Making A List and Checking It Twice

Merry Christmas everyone! Are we all ready? I must say that I am. This year, not sure why, I had all my decorating and shopping done, wrapped and shipped two weeks ago! And am so glad I did because it was already expensive enough to ship everything the cheapest way. If I'd waited much longer, I'd be paying double just to get things there on time. And when all your relatives live far away and you have to ship every single pays to force yourself to get organized and done in good time. So I'm giving myself a big pat on the back this year. Just hope I didn't forget anyone?

Have you ever done that? Forgot to get someone a gift? I have never actually done that but have NOT gotten someone something who got me a gift. That is not a good feeling. You wonder...should I run out and get something? And if I do, will they think I only did it because they got me a present? Who knows what the right answer to that is. This year I had a friend get me something but I hadn't gotten her anything. I decided to let it be and just enjoy the fact that she thought of me! I'll just make sure to reciprocate next year. No clue if that's the right way to handle it or not but I know she's ok with that.

I read something the other day, I think it was in 'Miss Manners' column that this person is fed up with people giving her lists of things they want for Christmas. She wondered had all the magic and wonder of Christmas gone away? What happened to people going through the joy of opening a gift and not knowing what was inside? I have mixed feelings
about that. I do love to be surprised by what's in the package. However, it is so much easier to shop for someone who gives you a list!! Especially when you don't know what they have, like, or need. I must admit though, that it irks me when I get a list from someone and I didn't ask for it! To me that's awfully presumptuous.

For me it really isn't as much fun to open a gift that you know exactly what's inside. We used to have a relative who used to send us kids the same exact thing every year. I was appreciative but have to admit, I tried to open that gift first because it just wasn't exciting! I loved this relative dearly though and did like getting a new pair of hose and $20 each year, it just wasn't that fun to open.

So how do you feel about lists? Do you like buying off them or do you like to ignore and get them something they aren't expecting? And do you like opening a gift that you already know what's inside?

Even so, I hope that everyone has a delightful, safe, fun and magical Christmas! Enjoy the moment and I'll see ya in 2015!

Spotlight on Children's Author, Bill Smith

Well did you all think I ran away? Actually, sometimes I thought about it so I could escape the crap going on with AT&T. Our internet has been in and out, mostly out, for three weeks now and lets face it, our lives revolve around all things "internet" these days! Anyway, I won't bore you with all the details, I just wanted to explain why I haven't updated my blog in awhile. But hopefully the nightmare is over and I can get back to business!

Today I'm honored to introduce you to a new children's book author, Bill Smith. He has just recently released his first picture book, Sue The 'Mingo'. This is such a cute and creative story, I wanted all of you to know about it.

I asked Bill a few questions to help us get to know about him and his book a little better:

I understand that it was your daughter’s love of flamingo’s that possessed you to write Sue the Mingo? Can you tell us a little more about that?

Our daughter loves flamingos. When we first took her to the zoo, they became her favorite animal!  She loves pink.  When she was little she would call them ‘mingos ( and since then, so have we, still today!)

Do you have pink flamingo’s in your yard?

We currently have one 6 ft tall inflatable flamingo in the front yard, and about a dozen or more in the house (including a large metal one that is in the living room.

What made you decide to have Sue the Mingo change her colors throughout the story?

With regard to the story, my intent was to target preschool and early elementary kids, so learning their colors is an important lesson that I felt we could help with in a fun, entertaining way.

Did you take any classes or anything to help you become a writer?

I have a degree in Business Administration, so the only formal writing education that I have came from Southeastern.  I think it’s important to use your imagination like when you were a child; don’t limit yourself.

Have you written anything else?

This is the first project that I have actually published.  The second Sue story is written; “Sue The ‘Mingo Visits Mardi Gras”;  hope to get it published at the first part of 2015.  (we hope to make this a continuing series, letting our ‘Mingo’s imagination take us where she will!);

Where can people find your book?

The book is available at our website,, on eBay, at Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs (on their website as well), Persnickety in Zachary, Oak Point Supermarket in Watson and Central, and at Saunders Lux Jewelers in Bocage.

