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.











Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year!



Happy New Year all my lovely followers! I hope your holidays were wonderful and that Santa was extra good to you this year.

My holidays were great. Quiet, relaxing, and enjoyable. My husband and I didn't get together with family this year but we enjoyed each others company nonetheless. Both of our families live far away so there's no driving to grandma's house with us unless we want a 16-17 hour drive. Plus our dogs love Christmas almost as much as we do. One of my dogs loves the unwrapping...but when there's a squeaky toy inside, she goes beserk! Who needs kids when you have dogs that get just as excited and then are exhausted afterwards and take nice longgggg naps.

But now that the holidays are over, it's time to get back on track and focus on my writing. I'm looking forward to a very good year. I have at least two books coming out, Hippo Bottomless and The Color of Love, hopefully early 2015. My sister and mom also have their third book in the Sam Osborne series coming out January 30 as well as a totally revamped look for that series. You can check it out here.

I didn't really make any "real" new years resolutions this year because I totally blotched mine from last year. Instead I made "secret" resolutions to myself. So I can't tell you what they are unless I succeed. Then I'll shout them out to ya'all next year!

Why did I make "secret" resolutions to myself? Because I'm tired of disappointing, Allyn. Some people may get more determined when they fail, but me...I just get depressed and am way too hard on myself. So instead of a resolution on this subject, I've made a goal which is to stop being so hard on myself. It doesn't help...not one bit! I'm doing the very best I can and that is not a failure. If we try, then we should feel proud about that. And when I feel proud and good about something, I do so much better. So it's time to get back on track and work on my secret resolutions!

Do you set New Years Resolutions?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

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 gift...it 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!






Thursday, December 11, 2014

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, www.suethemingo.com, 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!