Thursday, September 25, 2014

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.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

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!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

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?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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?

Friday, August 22, 2014

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!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

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).


Thursday, July 10, 2014

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!