Thursday, December 17, 2015

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone! And I do hope you all have a peaceful, safe, memorable, and happy Christmas season.


Sometimes this time of year can be extra stressful for people. I admit, there's a lot to get done for us women who handle every single detail of the holiday. The shopping, the wrapping, the shipping, the baking, the cooking, the decorating, and the clean up. But I love every minute of it...well most of it anyway. However, it's usually just my husband and I so I don't have near the stress that most families have. I still do it all, and wonder why most times, but I really don't have to please anyone else but myself. At least with the decorating anyway. My husband says he could care less. But I don't really believe him. ha

Those of you who have family to spend the holidays with, try to destress a little. Take lots of deep breaths and remember, you're doing all this hard work for people you love. But you also need to take care of yourself while working your fingers to the bone!

I miss the days of spending Christmas with my family. We always had the best times. Our parents always went all out this time of year. We had tons of candy, cookies and all the goodies. Christmas lights and music were always important to us. When we lived in our small town of Edgerton, Ohio we even went caroling a few times. Driving around looking at the lights was one of my fondest memories with my family. My husband and I make sure to do that every year as well.

But as years pass, you and your family have kids and everyone gets older and involved in their own lives, it's really hard to get everyone together. My family is spread out and it's just too difficult to get us all together. I wish with all my heart that we had had one last Christmas all together before my dad passed away this year. He wouldn't have really realized what was going on but it would've still meant the world to him and especially my mom. We will all be missing him terribly this year but I know he will be singing his favorite Christmas carols up in heaven.

Christmas is a magical time of year especially for the kids in this world. Let's all try to enjoy it and come back in 2016 with even more love in our hearts and hope for the future.








Thursday, December 3, 2015

Guns and Books!

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was great! Mine was quiet but nice. However, today I'm very saddened and distressed over yet another shooting, this one in California, and loss of innocent lives. When is it ever going to stop? It's sickening to have to be afraid when going to a movie or any other public place anymore.

I'm a big believer in making stricter gun laws. I don't believe in hunting for sport because I love animals too much. To me it's senseless to kill one just for fun. Or even for meat when we live in a world where we can buy what we need to live on at the store. However, I'm not a vegetarian. I'll eat meat from a store because I have no control over animals who've already been killed, if that makes sense.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against people who hunt for sport, it's their choice. I just will never do it myself!

Anyway, to me there is no reason for anyone to have a gun except to kill. That's what guns are made for so why do we all need one? Why is it so easy to get one? I especially think if you live in this country, but are not a U.S. Citizen, you should not be allowed to own a gun. I also believe this for any country. U.S. Citizens should not be allowed to carry a gun to another country either. In my little brain, only law enforcement, defenders of our country, and people who work to keep us safe should be allowed to own a gun.

But that's just MY opinion so please don't anyone get upset. Everyone's entitled to how they feel so I'm just expressing my own views.

Okay, now on to something that I hope everyone will agree with me on! My newest picture book, Cookies for Punch has just been released by Guardian Angel Publishing and I couldn't be more excited! I've waited a long hard time for this one to come out. It's one of my very first stories and one that I'm very proud of. It's also about my dog, Punch so that makes it extra special. He's been bugging me for years to hurry up and get this published! So now it's finally here! Contact me at allyn_stotz@yahoo.com if you'd like a copy.


Also, I'm participating in the SCBWI Book Launch party for my other picture book just released in September, The Color of Love. I'd love for you to check it out and sign up for my contest. You have a chance to win an autographed copy of the book or a critique of your picture book manuscript. Stop on by at: https://www.scbwi.org/display-book-launch-party/?id=363804

I'd also like to let everyone know about my mom and sisters fantastic news. They have just released a new book of holiday short stories. The book is titled Holiday Connections. Each story involves a major holiday and they are all great stories that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. If you'd like a copy, contact me at allyn_stotz@yahoo.com and I'll get you hooked up!


Thanks for stopping by and I'm going to use Ellen's favorite line, "Be kind to one another!"


Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Writing Prompt for Fall

Now that Halloween has come and gone, that means the busy holiday season is approaching us quickly. I don't know about you, but it's very hard for me to stay focused or find the time to do much writing with all the hustle and bustle of things to do during this time. And coming up with ideas to write about is difficult this time of year too as our minds are on the gazillion things we have to get done.

So instead of spending countless hours trying to come up with something new and exciting to write on my blog or wasting time staring at my blank screen,  I decided to treat myself and look up fall pictures on the internet. Since I live down south, we don't get to see the leaves change so seeing all the beautiful fall colors online is especially breath taking for me. But, I wanted to find something interesting but "eerie" looking that would get all of our creative juices flowing.

Take a look at this photo and have some fun with it. Can you come up with a storyline? If so, tell us about it!




Friday, October 23, 2015

I Want To Be A Dog

While I was walking with my dogs around the dog park this morning, I realized something. I want to be a dog!!! Boy do they have it good.

They get to run and play without a care or worry in the world. They don't have to worry about the fact that their big book signing coming up this weekend  is probably going to get rained out. They don't have to worry about what their fixing for dinner tonight. Or that they are getting older and have to go through watching their parents age. They don't have to worry about having enough candy for trick-or-treaters or that their husbands job is restructuring for the millionth time and he may end up unemployed. The biggest worry my dog, Punch has is getting too far away from her idol, Beemer (our other dog). And the only worry, Beemer has is how to get on the other side of the trail so the dog coming up to her won't sniff her rear!!

That's right, she's a dog but she's not a normal dog. She doesn't like to go outdoors without a human with her, she can't take a nap without peeing in her sleep, and she doesn't like other dogs. Here she is this little tiny thing showing her teeth whenever another dog comes up to her. Like they are afraid of her!!