Sue The 'Mingo' is a 32 page, large format (8 1/2" x 11") paperback, full color, and is perfect for kids preschool through elementary age. The story is about a flamingo named Sue who wonders what it would be like if her feathers were colored anything but pink! Sue was inspired by my daughter. She has always loved flamingo's. (She actually has always loved pink, and after our first trip to the zoo, fell in love with the pink birds, which she called "mingo's!") So at our house, "mingo" became a word that we use very, ver often! Sue uses her vivid imagination to dream, therefore we chose "Dream Like A Mingo" as our motto.

W. J. Smith, Jr. lives in Denham Springs, LA with his wife and 2 children. “Sue The ‘Mingo” is his first book in a continuing series. (The second, “Sue The ‘Mingo Visits Mardi Gras” will be out in the spring of 2015.) Graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, bachelors degree in Business Administration.  A life long writer, motivated to action by my family. Bill enjoys the marketing and promotion of this book almost as much as writing it.

Thank you, Bill for letting me feature you on my blog today. I wish you a bright and rewarding future with Sue The 'Mingo' and all of Sue's new adventures!

Futureword Publishing's New Picture Book Contest

Did you hear the good news? Futureword Publishing is having their 2nd Children's Picture Book Contest. It's open to published, unpublished, and self-published authors. All you have to do is enter!

If you happen to be the lucky winner, you'll receive a contract with Futureword Publishing which includes publication and the chance to work with the award winning illustrator, Valerie Bouthyette who will bring your book to life. But it doesn't end there! The 1st place winner will also win a $500 cash prize. The 2nd place winner will win $300 plus their story will be included in a book of short stories. The 3rd place winner will win $200 plus their story will be included in a book of short stories as well.

I have two books published by Futureword Publishing and a third on the way. I can honestly say that I am so happy Futureword gave me a chance and published me for the first time. They gave me all the encouragement and attention I needed as a new author.

So what are YOU waiting for? Get your story ready and submit by Feb. 9th and the entry fee will only be $35. If you enter after that, the fee is $45. Closing date for the contest is March 1, 2015.

Click here to read all the details.

Gearing up for November

Welcome back to me!

I just got back from visiting my family in Virginia and must say, although I'm glad to be back to home-sweet-home, I'm also sad inside. My parents are aging, Mom is turning 87 in a few weeks and my dad turns 89 this Saturday. They are both in pretty rough shape physically and have a hard time getting around. On top of that, my dad has Alzheimer's so it's doubly rough on my mom. However, she is making the best of it and just takes things one day at a time. Thankfully with a lot of hard work and research, my sister and brother were able to find my parents some really great and dependable help. We have a home health specialist coming in 3 days a week and my dad goes to Eldercare twice a week. Both of these have been huge blessings to both my parents and us kids. It was hard to leave them but much easier knowing they were in capable hands.

Now that I'm back, I'm trying to gear up for some upcoming book events. This weekend, Saturday, Nov. 1st, I will be at the Louisiana Book Festival in downtown Baton Rouge. I look forward to this every year because thousands of people walk the sidewalks of this event. It's wonderful seeing so many people that have a love of books.

November 15th I'll be at the Livingston Festival in Livingston, LA and then Nov. 21 & 22nd you can find me at the Broadmoor Arts & Crafts Festival.

I'll also be participating in this years PiBoldMo (Picture Book Idea Month). This will be my first year participating and I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll be able to come up with some great story ideas!

That's it for me. I'm going to be a busy beaver this month but I'm ready! How about you? Do you have any big writing events coming up?

Welcome Fall!

Finally one of my favorite seasons is here! To those of you who live up north, it's probably been visiting you for a few weeks already. Down here in Louisiana, it visited us for two days last week but summer has pushed it's way back. We are back in the high 80's to 90's. GO AWAY SUMMER!! I am in desperate need of fall.

What I love most about fall is the gorgeous colors of the leaves, which in Louisiana we don't get to see much of. But a girl can dream!

Getting out the boots. I love my boots. To me they are the most comfortable shoe to wear and besides, they sure look cute!

It's time to warm up some chili! I love chili, Yum! But only when the weather is cold and crisp.

Sweats! Like boots, I love throwing on my sweats and romping around. They might not show off our women's physique but who cares! They are comfy. (I'm not posting a picture because let's face it, we all look like crap in them!)

Taking walks with my dogs and looking at all the Halloween decorations.

Candy corn! Love that stuff especially the fat orange pumpkins.

