, the artificial neurons—each consisting of constrained mathematical functions that are designed to recognize patterns—might look for a configuration of pixels that resembles an eye, while another would search for the shape of a lip. These neurons would transfer this information to a higher level of neurons, which would evaluate if the image contained a face. An even higher level would determine if the face was that of a human or some other animal.


The “deep” concept comes from the number of layers; if a higher level determines that the lower levels were wrong, the information is passed back to the lower levels where they learn to better process the data.

Deep learning can be applied to many areas: it can be used on audio files to differentiate between a British accent or a Southern drawl; it can be used to determine whether a review on Amazon is positive or negative; Paypal used it to reduce its fraud rate by 10 percent; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to use it to automate the process of tracking an endangered whale species; medical researchers have developed a tool that might be able to perfectly predict the onset of a seizure in epileptic patients. 

According to Dr. Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, an expert on deep learning and machine intelligence, “Deep learning is probably the most important technical development since the invention of the Web in the 1990’s.”


Last year, a computer program utilizing deep learning taught itself to play Space Invaders and 48 other video games with no human intervention. The program was designed to track pixels on the screen and was given the goal of aiming for a high score. Then it was left to simply play on its own. When starting a new game, it would repeatedly lose, but within an hour it had made enough connections between cause and effect to devise a strategy to win.

Although neural networks have been popular since the 1960’s, the technology has recently exploded, partly due to the fact that so many people are willing to share their photos on Facebook, thereby offering researchers the opportunity to test and “train” their tools to improve through practice and learning.

And while many worry that this technology will lead to the artificial intelligence takeover so often depicted in apocalyptic films, most experts believe these fears are unfounded. A human toddler can identify an unknown animal after only a few impressions of a photo, but it takes deep learning machines billions of images to recognize the same. And while that computer program did master Space Invaders, it has yet to conquer the complexity of Pac-Man.


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Works Cited
Flaherty, Joseph. “Inside Our Computers’ Brains.” Sky Magazine. April 2016.