Then there's, Punch. He loves everyone and everything. He never met a stranger.

Going to the dog park is extremely good for my mood and gives me tons of inspiration for writing kids books. To me there is nothing more joyous than watching all the doggies running and having a great time. Just like you parents out there enjoy watching your kids at the kiddy park, well that's how I feel watching my four legged kids.

We should all take a tip from our pets and stop stressing about everything. Why don't we just take a walk and chill out like they do? Or find a friend to play with and smile. And maybe if we're real good, someone will give us a treat! Yep...I want to be a dog.


Before the park



After the park











Thursday, October 15, 2015

Surround Youself with Writing Buddies

Writing is no different than anything else that we enjoy, it's always better with a partner. Someone to share the ups and downs with because anyone who has tried to get a book published knows there are tons of obstacles to cross.

And some of those obstacles are really difficult to deal with by yourself. Especially rejections, which are a plenty for most writers.

When I was early into my writing career, a very wise person told me to make sure I join a critique group. I was very skeptical about that because I just wasn't sure I could even write, let alone ready to let anyone else see what I'd written. But being in a critique group has really been beneficial. It definitely opened my eyes and proved to me that I wasn't so bad at this afterall! Plus, I've learned so much from them.

I thank God for my critique group, my writer's group, all my writing friends especially Courtney Rene who helps me everyday in some way, my book signing partner in crime, Deborah Lynne but most of all my mom/sis who are also writers. Having them to discuss my stories, their stories and the struggles we are facing in this industry, has helped me tremendously. I don't think I'd have four books published today if it weren't for all those people.



Let's face it, authors like to talk about our writing and nothing helps or inspires us more than when we talk to someone who is as interested in the written word as we are. So if you're an author or an aspiring author, next time you attend a book signing, a writer's group, a conference or some other kind of event, don't be shy - make the extra effort to talk to another author. You never know what kind of relationship will form from it. That's exactly how Deborah Lynne and I met and we have both thanked our lucky stars that we did.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall Is Off To A Bang!

I'm finally back to blogging after a long visit with my family and other busy things going on in this writer's life.

I must say, this fall is starting out with a bang! While visiting my family in Virginia, my mom, sis and I had two very successful book signings. To be honest, I wasn't expecting either function to be much, however the event that I was sure I'd be lucky to sell one book at, ended up being one of my most successful. It sure is fun talking to people about our books but when someone comes up to you and wants to buy one of each, well I must admit, it's a terrific feeling and big boost to the ego!

This happened not once but two or three times during these book signings. Amazing! At least to me it was.

I also just attended another successful book signing here in Louisiana at the Denham Springs Fall Festival. It was chilly, windy and I was suffering from a rotten cold, but who cares when people are buying your creations! I paid for it the next day but it was still well worth it.

Last night I had another book signing at La Divina Italian Cafe. Why there, you ask? Because the owner of that very unique and lovely cafe is doing her part in supporting the community and our local authors. Each Wednesday night she has kids night and features a different author. We read our stories to the kids, sometimes play games and have all kinds of fun. It really is a great thing this cafe is doing and we just wish more local businesses would follow suit!

The picture below is of two little cutie pies and friends, Elliot & Julia at La Divina last night. We sure had fun!



Up next on October 24 & 25 is the Poche Plantation Arts and Crafts festival which I'm really excited about.

How about you other authors out there. What's your fall looking like?


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Miscellaneous

Just wanted to let everyone know that I won't be able to update my blog next week. I'll be at my mom's in Virginia and won't have access.

I'm looking forward to my visit with my mom except it's going to be really difficult for me. It will be my first visit since my dad's passing. Not having him there is going to be sad and hard. My mom has moved into a new apartment so there won't even be any signs of him anywhere. Very heartbreaking for me but I'll get through it. He'll be on my mind every single second though cause I know how much he'd want to be there.

But he'd also want me to show mom a good time. Get her out of the house and take her to places she never gets to go anymore. She can't drive so she has to rely on everyone else to take her anywhere, which is hard because everyone works.

Anyway, good things are going to happen while I'm up there though. We have two book signings scheduled together so that will be a bonding and fun time for us all.

Has anyone been watching America's Got Talent this year? I want the regurgitator to win so bad this year! What he does seems gross, but there is no one else out there that can do what he's doing. It truly is amazing and I would pay money to see his show in Vegas. There's other good talent on this year but NOTHING like him. I've never seen anyone do what he does. Anyway, the finales is tonight and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him! Here's a link if you'd like to see what he does!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSNiruzrEbo&feature=player_detailpage

See ya in a few weeks!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Writing Workshops

How important are writing workshops or conferences to writers? In my opinion, they are critical. However, we have to face facts that we can't all afford to attend them. I've found that some are very reasonable in price where others can be quite expensive. But the real question is are they worth it?

Almost every one I've attended has been worth it. Some more than others. I have to admit I've attended a few where I didn't learn much that I didn't already know, but I came out of there meeting a few new contacts or a few leads on book signing events. And both of those are critical to making it in this industry. And then there have been the workshops where I learned a ton of new stuff. So you just never know.

But to me, attending as many writing workshops or conferences that my budget and time will allow, has only benefitted me. They are a chance to "recharge" my juices and get me excited about the  writing process all over again. Each time I attend one, I come directly home and start a new story or edit an old one. My batteries are once again revved up and my imagination is raring to go!  There is nothing better than spending a whole day talking and listening to people who feel the same way I do about writing a book. 