The new TV season begins! Thank goodness because I get so sick of summer reruns! This year I'm enjoying the new show The Mysteries of Laura. Has anyone else been watching it? Also, I really look forward to seeing the new episodes of shows like Revenge, Nashville, Scandal, Greys Anatomy, The Millers, and The Voice. I'm happy now!
And I love, love, love attending the Louisiana Book Festival that happens every November. It's so enjoyable to me to sit outside in the crisp cool air, and watch people's reaction to my books. I hope they enjoy my new book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words. Wish me luck!

Another thing I love about fall coming is going to visit my family in Virginia. I usually do that every fall. My husband stays home so I get my own, real quality time with my parents, sister and brother. In fact, I'm heading up there this week so that means I will not be updating my blog until I return.
What do you like best about fall?

Discoveries by Allyn

Remember Hints by Heloise? Well today I'm blogging about some really cool things I've discovered this year that are making my life easier! And I'm all about anything that is quicker, better, and more efficient. I thought it would be fun to share a few of my discoveries with you.

Some of you may already know all about them but they are new to me! The first two are things my mother-in-law told me about.

Washing windows with newspaper: When my mother-in-law told me she's been doing this for years... well I thought for sure she'd lost it. Wouldn't the black from the newsprint get the window all dirty? This didn't make one bit of sense to me. However, I tried it and shazam!! My windows have never sparkled so much. The newsprint doesn't rub off onto the windows, not one bit. Dummy me has been using paper towels or a cloth all these years and was always left cussing at the dust residue left on the window. The newspaper method leaves no residue whatsoever. Just clean, sparkling, beautifully clean windows. However, if you don't use plastic gloves, your fingers may end up with black on them. Anyway, I'll never use paper towels again! Thank you mom!

Making bacon in the oven:  I've always fried my bacon and then gotten so upset at the messy grease you get everywhere. Again my "very wise" mother-in-law told me she puts hers in the oven. So I tried it and it works just fine. And so much less mess. I put my bacon in a broiler pan so that the bacon grease will drip into the bottom pan. Cook at 350 for about an hour. Works great! I usually do that whenever I'm making bacon for a salad or something like that. I still prefer the taste of fried bacon but this is a great secondary method.

Put your paint brush in the freezer: I don't know about you but when I'm painting a large area I hate the fact that when you stop for the day or even a few hours you have to wash your paint brush for the next days painting or it will get all dried up on your brush. Well someone once told me to put foil around the brush and stick it in the freezer. Then about 20 minutes before you're going to paint again, take it out. Once it thaws out a little, your brush will be nice and moist and ready to go again. I do this all the time now. Works wonderful! I know now that there are some things you can buy at the store to wrap around the brush giving it the same effect but why pay money for something when you don't have to. Just wrap it in foil!

Hairspray for your eyelashes: This is probably my favorite discovery this year. And no, I'm not really talking about hairspray but this works just like it. All my life I've spent an extra 15-20 minutes on my make-up because I wanted my eyelashes to look curly and long. I would curl them, put mascara on, curl them again...and again and even then I wouldn't be truly happy because 10 minutes later they'd look like I hadn't done anything to them at all! So the last year or so I've been playing around with different mascara's. I even tried using fake eyelashes for awhile until the glue was
ruining my own lashes. FINALLY I discovered primer for lashes. The kind I use is by Dior called Maximizer Lash Plumping Serum. It shows up white on your lashes until you put the mascara on. This stuff is a life saver! It works like hairspray for the lashes. I then discovered a fantastic mascara that lengthens the lashes. It's also by Dior and it's called Iconic Overcurl. Now both of these products cost about $20 each, which is more than I like to spend on mascara, but they both last forever and are worth their weight in gold. Here's what I do. I curl one eyes lashes, then put on a generous portion of primer. Not a lot, but enough to where all the lashes look white.

Then I curl the other eye and do the same. Once the primer has dried just a little bit I apply a very thin coat of mascara and my eyelashes look marvelous! Long and curled just beautifully and the best part is...they stay that way all day. I have cut down my 15 minutes of messing with mascara down to about 5. Well worth the money!

