Sunday, November 12, 2017

Duolingo Swedish: Progress Report (71% Completed; 55% Fluency)

Hej, hej! It's time once again to report on the progress of my Duolingo Swedish. I'm on a 63-day streak! My last report card was during my 37-day streak—that's almost a month ago! I must confess I lost my streak at 53-day (sometimes life events get in the way), but luckily for me, I can use the "Streak Repair" option by Duolingo to repair it at a cost. I was contemplating whether or not to do it but when the option was offered on my phone screen, I reasoned that it's all for a good cause and it helps fund the great job Duolingo is doing. Plus, Duo the little green owl is så sött!

As mentioned in all my previous posts, there are five main sections for the Swedish language with a total of 66 modules. See breakdown below:
  • Section 1: 9 modules (Completed)
  • Section 2: 8 modules (Completed)
  • Section 3: 12 modules (Completed)
  • Section 4: 18 modules (Completed)
  • Section 5: 19 modules (Incomplete) - This is it, I'm almost done!
Out of the 66 modules, I've completed 47 (71%). According to Duolingo, I'm now 55% fluent in Swedish (advanced).

SECTION 1: 9 Modules
SECTION 2: 8 Modules
SECTION 3: 12 Modules

SECTION 4: 18 Modules
SECTION 5: 19 Modules (2 new modules have been enabled; in progress)

The orange icons are the completed ones. The greyed-out icons are completely untouched, and the colorful ones are in progress. Each sub-module is enabled as I complete them and I cannot move on to the next if I have not completed the current one (which is why they're in grey). There's something deeply satisfying to see the orderly orange icons...

Notes about XP goal: There are a few options to pick from for the XP goal (from "Casual = 10 XP per day" to "Insane = 50 XP per day") and I chose "Serious = 30 XP per day."

Are you also using Duolingo to study a foreign language? If yes, I would like to hear from you about your experience! Write to me at connect@aliceteh.com.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Guest Post by James Houston Turner, Author of Greco's Game


I'm so excited about the launch of the 2017 Film Option edition of Greco’s Game with a redesigned cover and updated narrative! I first read Greco's Game in 2012 so when this new edition is launched, I immediately bought the Kindle edition and to top it all off I'm proud to be a part of the RABT virtual book tour.

There are two parts to this post: A guest post with the author and about Greco's Game. Please join me in welcoming author James Houston Turner to Hello, My Name Is Alice!

GUEST POST: THE HARDEST THING ABOUT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT by James Houston Turner
During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the privilege of an invitation into the home of Australian film director, Phillip Noyce. I had been email acquaintances with Phillip for  several years but had never met him, so this was a real treat. Over glasses of his “Noyce Brothers” label of Aussie wine, we talked about the ups and downs of life and how it influenced our work.

When I described a painful family separation in the wake of my 1991 cancer operation, Phillip kept asking, “why,” to some of the reactions of a particular family member. We dug deep, and I learned very quickly that Phillip is a “why guy,” which is why he has directed such powerful films. He always questions motives and how they affect behavior. As the old adage goes, “People do not always have to make sense ... except in fiction.”

Motives. That is what governs a character’s actions, and yet we as writers have to dig deeper into the complexities and eccentricities of character development in order to first understand it, and then write about it in such a way that it doesn’t sound like we’re writing about it. The best writing is seamless writing, flowing easily, even in its meanderings, sidesteps, and flashbacks.

In terms of character arc, Phillip and I spoke of my signature hero, Talanov, and he asked, “Why would he do something like that?” He was referring to Talanov’s decision to defect from the KGB and become a spy for America during the Cold War (a story I tell in my novel, November Echo). I described my experiences as a smuggler behind the old Iron Curtain and all of the deprivation and corruption I saw, and how an actual KGB agent leaked word out of Moscow that I was on a KGB watch list and being followed in San Diego, where I was living at the time. “Why would he do that?” Phillip asked. “Why would a KGB agent risk his life to help you, a person he had never met?” Having interviewed a number of gulag and death camp survivors, maybe it was an issue of faith, since all of the people I interviewed were people of faith, because Christians during those bleak times were the only ones who helped others, even when such actions put their own lives at risk. I remember seeing Phillip smile because he knew I had stumbled onto an important aspect of character development: the ability to look beyond motives into what causes motives, which is often a landmark experience – or person – that affects us deeply and alters the course of our lives.

So I credit Phillip Noyce for helping me become more of a “why guy.” Answering those “whys” – and the whys of those whys – guides me on my path of creating and developing characters that I hope resonate with readers in the same way they resonate with me.


Thriller / Suspense / Action / Romance
Date Published: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Regis Books

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Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.

Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.

But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife. Or was it a mistake?

The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?

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About the Author

James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watch-list for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. James Houston Turner’s debut thriller, Department Thirteen, was voted “Best Thriller” by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. His novel, Greco’s Game, has just been optioned for film. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). After twenty years in Australia, he and his wife, Wendy, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook, now live in Austin, Texas.

Contact Links

Purchase Links

Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Spotlight: THE PAINTER'S APPRENTICE by Laura Morelli

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Painter’s Apprentice by Laura Morelli, ​taking place from October 16 to November 17.