It's also a new adventure for me. Never in school did I ever raise my hand to answer a question the teacher asked. I never wanted to speak up for fear that I would look stupid because I didn't know what I was talking about. But when I attend anything writing wise, my hand doesn't hesitate to raise even when I try to stop it. So it's a weird and new experience for me, but one that I love and am proud of myself for giving it my all. Heck, I've even been the speaker at a few of these myself! And for me, that's a big "gold star" for the day.

So to those of you who are thinking of attending a workshop or conference, think no more. Just do it! I guarantee it will pay off in some way and you'll be glad you did it.

So, when's your next writing workshop or conference scheduled?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Downton Abbey

I'm not exactly sure why but I'm addicted to the TV Series Downton Abbey. I'd been hearing over and over from people how good this show is but I always seemed to miss it when it was on. When I did catch an episode, it just didn't grab my attention. I thought it looked "cheesy."  I never really watched a full episode.

However, while I was browsing through Target one day, the Season 1 DVD would for some reason not let me continue with my shopping without purchasing it. So I did. Then I went back and bought the rest of the seasons.

I am totally hooked on this show now. In fact, so
much so that I am watching the seasons for a 2nd time around, which I have never done in my life! Sure, I watch reruns of some shows but it's really only because nothing else is on. There are only a handful of shows that I would intentionally watch over again. But would probably never buy the DVD's.


Downton Abbey is brilliantly written, in my eyes. The characters all have something very unique and special about them. They really draw you in. This show also makes me realize the power of make-up, clothes and hair. This picture is what the lady looks like playing her part of a "devious, manipulative" ladies maid on the left and on the right is how she really looks. What a tranformation!

But what I really love about the show is learning how they did things back then and the difference between how the rich live and think, versus the serving staff. I also enjoy that the show brings out problems that you and I face even today. But totally shocking to me is when the "high and mighty" rich family show that they have real feelings of love towards their staff.

The show also makes me completely thankful that I wasn't born back in those days. They didn't even have TV's or computers! For shame!! Actually, it's not for those reasons that I'm glad I wasn't alive back then. There is no way I could dress up for every meal like they do. The women have to wear long gloves for dinner and the men white tie tux's.


There is one episode where one of the men's white shirts and ties disappeared so he had to wear a black tie! Everyone at dinner noticed this and made some kind of comment. Anyway, not my thing!

And the ladies all have to wear their hair up for some reason. You only see it semi-down at night when they go to bed.




Although I would have a very hard time with most of their "rich" traditions, there is one I could definitely get used to. When a woman gets married, she no longer is required to come down for breakfast. She is served breakfast in bed! I would be all in for that tradition.


Now, all my husband needs to do is ask for at least a 20 million dollar raise or I need to become the next J.K. Rowling and maybe I'll get that breakfast in bed!!

So how about you? Do I have any other Downton Abbey addicts out there?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Marketing

I'm sick of this heat, anyone else with me!!?? It's been over 100 degrees here in Louisiana for the past week. Oh if only we could buy weather like we can buy everything else in this world. But it's the one thing that is entirely left up to God. However, if he ever decides to "put it up for sale", I'll take some 70 degree weather, please! I want to breathe again!

But since I can't buy good weather, I bought a spot in an online marketing class instead. (At least I can take it indoors in the air conditioning!). I'm not finished with the course yet but one of the things it's teaching me is that marketing isn't all about getting my face out there to sell my book. It's more about getting my face out there to offer people something they might really want. Then once I make that connection with them, then I can plug in my "buy my book" pitch once in awhile.

I'm learning that on social media if all you're doing is advertising that you have a book for sale, that that doesn't really work. People get tired of seeing that all the time. People want something that will benefit them. Which is so true. I myself get tired of authors who only advertise their books but have nothing else to offer. So why was I thinking it would work for me?

Well, I just didn't know any better, that's why. What this course is teaching me is really making sense and I'm learning things I've never heard before.

So, my first order of "changing my marketing strategy" starts today. Instead of telling you more about my books, I'm going to give you the link to this course, put on by Children's Book Insider/CBI Clubhouse  so that you might get some benefit out of it too. It's at a very reasonable rate and in my opinion, well worth it. To find out more, click here: http://easyauthormarketing.com/order

I'm also going to share with you a link to one of my favorite blogs. Kristen Lamb is a hoot and not only gives authors all kinds of very valuable info but she also delivers it in a very entertaining way. Here's the link: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

Enjoy!





Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Picture Book Release

I'm so happy to announce that my newest picture book The Color of Love, is now available for purchase!


 
 
This book has been a long time coming. I first wrote it in 2011, had a contract on it in 2012 but that fell through. So after that experience, I decided to try my luck at self-publishing. I was able to hook up with a local artist in my writers group and together we worked really hard to get my story finally published. This was only the 2nd book Deborah Forbes has done and I think she did a great job, don't you?
 
I'm proud of this story because it sends an important message without shoving it in a child's face. Denny is concerned about what color love is so he and his mother go on an adventure to find the answer. Of course the best way to get answers is to sprinkle a little magic into the picture so that's just what I did.
 
 
If you decide to purchase, I hope you enjoy it and I'd love to hear from you. I'd also love for anyone who does purchase a copy and has time to post a review on Amazon.com. Thanks so much!
 
Look for an announcement about my next book Cookies for Punch, coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 
'

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Free At Last!!

Free of what you ask? Well to most of you, this will seem really silly, but to me it's been a major battle all my life. My arms.



I have always hated my arms with a passion, still do. They are one of the first things I look at on a person, if you can believe that. Even though most people I've ever talked to say they could care less about someone's arms and never notice them.... I do!!

I've been in this prison of, "Oh no, I can't wear that...my arms will show!" or "I can't take my jacket or sweater off (even though I have sweat slipping down my forehead and my back), I have a sleeveless shirt under this and someone will see my arms!" Even putting on a swimsuit has been traumatic for me. Not because my stomach is big enough to reach California, or my cottage cheese thighs are in full view...but because my arms will show! How dumb is that?