Oven mat for the oven: If you're like me, my oven is always getting crap all over the bottom and I absolutely hate cleaning it. One day I found a silver non-stick ovenliner that has saved my life from ever having a filthy oven bottom again! All you do is place this liner (which can be trimmed to fit your oven) on the bottom rack of your oven. Then anything that drips off your food will now end up on this liner, leaving the bottom of your oven clean. The liner can just be wiped off or even put in the dishwasher. I think I found mine at Bed-Bath-and Beyond. Love it!

Ring around the toilet: I don't know what the heck is wrong with the water in our house but it's constantly leaving a ring around my toilets that wont come off. I'm constantly using cleaner and my toilet brush but it just won't come off. Finally I discovered the Pumice stick. Works beautifully, however you need to make sure you keep it nice and wet while your scrubbing. But it does the job and leaves your toilet nice and sparkling!

Ok, that's it for me. This was fun! So if I come across any other "life saving" discoveries in my life I'll pass those along sometime again.

Have any of you discovered something lately that has made your life a little easier?

Spotlight on Children's Author, Sherry Alexander

Today it's a real honor to feature an author who is not only very talented but has a heart of gold. She has written a new children's picture book, Oliver's Hunger Dragon and is donating a portion of the proceeds to help end childhood hunger. Now THAT is someone with a warm heart. Meet Sherry Alexander.

Sherry Alexander, a 2013 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, is a writer, author, blogger, and child advocate who writes both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. This is her first picture book, and comes from her own childhood memory of two Portland Police Officers who brought her family a food basket when they were in need. It is her dream that someday no child will ever experience hunger again. She lives with her husband of 45 years on a small SW Washington ranch with their two horses, two dogs, and the occasional pack of coyotes.  Visit her online at
Oliver has a Hunger Dragon who rumbles and grumbles. He wants it to go away, but Hunger says he plans to stay. Is Oliver the only one who has a dragon deep inside?

Join Oliver as he discovers the power of friendship and the sharing spirit in Oliver’s Hunger Dragon by Sherry Alexander and illustrated by Amy Rottinger.
Oliver has a secret that he’s never seen! But boy does it make loud rumbling and grumbling noises. What could it be?
In this adorably illustrated rhyming book we travel through the life of Oliver who is suffering from hunger. This story makes us realize there is a lot more to feeling hungry than just the dragons in our belly.
Oliver and his friends unite together by sharing what they have and making those nasty, loud dragons disappear!
The biggest lesson in this wonderful story is teaching kids to realize if they have something to share, it could really help another person.
I loved this book both in the style of writing, the message it sends and the beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it to everyone not only because it’s something kids will enjoy but because the author wrote with her heart, unselfishly, and for the sole purpose of helping, one step at a time, the problem of world hunger.
Don’t forget when you buy a book a portion of the proceeds go to:
The Clark County Washington Food Bank
Feeding America
The Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division of Oregon

Olivers Hunger Dragon is available at the following locations as well as and other online retailers.
Congratulations, Sherry! I hope Oliver's Hunger Dragon is a tremendous success and that we'll see more of your wonderful books in the future.


Spotlight on Author, Courtney Rene

Have you ever wished you could disappear away from everyone and everything into the shadows? Wouldn't that be awesome? Well if you've read any of the Shadow Dancer series, you'd realize it isn't all fun and games.

Today I'm so excited to be spotlighting the very talented author, and good friend, Courtney Rene. She has just released her 5th book! As I read the words Courtney writes, I find myself stopping to chuckle and think to myself, I can so hear Courtney saying that! She has a very subtle way of bringing out some of her own personality in her characters. But even if you don't know Courtney, you'll enjoy her style of writing as she always sprinkles in a little bit of humor and makes your heart and soul get involved in her characters.

Courtney's Bio:

Courtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children.  She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature.  Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night and the Shadow Dancer series, published through Rogue Phoenix Press.  For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot or feel free to contact her at

This latest book titled Shadow Fire, is the 4th book in her YA Paranormal Shadow Dancer series. The first three books were told from Sunny's perspective who is her female protagonist. However, in this book she's added an interesting twist and is telling the story from a man's POV. For those of you who've read her series, this is Leif's story. Remember, he was Sunny's love...well for awhile, until he watched her die!

Here's a teaser to get you excited!

