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.


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 

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