It's really been a problem for many, many years and one I thought I'd never get rid of. However, I've been free now for about 2 weeks! I finally woke up, looked around and discovered that NO ONE CARES BUT ME. I so desperately wanted to be that woman in Walmart who looks confident of herself, even though her arms were in full view. Or my neighbor down the street who is even bigger than me and her arms are swinging in the breeze, however it's not bothering her one bit. I am finally tired of sweating to death just so I can cover my arms. Until now, I've always worn long or half sleeves in the dead of summer in Louisiana!! I even had a hard time just wearing short sleeves let alone sleeveless.

But now, I've broken out of that prison and realized 85% of the people out there, have ugly, flabby arms just like mine, and some are even worse! So what am I wearing sitting here typing this "ever so important" blog posting? A sleeveless shirt! Woo hoo! I'm free at last! And since it's 97 degrees out, guess it's time, huh. I'd post a picture for everyone's nightmares enjoyment but I don't want the internet to crash.

I'd love to hear that I'm not the only insane person out there. How about you? Do you have any kind of weird phobia you wish you could get over?


Thursday, July 2, 2015

So What?

I hate to admit this, but as usual, I can't help it. It irritates me when I read a children's book where it's so obvious that the author did not do their homework before writing the story. There's no plot, there's no conflict and most of all, there's no story going on. I recently read one that left me saying to myself, "So? Big deal, the kid took a bath!" And trust me, that is completely all the story is about.  And I don't believe a traditional publisher would have ever given it a second look. I have nothing against self-publishing, heck I'm getting ready to release one Sept. 1, but it's books like the one I just read, that give self-publishing a bad rap. It wasn't well thought out and to be blunt, only a 1 yr. old would like it.

The illustrations in the book I mentioned are beautiful, otherwise this would not be a book. I do believe that good illustrations are vital to a good picture book, however a good story is even more important. The story needs to capture a child's imagination. They need their "giggly" side to come out once in awhile. And they need to learn something or at least have a reason to want it read to them again and again.

I'm not trying to say that all my stories are perfect, that they capture everything they should, but I sure give them my best try and I've done my homework. We should all take pride in what we write and make sure there's some substance, even in a children's book.

Do you find that you get irritated when you read a book and are left thinking, "So what!!?"






Thursday, June 11, 2015

Giveaway Winner Announced and Award Given




And the winner of the Hippo Bottomless book giveaway is...drum roll please...




Sherry Alexander!! I'll be notifying you, Sherry so I can send your book and stuffed Hippo right out to you. Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the book!

I am feeling so honored today because a fellow author and critique partner has awarded me with the Encouraging Thunder award!
Thanks so much to Deanie for thinking of me. Below are the details.
What you can do with Encouraging Thunder award?
– Post it on your blog
– Grant other bloggers with the award
What you can’t do with Encouraging Thunder award?
– Abuse or misuse the logo
– Claim that it’s your own handmade logo
 What you should do after receiving Encouraging Thunder award:
– Enjoy the award
– Thank via comments or mention the blogger who gave you the award :)
That’s it. No questions to answer or cumbersome rules to follow. It’s acknowledgment to those blogger friends who have stuck behind you through good times and bad, whether through comments, social media, email, etc.
You don’t need to award it to anyone else if you don’t want to. Just accept it. So many people have my back, I can’t sit behind this computer and not give this Award to some very special people. Whether they choose to accept or display it is completely up to them. (They’d know I love them even without it!
Thank you so much, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne, for giving me this special award! You really made my day and I'm honored to know you. Plus, you're a wonderful writer yourself. I encourage everyone to check out her blog to read about some of the books she's gotten published.
There are so many friends who always encourage me. I'm going to give this award to a few of those friends. Every single one of you who stops by to read my blog can claim this award because I appreciate you a great deal.
Courtney Rene - http://ctnyrene.blogspot.com/
Kelly Hashway - http://kellyhashway.blogspot.com/
Genilee Swope-Parente - http://swopeparente.com/
Sherry Alexander - http://rightsherry.blogspot.com
Claudine Gueh Yanting - http://www.carryusoffbooks.com/blog


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Picture Book Giveaway

In celebration of my new picture book Hippo Bottomless coming out, I'd like to do a free giveaway. This book would be great for kids 3-8 yrs of age. It's a fun book and might even teach your child a thing or two about swimming. But mostly about sticking to your guns and you'll get whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.













All you need to do is make sure you are a follower of my blog, leave a comment telling me what your favorite animal is and why. I'll randomly select a winner and announce it on next weeks blog. The lucky winner will receive a free signed copy of the book as well as a mini-stuffed hippo.







Of course if you'd rather purchase a copy, it is now availabe on amazon.com or you can purchase a signed copy from me!
http://www.amazon.com/Hippo-Bottomless-Allyn-M-Stotz/dp/069242752X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432735500&sr=8-1&keywords=hippo+bottomless

Thanks for playing and goodluck!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Two New Picture Books

Today is an exceptionally great day for me. I actually have two new picture books coming out. I tried not to have them come out around the same times but it just didn't work out that way. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad since it's never happened to me before. However, it just makes me doubly happy and more to celebrate!

My new picture book from Futureword Publishing titled Hippo Bottomless has just been finalized and will be available on amazon in just a few days. Woot Woot!!








Echo can't swim like his other Hippo friends. All he does is splash, splash, splash as he sinks, sinks, sinks to the cold murky bottom. Can some friends he meets along the way help or is he destined to spend his life sinking to the bottom, bottom, bottom.