No one really knows who Leif is. They know the man he portrays and the things he has done, both good and bad. He was a boy that came from nothing and grew into a man full of rage that almost killed the one person he set out to save. He roams the realms waiting for death,. Waiting for an absolution that doesn't come. Then a rumor surfaces. A threat has been made against Sunny. Leif sets out to try to right the wrongs of his past. He sets out to do what he was meant to do from the beginning, save the queen. Can he do it alone or will he have to do the one thing that is hardest for him, which is: ask for help.
Shadow Fire is available at the following locations:
Congratulations, Courtney!


Pushing Ourselves

As many of us writers know, creating a good book is all about pushing ourselves. Sure, most of us have done our research on what it takes to write a good story. The right way to do it, the wrong way to do it. We work hard at perfecting our grammar and punctuation so it's as flawless as we can get it but what makes us different from other authors?

The bottom line is we need to push ourselves to accomplish our uniqueness.


When I was writing Kailee Finds Magic IN Words, I sent a good story to my publisher, she loved it. But I was using the typical magic wand, and a creature that's been used a dozen times before. My publisher reminded me that maybe I should make the story more unique. You know, throw out the magic wand and come up with something different.

When I read her comments, I thought to myself, "What's wrong with a magic wand? What the heck else is there?" Then after hours of thinking, thinking, thinking, a magic light bulb finally popped on in my head and said, "Come on, you're a fiction writer, use your imagination to create something that fits the part!"

So I racked my pea brain for what magical instrument would a chipmunk need fixed? That's when I decided I needed something a chipmunk uses on a daily basis and that I could make current with todays decade. And suddenly a magic "broken" nutcracker appeared and Oliver the chipmunk needed the password to reboot it.

I felt good about coming up with something a little different. I patted myself on the back but quickly took another big "sigh" when I realized that my job wasn't done. I needed to invent someone special who could fix it!

And that was when the Grand Garoogle came to life. Check back with me later and I'll share with you how I created that creature and where its name came from.

And no, I didn't do the illustrations, that was all Valerie Bouthyette's talent coming to life. She was able to take the picture in my head and make it come alive.

I have to admit, pushing myself was tons of fun. It was a lot of work but very uplifting and left me feeling much more satisfied with the story.

So, I'm curious. Have any of you had an experience where you really had to push yourself? And what did you come up with?

Library of Congress

Well I'm very sad to say that today's blog is going to be me complaining!

Being an author is really hard, as all you writer's know. But today I sent in to the Library of Congress for a copyright on my upcoming book Hippo Bottomless and the fee has gone up $69. I've registered all my books so far and it's only been $35, which to me is reasonable. However, now it's $104. Is there no one out there that can help us authors out?

It just seems like everyone is out to hurt us. It's so difficult to write a good story to begin with. We have to do tons of research to do it right. Then we spend hours upon hours researching publishers and trying to obey their submission guidelines to the letter because we know if we miss one step, all our hard work will be thrown in the slush pile faster than we can say "what the .....!"

And I've heard it's even harder to find an agent to represent us.

I have five more books coming out which is going to cost me now over $500 just for the copyright. And at $11 a book, there is barely anyway I can make that money back, pay off all the other debts associated with keeping my writing a flow and make any kind of profit.

I absolutely love writing my books and participating in book signings but it's hard to keep smiling sometimes when it's so darn difficult to make a buck doing it.

I am sorry if I'm bringing any writers or potential writers down today, but I know tomorrow will be better. However, sometimes a girl just has to get the frustration out! Do any of you other authors sometimes feel this way too?


Blog Hopping

To start this week out, I'd like to share a picture with you'all of two "oh so adorable" fans of Kailee, the character in my books. They have purchased both The Pea in Peanut Butter and Kailee Finds Magic IN Words. Their mother tells me they love them both! Makes me and Kailee so happy to hear that someone is enjoying our stories. Thank you Piper and Zoey!

Also this week I have been tagged to take part in a blog-hop by Courtney.  Thank you so much Courtney for the tag.  I was asked four questions, which are as follows:

1. What are you currently working on? I am always working on my next picture book but this week I'm busy mailing out submissions for a Tooth Fairy story I've written. Researching publishers guidelines and getting the submissions in the mail takes days, and I must admit I hate this part of being a writer. However, after it's done I do feel like I've really accomplished something! But the waiting and wondering about whether the story will get accepted is not only a long slow one, but it can be very depressing. So as soon as I get these submissions out, I'll be working on finishing up the next story so I don't sit around worrying about the one I just submitted.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? Well I'm not so sure my work is that different but I try to bring a unique voice to my characters. I also love to sprinkle in a little magic to my stories because that's what I loved as a child and I do believe that's what other kids love the most.

