Friday, April 27, 2012

Family Literacy

"Family literacy" involves the idea that members of a child's family are the child's first teachers and will continue to influence literacy development throughout childhood. Many schools are taking the initiative by offering family literacy programs to support students and their families.

Family Literacy: Developing a Program for Your Elementary School was written for parents and educators who are just beginning to explore the idea of family literacy or are ready to start a program. It's a research-based guide that's easy to understand and provides ideas that can be used in any elementary school. It's available on Amazon in ebook and paperback formats.

Family Literacy:
Developing a Program for Your Elementary School
by Todd R. Tystad 
"This helpful guide draws upon current research to examine the reasons for implementing a family literacy program. It also presents programming ideas that can be used and adapted to fit the needs of different schools and their respective families. This guide can be used to make decisions, gather resources, and develop and implement a family literacy program in any elementary school."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Peppers

In my continuing series of recipes from the House of Tystad kitchen, today I bring you something that you'll never forget. Fire up the grill and get set for peppers like you've never had them before.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Peppers

small Jalapeno peppers
softened cream cheese
brown sugar

Clean, cut, and hollow out the peppers. Some people cut them in half lengthwise to make the stuffing process easier, but I like them whole. Also, tenderfoots like to blanch the peppers before stuffing them (which will aid in bringing down the heat of the peppers, as does the cooking process), but I prefer them au naturale.

The classic version of this recipe calls for the peppers to be breaded and fried. But at the House of Tystad, we believe that bacon makes anything better. And so it goes a little something like this...

Stuff each pepper with cream cheese, wrap it in bacon, roll it in brown sugar, and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Then, bake or grill the peppers until the bacon is fully cooked. I always use foil underneath because you never know how much the cream cheese will leak.

The beauty of this recipe is the brown sugar. If you get it right, the brown sugar will caramelize and create a sweet balance to the salt of the bacon and the spiciness of the peppers. I'd advise you to make a lot more than you think you'll need because they're going to be the most popular peppers at the party. Ole!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Significance of Amazon Book Reviews


Authors Gwen Perkins and Anne R. Allen recently wrote about book reviews on Amazon. One of the most important points they make is that a lot of Amazon's customers don't realize the significance of reviews. It's a fact that reviews on Amazon aren't just there for the shopping experience. Even if you never read reviews, they affect what you see when you shop on Amazon.

Amazon uses a series of algorithms to determine which books will be suggested to customers. A minimum number of reviews is required before a book is added to the "You Might Like" or "Also Bought" lists. What that means for unknown authors is that, without reviews, it's a struggle to get the word out about their books. That's when reviews become critical.

Perkins points out that reviews don't need to be lengthy and Allen states that a minimum of 20 words will qualify as a review. She also says that the Amazon star system is unique in that anything less than four or five stars does nothing to get a book onto the "Also Bought" lists; it's used differently than a star system that would be used to rate restaurants or films.

So please consider visiting Amazon to spend a minute or two sharing your thoughts about a book you've read. The author will certainly be grateful and potential readers will appreciate it too. It's quick, it's painless, you don't even have to use your real name, and it will allow newer authors to meet Stephen King and Suzanne Collins on a somewhat level playing field. Game on.


April 21, 2012

I'd like to acknowledge the reader who commented here and all of the KindleBoards users who assert the claim that book reviews have nothing at all to do with Amazon's algorithms. What remains after all the discussion is over is the fact that no one, aside from those who dwell deep inside the nerve center of Amazon, knows exactly how those algorithms are actually used. We can only venture a guess based on anecdotal evidence and that, of course, leads to a variety of personal opinions.

The good news is that all of those personal opinions led to this blog receiving literally ten times the normal Internet traffic last weekend and that tells me that I should be writing about controversial topics a lot more often. So you can look forward to several future posts on politics, religion, intimate relationships, and whether toilet tissue should hang over or under the roll.

That won't actually happen, but what I will do is continue to follow the lead of Gwen Perkins and Anne R. Allen, the authors whose blog posts I drew my information from to begin with. They're writing and blogging and continuing to discuss the issues that matter to writers and Amazon customers. It's a wild new frontier out there and somebody's got to populate it with books.

And finally, many thanks to those of you who are writing book reviews. They really do matter.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The House of Tystad on Scribd

Random Photo Taken in My Back Yard

Scribd has been around for five years, but it was only recently that I started to look into the tremendous amount of material stored there. It's a document-sharing website that has frequently been described as the "You Tube for documents." The site houses essays, reports, presentations, books, magazines, recipes, and all sorts of other text and images.

Archived blog posts from The House of Tystad are now available on Scribd. You can always search my "Blog Archive" here on this blog, but Scribd makes it easy to find posts by title and then search with tags and categories to find related documents. It's a lot of fun and you'd be surprised at what you can find to read. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Here's my page on Scribd: Todd R. Tystad. You can find my documents on my shelf, or just click on these links:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blue Hill: The Book Trailer

Blue Hill is now available in the Amazon Kindle Owners' Lending Library. That means you can borrow it for free if you have Amazon Prime. It also means that Blue Hill is now available only from Amazon.

In other news, my good friends at Google made it possible for me to create book trailers for Blue Hill and Seven Moments in Time. You can find both trailers on You Tube. I hope you enjoy them.