My second picture book coming out by Mascot Publishing titled The Color of Love has also just been finalized but will take probably about a month to become available. This will be my first hard-back book which I've dreamed of for so long. This is a feel-good bedtime type story which has been a long time coming. Try three years to be exact. However, it was originally supposed to be a personalized book by Frecklebox but that fell through the cracks for various reasons. I was bound and determined to get it published though so I "bit the bullet" and decided to self-publish it. I did my research, talked to several authors in my writer's group and decided on Mascot Publishing because they produce quality books and I knew they were legit and easy to work with. I also found a great new illustrator in my writer's group who is a retired school teacher and was ready to finally pursue her dream of being an illustrator. The Color of Love is now her second children's picture book.







Denny asks his mother, "If the sun is yellow and clouds are white, what color is love?" Follow Denny and his mother as they jump on board their magic carpet to find the answer!










For those of you interested in purchasing an autographed copy of Hippo Bottomless, just let me know. I will have some by June 3rd. If you want to order through Amazon, it should be up and loaded within 3-5 days.

And have no fear, as soon as The Color of Love is officially available, I'll be announcing it on Facebook.

Thanks to everyone for their support!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Character Development

How many of you writers do any kind of character building before you begin a story? The answer to that for me is...sometimes. And other times, I just start writing and the character falls into place. However, on those times that I struggle for just the right character, I begin building one.

Sometimes I get on the internet and start looking at pictures of little kids (no I'm not a stalker) or animals. It helps me to look at their faces, their expressions, the way they dress. From those photos, I can begin to think about what characteristics, flaws, quirks and personality I want them to have. And then I start jotting down all my ideas.

But I have to admit that 50% of those times, I draw a blank and could really use some help. If you are like me and need help once in awhile, I've come across a software program that really looks great. It was introduced to me by Jon Bard of the CBI Clubhouse/Write for Kids. And like him and his wife, Laura, I love to share what little knowledge I have with other writers. So below is a link where Jon is describing this software and walks you through some of the steps. It really looks like it could be beneficial and is very reasonably priced. Check it out!

http://writeforkids.org/2015/04/jon-reviews-a-very-cool-piece-of-software-for-writers/


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lunch Shaming

My intention for today's blog was to write something that had to do with writing, however as I was watching the news this morning, I became so enraged that I knew what I had to write about today.

There was a story about a child who's mother ran out of fruits and vegetable so she packed a few Oreo cookies in her lunch. "Yay!" the little four yr. old probably thought
as she opened her lunch box. But to that child's surprise, she was not allowed to eat them. Instead, her lunch box was returned to her parents with the cookies in it and a note that preached healthy eating.

So I guess it's better to have your child attend school hungry than to put a "poisonous" cookie in their mouth! I am not a parent, however if I was the parent of that child I would be livid. When has a few Oreos ever killed a kid? And are we saying now that parents don't even have any say so in what goes in their own child's lunch? Some parents can't afford all the healthy snacks all the time. Or they don't have time to run to the story every time they run out! And by tomorrow, a study will come out saying that "supposed" health snack is no longer healthy anyway!!

I do believe parents should try including a healthy snack whenever possible but I know that when I was a child, that healthy snack is the one thing that would've gone straight into the trash. My mother always packed a sandwich, a fruit or vegetable and probably either a bag of chips or a dessert. I always ate it all, except most times that fruit or vegetable didn't get eaten. And guess what? I'm still alive! And I was never 1 lb. overweight growing up.

What I'd really like to know is, who knew those cookies were in that box? Does the school have "lunch" cops watching every thing that goes into every kids lunch box? Or are the teachers snooping in all the kids lunch boxes while they are out on recess? Who has time for that? Why can't we trust the child's parents to know what's best for their own kid?

This world is going too far. Parents aren't even allowed to discipline their children anymore without fear that their child will be taken from them or they'll wind up in jail for child abuse. And we wonder why so many children are in trouble today?

Don't get me wrong, I think there are many parents out there that should not be raising kids. I'm thankful when an abusive, neglective parent is caught and the child is taken from them. But I strongly disagree that in today's world it doesn't seem like a parent is allowed to raise their own children in the way they see fit as long as it's a safe environment. Giving a child an Oreo cookie once in awhile is not abusive!

We have so many children in the world that are out there starving to death and might live one day longer if they had one of those cookies to eat. But our 'warped' society chooses to throw that cookie away because it has a little sugar in it. Why oh why can't we let kids be kids while they still can!!





I for one would love to go eat a few Oreos right this minute but I'm an adult, therefore I know that I can't afford those extra pounds it will put on me. But a four yr. old child should be allowed to eat one and enjoy it for the rest of us!!





Here's the article if anyone is interested. I'm curious what you other parents are thinking about this.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mom-lunch-shamed-school-packing-oreos-daughter/story?id=30674158

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Believability in Fiction

Are you confused by what believability means when writing fiction? I for one, don't fully get it.



Why does fiction have to be believable? It's untrue. It's our imaginations and who's to say what we or others think is believable?

How can you write a story about talking animals and make any of it believable? And yet, there are millions of books out there with talking animals. I recently saw an article that said when writing with talking animals you must make sure what happens in the story is something that kids can relate to. To me, that is contradictory. A kid can relate to an animal talking but can't relate to a story about an animal who is running a newspaper office. Why? Because that animal is an adult. I was informed by an instructor in a class I took, that the main character should never be an adult.

But so many of the great fairy tales from long ago were written with the main protagonist as an adult. For instance, Beauty and the Beast, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Dragon Painter and the Emperors New Clothes just to name a few.

In another class, I wrote a story about a talking dog. The teacher had no problems with that but then told me the way the dog interracted with the cat, wasn't believable. Huh? 