3. Why do I write what I write? Because I love it. It's so much fun to be able to bring out the kid in me by writing picture books. I'm actually addicted to them. I love reading them and looking at the beautiful illustrations. And although I get nervous when reading my story to kids, it fills me with so much joy when I can see they are loving the story. I've learned a lot from reading to the kids and watching their faces and now whenever I write a story, their faces are what I envision as I write the words. 

4. How does my individual writing process work? My writing process is crazy sometimes. When I get an idea in my head, I immediately write it down. I have a huge list of book ideas. Once I decide to finally pick one up and start on it, I do a bit of outlining, not extensive. I need to know what message I'm trying to convey right away. I also need to know the name of my main character or I can't seem to get the story right. Sometimes I have to start with a title and then go from there. I spend a lot of time making up silly titles. A few of my stories I had the title in my head for years before I actually came up with the right story for it.

In order to keep the hop going, I need to tag two other writers to answer the same questions.  I have chosen:

This is a great opportunity to meet and greet these writers you may not know of so please stop on over and say hello to them. Mikki has a new book out and Sherry is about to have her first picture book published. Congrats to them both. Happy writing!


Book Signings in Edgerton, Ohio

"Super fantastic" are the words that come to mind when I think about the recent book signings my mother, sister, and I had back in our home town of Edgerton, Ohio. I have to admit that I was a bit doubtful whether or not people would show up to see us. My first book signing there three years ago was so magical that I wasn't believing it could be anything close to that again this time!

But it was actually better. Not because more people showed up, but because I got to share it with my mom and sister. It was so enlightening and encouraging to see people showing up to see them this time. We truly felt loved.

One of the best things about the weekend was that my two oldest nieces from Texas showed up to surprise us! Sondra, my oldest niece is in the black and her younger sister, Tara is in the blue jean top. Not only did they come, they helped us set-up and tear-down and made our weekend so very special. It truly meant the world to all of us.

The lady on the left is Verna, my mom's best friend and her daughter, Linda in the middle. They were so gracious and hosted a luncheon for us! Thanks ladies!

One of the big surprises of the day was when my brothers best friend in grade school showed up! None of us had seen him in decades so it meant so much that he came to support us. My brother, Mark is on the left and his friend, Brent on the right.

I do believe though that the biggest star of our show was my best friend since I was five yrs. old, Penny! She showed up for every single event, just like she did for my first book signing three yrs. ago. Not only did she come, she helped grab people to come see us and spread the word around town. There she is in the peach top and jeans acting like our marketing agent! We love you, Penny and thanks so much for your friendship and support!

I just can't express how much fun my family had seeing all our old friends and how much it meant to all of us. So, I'm just going to show you some more pictures!
Here is my dad (on right with arms crossed) conversing with his good friend, Joe Sito. My dad has alzheimer's so I'm not 100% sure he knew who he was talking to but he sure put on a good face. One of the things my dad enjoyed the most was the Edgerton parade. At the beginning, the town stood up to sing the Star Spangled Banner. My family watched as my dad sang along remembering every single word. Woo hoo!
Here is the Edgerton High School Band which brings back so many memories for my family. Each one of us kids marched in this band at one time, down this very street. And I must say, they still sound terrific!

Here's a picture of some of my best friends growing up. I spent many a day hanging with them, and of course we always behaved! From left are, Kalli, Donna, Penny (of course!) and me. Naturally I'm the fattest one! Story of my life. Love you ladies! I really thought this dress looked cute...what was I thinking!

Here's my goofy niece, Sondra being amazed at how high the corn stalks are in Ohio. You don't see that in Texas!

Below is a picture of our gracious and generous host, Susan (in blue shirt). She volunteered to let us have a book signing in her hair salon. Now a salon is NOT the most practical place to have a book signing but she made us all feel at home and it turned out to be pretty darn successful! The lady standing beside her is Maxine Sanders who took over my mom's old column in the Edgterton Earth Newspaper. She showed up to say hello and told us she had written a book with recipes in it. She brought one to show us and to her surprise we all ended up buying a copy! So she had a successful book signing as well!