BOOK DETAILS

Book Title: The Painter's Apprentice: A Novel of 16th-Century Venice
Author: Laura Morelli
​Category: Adult Fiction, 350 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: The Scriptorium
Release date: November 15, 2017
Tour dates: Oct 16 to Nov 17, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (some adult situations but no sex or explicit violence)

BOOK DESCRIPTION
Would you rather sacrifice your livelihood, your lover, or your life? When the Black Death comes knocking on your door, you’d better decide quickly.
Venice, 1510. Maria Bartolini wants nothing more than to carry on her father’s legacy as a master gilder. Instead, her father has sent her away from the only home she’s ever known to train as an apprentice to Master Trevisan, a renowned painter.

When the painter’s servants uncover the real reason why Maria has been sent away, they threaten to reveal a secret that could tear down her family and the future of their trade. She is forced to buy the servants’ silence, but as their greed steadily grows, Maria resorts to more desperate measures. She questions whether her heart’s desire is worth risking her family, her trade, and her future, but Maria’s sacrifices may amount to nothing if the plague arrives on her father’s doorstep before she is able to get back home.

From the author of the award-winning The Gondola Maker comes a rich tale of Renaissance Venice, a heroine with a lust for life, and love against all odds.

WHERE TO BUY THE BOOKS


MEET THE AUTHOR


LAURA MORELLI holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, has taught college students in the U.S. and in Italy, and currently produces art history lessons for TED-Ed. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and has contributed pieces about art and authentic travel to CNN Radio, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, and other media. Laura is the author of the Authentic Arts guidebook series that includes the popular book Made in Italy. Her fiction brings the stories of art history to life. Her debut novel, The Gondola Maker, won an IPPY for Best Historical Fiction and a Benjamin Franklin Award.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR

Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~  Instagram

GIVEAWAY

Prize: ​Win a signed paperback of The Painter’s Apprentice and a $20 Amazon gift card (open to USA only). Ends November 25, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to Laura Fabiani for the opportunity to be a part of Laura Morelli's book tour. Please visit the other blogs for the BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR: The Painter's Apprentice: A Novel of 16th-Century Venice by Laura Morelli for more reviews and giveaways.


Thank you, too, for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pre-order The Painter's Apprentice by Laura Morelli

I'm really excited about Laura Morelli's new book, The Painter's Apprentice! She is one of my favorite authors. The book is now up for pre-order on the major book retailers and the author is offering a bonus package for those who pre-order before October 31: http://lauramorelli.com/preorder-tpa/. I'm definitely getting my copy!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Duolingo Swedish: Progress Report (52% Completed; 47% Fluency)

Hej, hej! It's time to report on the progress of my Duolingo Swedish. I'm on a 37-day streak! Here's to another week of successfully maintaining my streak! Something new is happening and by that I mean I created two groups (one for Swedish and one for Italian). More about this and my XP report card in yesterday's post.

There are five main sections for the Swedish language with a total of 66 modules. See breakdown below:
  • Section 1: 9 modules (Completed)
  • Section 2: 8 modules (Completed)
  • Section 3: 12 modules (Completed)
  • Section 4: 18 modules (Completed = 5; Incomplete = 13)
  • Section 5: 19 modules (Incomplete)
Out of the 66 modules, I've completed 34 (52%). According to Duolingo, I'm now 47% fluent in Swedish (intermediate).

SECTION 1: 9 Modules
SECTION 2: 8 Modules
SECTION 3: 12 Modules

SECTION 4: 18 Modules (Completed: 5; In Progress: 1)
SECTION 5: 19 Modules

As mentioned in my previous progress report, the orange icons are the completed ones. The greyed-out icons are completely untouched, and the colorful ones are in progress. Each sub-module is enabled as I complete them and I cannot move on to the next if I have not completed the current one (which is why they're in grey).

Notes about XP goal: There are a few options to pick from for the XP goal (from "Casual = 10 XP per day" to "Insane = 50 XP per day") and I chose "Serious = 30 XP per day."

Are you also using Duolingo to study a foreign language? If yes, I would like to hear from you about your experience!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Duolingo Report Card

Hej, hej! I hope everyone is having an awesome weekend. It's time to report on the progress of my Duolingo Swedish. I'm on a 37-day streak!

I have been quite busy catching up with Duolingo. This week, I created two Duolingo groups: Swedish in Singapore and Italian in Singapore. Both groups have 15 and 6 members respectively. Since then, it has been quite intense for me because I have some REALLY active members who seem to be hell-bent on overtaking me! That keeps me on my toes if I want to keep my #1 position!

This is the XP chart for Saturday (340 XP). I had to do more than 30+ sub-modules in order to catch up and overtake two of my most hardworking members, Natasha and Stefan, for Swedish, and Matheus Lanzarini for Italian.



And... this is the XP chart for today, Sunday (200 XP).


In summary, lots of healthy language competition is happening! It's always more fun doing it with fellow learners and growing together in fluency.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Italian Maintenance Mode (Part II)

Last Saturday, I talked about my Italian Marathon Day. The plan was to bring up to speed all the Duolingo Italian modules within the same day as part of my Italian maintenance program.

However, I didn't succeed in doing so, so I spread out the remaining work throughout the following week (8 through 16 October). I started off with what you can see below.


Then, I managed to complete only up until the module "Determiners" and by that time at night on 7 October, I was exhausted and all Duo-ed out.


So today, I've caught up in all the remaining modules for Section 3. All the icons have turned wonderfully warm and orange.


My last hurdle is to complete the fourth and final section as depicted below. And then I will "graduate" from the Duolingo Italian course!