I know that publishers don't like it when animals talk to people so I stay away from that as much as possible. However, I recently had a story published Kailee Finds Magic IN Words where a chipmunk is talking to the little girl. However, I explained in the book that the chipmunk could only talk because he was inside the book and the author wrote it that way. The publisher accepted that reasoning.

But one thing I have learned is whenever I have talking animals in a story, I write them so they can only talk to other animals. When they talk to humans, it's in animal verbage.

This to me falls in the lines with believability as well. It's ok to have a person turn into a monkey, but not to have that monkey talk to a person?? I'm really confused with this.

So, I've just learned to write as I see it. If someone questions it, then it probably is an indication that others will too and especially a publisher, so I normally change it.

That's why it's so important to have your work edited by someone who is an expert in the genre you're writing for and to also be a member of a critique group. It's amazing the things they can help you with. They sometimes catch things you yourself would have never caught. Therefore, that's one more step closer to getting the story right and finding a publisher.

But...I'm still confused about what's believable when writing fiction and what isn't. So if any of you have some words of wisdom that can help clear it up for me, please speak up or forever hold your peace!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Zodiac Killer's Son

Over the weekend, I attended an Authors Row Event at our local library. If you're an author and have done library book signings, you're aware that they aren't very profitable. People come to the library to get free books, not to spend money. Those events are mainly just to get your face out there. The best thing about those are that I've never attended one yet where I didn't leave without meeting a great contact of some kind. Sometimes it was just new authors to talk to or connect with on facebook or a teacher who is interested in me coming to their school.

This latest book event was probably the most fascinating for me because I got to meet the actual son of the Zodiac Killer. He has written a book about his life as the son of a murderer and what he has gone through to try and prove that the Zodiac Killer is indeed his father.

Although five murders were proven to be committed by the Zodiac Killer in 1968-69 in northern California, it has never fully been proven who the Zodiac Killer is. This is a note the Zodiac Killer left for the police.

I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND ALL THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE. EBEORIETEMETHHPITI

His son, Gary Stewart is convinced the Zodiac Killer was his father, Earl Van Best, Jr., who died in 1984. It's his life's missiion to prove this 100%. The picture below is a mug shot of Earl Van Best, Jr. when he was arrested for raping Gary's mother. The photo on the right is an artist sketch of the Zodiac Killer from one of his surviving victims.


As I was listening to Gary telling me a little bit about his story, I found myself mesmerized. What would it be like to have a father that was a serial killer? And why was I so fascinated with this? I wondered if there was something wrong with me because I was so honored to be speaking with him.

At the same time, I realized I was a little terrified. What if Gary inherited some of his fathers desire to kill and he was right here talking to me! 

Then I felt guilty that I felt so honored and excited to be talking to a New York Times Best Selling author who was in the works of having the movie made. Would the families of the victims be ashamed that I was feeling this way?

All kinds of emotions were going through me. Even those of jealousy. Here was a man who never wanted to write a book and has no desire to write anything else, and yet he's sold thousands of books and is having a movie made. So many of us writers who practice our craft everyday dream of having just a little taste of this fame that fell into his lap.

However, I would rather be an unknown author than go through what Gary has gone through by having the biological parents that he did. Thankfully, Gary was adopted by wonderful parents and never even met his biological father. Unless you count the 4 wks after he was born and then abandoned on a stairwell of a Baton Rouge apartment building.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I'm a writer and other writers fascinate me no matter their story. So I bought his book and had a picture of me taken with him. He really was a nice man who was brave enough to take the bad situation of his life and turn it into something good by getting his story out there and not hiding in shame or pity. I do admire him for that! And I can't wait to finish his book.





Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter In Different Countries


Can you believe it's already time for Easter? It has definitely thrown me for a loop and just sort of jumped on board! I've had so much going on the first quarter of 2015 that I must say, my mind just wasn't prepared for it.

However, when I used to go into the office everyday, I would have been counting the days until the holiday because I usually got Good Friday off. I know that's terrible but when you don't get many days off, that's on top of your list of things to look forward to.

But now that I work from home, it's more difficult to keep up with the holidays. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to see what other countries do to celebrate Easter. So I found an interesting article from Woman's Day that I thought I'd share with you.

Kids in the U.S. grow up expecting a delivery of eggs and candy from the Easter bunny each year, but it may seem odd to an outsider. Brought to this country by German immigrants in the 1700s, the practice is rooted in the belief that rabbits and eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth. While this may be the norm in America, however, other cultures have their their own, unique Easter celebrations. Whether it's drenching one another with water in Poland or reading crime novels in Norway, check out 10 Easter traditions from around the globe and the history behind them.

Children in this Scandinavian country go begging in the streets with sooty faces and scarves around their heads, carrying broomsticks, coffeepots and bunches of willow twigs. In some parts of Western Finland, people burn bonfires on Easter Sunday, a Nordic tradition stemming from the belief that the flames ward off witches who fly around on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Smingus-Dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to drench other people with buckets of water, squirt guns or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year. The refreshing tradition has its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD.

Don't forget a fork if you're in the southern French town of Haux, France on Easter Monday. Each year a giant omelet is served up in the town's main square. And when we say giant, we mean giant: The omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The story goes, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his army the next day. 

Easter is such a popular time for Norwegians to read crime novels that publishers actually come out with special "Easter Thrillers" known as Paaskekrimmen. The tradition is said to have started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers. The ads resembled news so much that people didn't know it was a publicity stunt.

Traveling to these Eastern European countries over Easter? If so, you'd better watch your back! There's an Easter Monday tradition in which men spank women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons. According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree's vitality and fertility to the women. This playful spanking is all in good fun and isn't meant to cause pain.