Now below is a "not so flattering" photo of any of us, but this was probably our funnest guest. The lady in the hat was our favorite babysitter, Sandy growing up (and of course she's Penny's oldest sister). The guy in the yellow shirt is my hubby, Brad. We had a blast reminiscing with her. Sandy told us a story that one of us kids was always causing trouble. Was it me? NO; Was it my sister, Genilee? NO; Was it my brother? NO; it was my oldest sister Monya (who couldn't make it home). And Monya always called US the brats. We made sure to video Sandy saying this. Ha ha to Monya! We love you anyway. LOL
Well I have many more photo's of our wonderful book signing events but I guess I'd better stop here. Thanks again to everyone who came out to support us. We love you all!
Left to right: Mom, Dad, Genilee, her hubby RJ, Tara, Me, Sondra, Mark, Brad (why is he standing so far away? Do you suppose we were embarrassing him? ha).


Here We Come, Edgerton!!

I'm very happy to say that a fellow author, Claudine Gueh Yanting is sponsoring a giveaway of my new picture book Kailee Finds Magic IN Words, on her blog. Check it out for a chance to win a free autographed copy

As some of you may know, myself, my sister and our mother are all meeting up in Edgerton, Ohio on July 25 & 26th. We are going to have several book signings there.

Edgerton, Ohio is where my siblings and I grew up. It's a small community and according to the 2010 census, there are a little over 2000 people living there. Edgerton has two stop lights and boy do I know them well! As a teenager I drove through those stop lights a million times just coasting around hoping to run into people I knew, which was almost impossible NOT to do. I have some very memorable stories about those events. Some of my friends will remember what we did when passing a certain, Mark Gineman, through town!! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! What fun.

One of the things that makes Edgerton very special is the fact that we had a statute named Clem, right in the middle of town. At the time, we thought it was a pain to have to drive around but it really did make us unique. Later in life, Clem was relocated to the front of City Hall.
I can't imagine growing up in a better community than Edgerton. Our school was small, I think my graduating class had about 62 students, so our teachers were able to give us the special attention we needed to succeed. We weren't just a number, our teachers knew who we were and our backgrounds, which can sometimes be a good thing and other times...not so good. I didn't get good grades in school but was always reminded by some of my teachers that my two older sisters did! Sigh.
Here is a photo of our old high school which is no longer the school. It is still there but has been converted into office space for city employees since our City Hall was destroyed in a tornado a few years ago.

I still have such great memories of one of the houses we grew up in. I loved that house and have dreams periodically about visiting it again to see how it has changed. My husband and I drive by it every time we're in town. Here's a picture of how it looked when we lived in it. The bay window at top was the bedroom I shared with two other sisters! We only had one teeny tiny bathroom in that house to share amongst four females and two males! I don't know how we ever survived that.

Growing up in a small town did have it's challenges but we didn't really realize what big of challenges they were until we moved away!

But there are no better people in the world than the people of Edgerton or those that lived there but are now living elsewhere. At least that is how us Swope's feel.

And that is why we are making the long trips up there to have some special book signings! We are all so excited to come back home.

Here is where we'll be having our book signings and we hope that our friends, family, and acquaintances will stop by so we can say hi and give them a giant sized hug!

Friday, July 25 - 11:00 - 1:30pm - Edgerton Library. I'll be reading my book to the kiddo's probably right around 11:00. If any adults stick around and are interested, my sis and mom will speak a little bit about their writing experience.

Friday, July 25 - 5-7:30pm - Festival of Flags under the big tent, Miller park

Saturday, July 26 - 12-3:00pm - Susan's Hair Flair, downtown. We'll be there during and after the parade.

Hope to see some of you there!

Happy Fourth of July

My wish is for all of you to have a safe, fun filled holiday! And that my dogs will go potty outside like good doggies BEFORE all the fireworks start cracking!

My Book is Published! Now What?

I've announced the release of my newest children's picture book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words on Facebook and some other social media sites and now I'd like to introduce it on my blog! This book is a sequel to The Pea in Peanut Butter.

Kailee doesn't like to read but her mother is forcing her to practice. She'd much rather play dolls or rock out on her drums. Until she finally opens a book. Magic happens and she finds herself inside the book where she meets a talking chipmunk, Oliver. Together they go on an adventure to find the Grand Garoogle. Kailee discovers that words can take you on all kinds of adventures if you just believe.

I absolutely loved writing this story! I discovered a few things about myself after writing this story too. I love writing fantasy! Being able to use my imagination to its fullest capacity really gets my engine roaring. After all, when I was a kid, my imagination was wild. I played all kinds of magical things with my brother and sister. Sometimes when our parents were gone and my sister and I were left to babysit our younger brother, we really had to stretch our minds to keep ourselves from getting bored. We didn't have all the electronic gadgets of today to occupy ourselves.

My little brother was so much fun (well in between fights that is). I'm sure deep down he thought my sister and I were completely insane with some of things we made him play out. But he was always a good sport and played right into our hands. Even when we made him play the part of Cheetah, while my sis and I were Tarzan and Jane. I'm surprised he even speaks to us after making him do that!

I think one of his favorite "magical quests" was when we set up our living room as an obstacle course. We blind folded him and made him find his way under tables, over chairs, through tunnels and whenever he did, he got some kind of candy! He loved that.

It's because of one of our nutty magical games we played that I am a writer today. One of our adventure's always stuck in my mind and that was what made me sit down and begin writing my first story. I thought it would make a great MG novel. Once I began tapping on the keyboard, I discovered how magnificent it felt and I haven't stopped writing since. However, I've yet to finish that novel.

I discovered early on that it's picture books I'm most passionate about and what I seem to be pretty good at. So that's what I've stuck with the last five years. Someday, I do plan to expand onto novels of some kind.

Ok, so now my second picture book is out. Now WHAT? Well I have more waiting in the wings but in the meantime, here comes the hardest part of writing. At least in my eyes. PROMOTION.

I am not a salesperson, in fact I suck at it. I don't like pushing anything on people. But if us authors don't do that, no one will even know about our books, let alone buy them. And although writing isn't really an expensive side-kick, we still need to make what money we do spend...back. And some profit would be thrilling! But the only way to do that is to get the word out. Which is not an easy task. Especially if you're like me and you just don't know that many people.

So that's where I'm at today. I'm sure that a lot of people that don't understand how important it is to our careers as writers that we remind people over and over about our books, get a little sick of seeing us telling the world constantly that we have a book out. But I hope my audience will be patient with me and better me celebrate and spread the word!

Kailee Finds Magic IN Words is available on right now but soon will be available on all online bookstores. If anyone would like an autographed copy, just shoot me an email at

I'm Confused!!

Do you ever feel confused? Silly question huh? The way the world is today, I swear there is no way to be sure of anything anymore! Just when you get used to something, it changes. Drives me insane!

I go to the grocery store and try something new, for instance cinnamon butter. My husband loves the stuff on his toast in the mornings. So I buy it for a year or so than all the sudden, it's no where to be found. I search every grocery store in town...none! I search every single time I go to the grocery store and finally after a good 6 months, it shows up again. I buy about 5 or 6 things of it. Same thing happened when I discovered muffintops by Eggo Waffles. And I could name a million more things! I don't get why the shelves are bare with them when obviously they are selling so great they can't keep them on the shelves! They are just messing with my patience, that has to be it!

Computers and cell phones are the same thing. Why can't they just leave well enough alone for awhile?

Then comes all the announcements on the news. Eggs are good for you then 6 months later they aren't. An apple a day keeps the doctor away UNLESS you wait long enough until someone else does a study and finds an apple a day might kill you! Or cause cancer. My dogs love to chew on chopped up ice cubes. No harm right? Then I hear ice is bad for dogs. Oh come can ice be bad for anyone? So I read some comments going on about it and I'm just as confused about it as I was when I first heard it. Some say it's a hoax, some say it's real.

You know that disorder where people are afraid to go outside their house? Well I can totally get that. This world is just so confusing and maddening. Plus the violence that goes on is just disgusting anymore. There are so many sick twisted people roaming the streets everyday. I'm not making light of that disorder, I imagine it must really be terrible for people who suffer from it, but, I think I'll play like I have it today and just stay safe and sound in my little house and write all day. writing bad for you??