That's just a few ways that different countries celebrate Easter. Who would of "thunk", right?

So, how do you plan to celebrate?




Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Photo Tells a Thousand Stories

The other day I was gathering photo's of my dad for the video we are going to show at his memorial. As I looked through them, I realized that photo's tell a thousand stories!

One photo I came across, wasn't of my dad but of my oldest sister. Since I've been writing, I've been telling people that I am not the typical writer. I didn't dream of writing all my life. In fact, I didn't even like to read when I was small. But seeing this photo made me realize how wrong I was. I've actually been telling stories all my life! I just didn't put them on paper. Look at this photo.


Ooooh, scary, right! This is a photo from a video that we did. My family had gotten together for Thanksgiving one year at my parents house and everyone could come except my sister and brother from Virginia. I thought it would be fun to do a video for them since they had to spend the holiday alone. So I made up a story and the rest of us acted it out. Of course you can guess it was a murder mystery of "Who Dun It!" Each family member was very suspiciously killed off throughout the video and didn't know who could possibly be doing it. Turned out, the only member left at the end was Rinky Dink...the family dog! Ha ha, that was so much fun.

Here's a good one of my dad. It looks like he's just holding up something patriotic, right? Well this picture tells a much better story. This was either my dads birthday or Father's Day. I couldn't get him to say he wanted anything except some underwear!! So I decided to grant his wish, however not in the boring manner of just opening a box with underwear in it. I spiced it up (thanks Courtney) and decorated them with all this patriotic stuff because my dad was a very patriotic man and served in the army long ago. He got such a kick out of the way I dressed up his panties that they just had to take a photo of it. 


So you see, photo's are more than just photo's, they tell stories! And this one was magic to me.

This next one is just a photo of a little girl, right? Well no, it's me when I was in kindergarten. And there's a very funny story from this. I have an old school friend who told me that he still remembers (58 yrs later) when I walked into kindergarten looking like this, He thought I was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen! Can you believe that? Well at least I know that I was beautiful one day of my life!



Here's a funny one of my mom. This proves she was born to be a writer and storyteller too! She's so desperate, she's reading to the dog!



Here she is reading to yet another dog! Can you imagine what he's thinking? "Oh mom, am I really supposed to be caring about this crap!"



I can't tell you how many times when I've experienced writer's block, that I go back and look at pictures. They really do tell a thousand different stories.

So let's have some fun. Take a look at the photo below. Can you tell me what these people are looking at? Why is one taking a photo, one looks like she's running away and the other is looking towards the sky. Oh the stories we could come up with!








Thursday, March 19, 2015

Back to Work!

Hello my lovely followers. I feel like I've been away from blogging forever! And I must admit, I am literally forcing myself to write this week but I know it's important that I get back to it.

As some of you know, we lost our wonderful father, Robert W. Swope on February 17th. This has been devastating to my family because dad was so special to all of us. He'd been struggling with Alzheimer's for awhile so we knew that we might not have much longer with him but we had no idea he would go so quickly. In the end, he was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer on 1/23/15 and passed away less then a month later. However, he didn't seem as though he was suffering until maybe the last day or so. Even though it's so hard to realize he's gone from us, we all feel blessed that he went quickly and without much suffering. If he'd lingered on, it could've gotten much, much worse for him.

One thing I do know is that he's looking down from heaven shouting, "get off your butt and get back to writing!"


Dad was so proud of me, my mom and my sister for working so hard to get published. His eyes sparkled and his heart always burst with pride when he attended one of my brothers music concerts. And boy was he filled with joy and pride when his oldest daughter gave him two wonderful grandchildren and as he watched her become the fantastic mother she is. He had a lot of pride with all his kids and always made us feel special in our own little ways.

It's hard to get back to writing though since all I feel is sadness. How do I go from feeling heart broken and empty to writing a fluffy happy children's book? Well I have to remember why I started writing for kids in the first place. Because I love them that's why! And nothing makes me happier (besides going to the dog park and watching all the dogs run wild and play) than watching a child giggle, play, and just be a kid. Children have such an innocent light inside them that makes us realize what life is all about.

Enjoying every minute that we have on this earth is so important. Sometimes, in fact a lot of the times, it's hard to remember this but all of us need to try harder. We only have one life to live so we must make the best of it!

And to me, writing children's stories is one of the best experiences in my life so I simply must get back to it! There's a kid out there just waiting for one of my books to be read to them.
I can't let them down.

But soon, they will have my next book The Color of  Love in their hands. I'm self-publishing this one because I just wanted to experience it and be able to work with a local illustrator (Deborah Forbes) that's in my writing group. All the illustrations are complete and it's in the hands of Mascot Publishing right now. It should be available in 30-45 days. Yippee!

So that's it for me right now. Does anyone else have some good book news to share?






Saturday, January 24, 2015

Giveaway winner!

And the winner of children's author, Michelle Hirstius's giveaway is...drum roll...Kelly Hashway! Look for an email from Michelle on how she can get you your book.

As most of you know, I usually post on Thursdays. However, my family has just gotten some devastating news about my father's health and I need to be there to support them as we struggle through this difficult time. Right now I have no idea how long I'll be gone from updating my blog or what's going to happen so unfortunately I have to put my blogging on hold for now. I'm sorry to do this but my family is everything to me and my focus has to be with them right now.

Please check back from time to time and don't give up on me. I'll be back, it just might be awhile.

I appreciate everyone's patience and hope that you all have a better 2015 than I'm having!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Children's Author/Illustrator, Michelle Hirstius and a Giveaway!

Today I have the honor of spotlighting, Michelle Hirstius a very talented children's author and illustrator from New Orleans.  Michelle writes and illustrates the darling picture book series about a voodoo doll named JuJu. I can tell you from stalking watching her that she is an extremely busy author. Michelle is everywhere down here in the south. She works really hard to get her books out there and I'm sure it's paying off.

Michelle Hirstius was born and raised in New OrleansLouisiana; she calls herself a “NOLA girl through and through”.  Growing up in New Orleans is truly unique and there is no other place like it.  The music, food, art and culture! 

Michelle has a professional background in sales, marketing, acting and management.  She has been drawing since High School but it has only been a hobby. 

Since Katrina, she has been through many struggles trying to rebuild her foundation and career.  Michelle has realized there is no place like home and has gone back to her roots in New Orleans and her passion for drawing.  Doodling one day, symbols of New Orleans, she had an image of a voodoo doll and Michelle instantly fell in love and named her JUJU.   Michelle believes everything happens for a reason and if it wasn’t for her struggles and hard times, Juju would have never been created.  Juju is like Michelle’s “Superbowl” giving her motivation to keep on going.  Michelle is very excited to bring Juju alive and tell her story of how Juju became “Juju the GOOD voodoo” and can’t wait for all her adventures.

Most recently she has received a Proclamation of Recognition from the City of New Orleans for her accomplishments with Juju the GOOD voodoo children’s books.

Michelle lives in the Greater New Orleans area with her Cairn terrier, Sassy

And for my followers, Michelle has graciously offered a giveaway of her first book Juju the Good Voodoo. All you have to do is leave a comment. We'll announce the winner on next weeks blog.


From New Orleans author and illustrator Michelle Hirstius comes a charming tale about Juju.  Down in “da bayou” of Louisiana, we find a voodoo doll named Juju.  Juju is no ordinary voodoo doll, she happens to be the one Marie has been looking for.  This very special doll comes alive with an enchanting “good deeds” spell in the pages of this delightful fable where we find just the beginning of many adventures. 

Juju is adorable and will enter your hearts as she comes off the pages of this enchanting tale.

Children and adults will fall in love and enjoy reading the origin of where Juju came from and what she is set out to see and what “good deeds” are to come.  This book lets children learn about GOOD voodoo and that all voodoo is not bad, it’s turns a so called negative into a positive.

In this first book we discover how Juju becomes “Juju the GOOD voodoo” and we are left in anticipation of where she will go next or who will she help…

I've asked Michelle a few questions below so we can get to know her a little better:

Michelle, we hear that you’ve recently located to Baton Rouge, LA., and are wondering how you’re enjoying it and how it’s different than New Orleans?
So far I LOVE it here!  It's much like New Orleans as far as places to go and eat just more spread out.  It is though alot more family oriented which I like :)  Everyone has been very welcoming and not knowing anyone here I appreciate that!

JuJu is such a cute character, can you tell us a little more about how you came up with her and why you chose to make her a voodoo doll?
Well actually I'm an artist and I wanted to paint painting similar to Rodriguez with the Blue Dog, he inspired me to create a character that I thought could represent the city and state of Louisiana... I was sketching out a French Quarter scene and well basically Juju drew herself! She was so cute and I thought she had to have a story behind her. I wrote the first book in 20 mins! now all the books don't come that easily haha but sometimes things are just meant to be and I feel Juju was meant to be for me :)

What makes JuJu unique and what can kids learn from her?
Juju is very unique!!! Her being a voodoo doll and the misconception that voodoo is bad, not everything that is so called "bad" is, it's all how you look at things and what you do with them.  Juju puts and show the "positive" in coming alive with a "good deeds" spell.  It's just like money, people can be greedy and do harm with money or can they can do good and benefit other with money.  Voodoo was actually started to ward off evil spirits and help people get through troubled times.

Juju also looks different then other dolls and she shows that it's OK to be different, look different, be unique, that's what makes us all special in our own way.  Be yourself always, don't try to "fit in" because you think that's the norm... Juju doesn't she is who she is!


If you weren’t an illustrator/writer what would you be doing instead?
Probably still doing sales or retail, I have worked in sales, marketing and retail since I was 16.  I'm so glad Juju came into my life, I can't tell you I how I enjoy doing this than anything else.  I hope I inspire other to follow their dreams and always just "go for it" that way you can never look back and say "what if I would have...."

Do you plan to create other books that aren’t associated with your JuJu character?
Yes, I do.... I have about 10 books in my head for Juju and another 5 for another character, guess I need to get crackin! haha

What are you working on now?
Well, if I tell you it wouldn't be a secret then heehee element of surprise haha


Michelle has written and published five JuJu books, her most recent one Juju To The Rescue.

In Juju’s 5th book her latest adventure “Juju to the Rescue”, Juju thinks it’s an ordinary day to go for a ride in her airboat when she sees a crowd gathered.  She finds out that a puppy is stuck in a pile of fallen trees, Juju uses her “good deeds” spell and shrinks.  She rescues the puppy and brings him to a shelter so they can fix his paw and later Juju decides to adopt him,

In the back of the book Juju also teaches children what “good deeds” they can do to help shelters, how to care for your pet and helpful animal links.

10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Humane Society of Louisiana from this book. The Humane Society of Louisiana protects and defends animals from cruelty, neglect and mistreatment. Through our cruelty investigation, crime prevention, education and animal care programs, we promote nonviolence and compassion for all animals statewide. For more information go to www.humanela.org. 















Michelle’s books are available on amazon.com as well as many gift and boutique shops throughout the area. Please contact her for any additional information.

www.JujuTheGoodVoodoo.com
www.facebook.com/JujuTheGood
Instagram: JujuTheGoodVoodoo
Twitter: JujuGoodVoodoo


Don't forget to comment on this post for your chance to win an authographed copy of Juju the GOOD Voodoo.