Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Broken Branch Falls Interview with Tara Tyler

Interview of Tara Tyler about her new book Broken Branch Falls, by Kim Van Sickler

Here's a teaser from Amazon:
Doing homework for bully ogres and getting laughed at as the butt of pixie pranks, Gabe is tired of his goblin life. 

When he and his friends step out of their nerdy stereotype and pull a prank of their own on the dragons at the first football game, it literally backfires, bringing a High Council vote to dismantle not only Gingko High, but the whole town, too! 

The Book of Ages–hidden handbook of the High Council, filled with knowledge and power–may be Gabe’s only hope. 

With the help of friends old and new, can Gabe complete his quest to find the Book in time to save Broken Branch Falls? Or will he remain an outcast forever?

Tara: I'm thrilled to be here at Swagger! Thanks so much, Kim, for spotlighting Broken Branch Falls and interviewing me to boot!

Kim: Thanks for stopping by on your blog tour. Broken Branch Falls brings together a whimsical cast of goblins, ogres, trolls, werewolves, dragons, elves, pixies, and vampires. Which supporting character is your favorite?
Tara: Rove, the werewolf. He's cool and aloof, smart and brooding, and when he opens up, we see he has a sensitive side and a dry humorous side.

Kim: Which character was hardest to write?
Tara: Well, my characters are usually pretty easy for me – they speak to me and have distinct personalities that make them easy to write. What I had trouble with was the sizing of the characters. It was hard to portray how big giants, dragons, and even centaurs are, compared to the other regular-sized characters.

Kim: Which sect would you choose to belong to?
Tara: I'd love to be a dragon. They're strong and smart, they breathe fire, and they fly. They are pretty intimidating, but they have their weaknesses, too. When I was little, I had a great dragon collection.

Kim: You introduced us to a wide variety of characters encompassing numerous fairy tale species. What tips do you have for writing distinct characters who maintain their individuality throughout the story?
Tara: Characters must have back stories, motivation for their personalities, and a reason to be in the story. And when you have a lot of characters, they each need something special that sets them apart and makes them easy to identify. Like Jordy - he's the funny/ditzy goblin of the group. (And my second favorite character to write! He's a crack up!)

Thanks again, Kim! I really appreciate you spotlighting BBF today!
(And don't forget to enter the giveaway below!)

BROKEN BRANCH FALLS (MG Fantasy)
by Tara Tyler
Release Date: June 24, 2014 (NOW!)
Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Gabe is an average fifteen-year-old goblin. He’s in the marching band, breezes through calculus, and gets picked on daily by the other kids at school, especially the ogres. But Gabe wants to break out of his nerdy stereotype and try other things. He has his eye on the new ogress at school. Though it’s against all beastly rules, there’s just something about her.

Gabe starts a fad of mingling with other species, forcing the High Council to step in and ruin things by threatening to destroy the school and split up Broken Branch Falls. With help from other outcast friends, Gabe sets out on a quest to save his town. They'll show 'em what different friends can do together!

Available at
B&N ~~~ Amazon
Add it to your GOODREADS list!

Tara Tyler has had a hand at everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After living up and down the Eastern US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her three active boys and Coach Husband. Currently, she has two series, The Cooper Chronicles (techno-thriller detective capers) and Beast World (MG fantasy) She's an adventure writer who believes every good story should have action, a moral, and a few laughs!


Also by Tara Tyler, techno-thriller detective series,
The Cooper Chronicles, Book One: POP TRAVEL
on sale this month for 99 cents!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kooky Family Tradition: Costume Parties

by Kim Van Sickler

You might think my family is a little kooky. That's okay. We've heard it before. One of the things we love to do, and we've done ever since I moved back to the U.S. with a guy who would become my new husband and three additional kids, is meet at my sister's mountain lake home in North Carolina once a year. During our week-long stay, one night is dedicated to a themed costume party. We select the theme the year before. Then we have an entire year to plan our character. In theory. Most of us scramble to select our outfit the week before, although I'm pretty sure my sister and her husband plan their costumes much further ahead because they always look so darn authentic.

We've been doing this now for eleven years. Looking back over our parties, it's amazing to see how the kids have grown and times have changed. I don't have all eleven pictures handy, but here are eight of them.

2014: Theme SNL. Unfortunately neither my husband nor stepson could join us this year. :-( And did we really need three South American Killer Bees?

2013: Summer of Love. Okay, maybe I beat my sister this year with my costume as a doobie. That's my sister taking a puff of my foot. How cool that Sonny and Cher could stop by.

2012: Under the Sea. Oooo. Costume faux paus when two Sponge Bobs showed up. The Sponge Bob on the right is standing next to a jellyfish. Next to the jellyfish, all in black, is my brother the oil slick. In front of the oil slick is an oyster, my brother's new girlfriend at the time, who he just married in May 2014. This Lake Lure trip was when my brother first realized he loved that oyster.

2011: Caveman. Funny how we ended up in distinct tribes based on getting the most mileage out of our fabric. An homage to Cara, my sister's dog who isn't around anymore.

2008: Cowboy. Fairly conventional, except for my son who decided to go flamboyantly gay for the night. "Cotton Eyed Joe" was a dance favorite.

2004: Salsa. Mega dancing for this one. My sister and her husband showed us all up because they had been taking salsa lessons. Had to be our worst costume year.

2003: Roman toga party. This was the year we all jumped off the boathouse roof in our costumes. 
2002: Hawaiian luau. Since this was back before I tore the ACLs of both knees, I was very flexible and killed the limbo. This was also the first and last year that my brother's first wife made an appearance.
What about you? What is a kooky family tradition of yours?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PAST LIVES

by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

In Jack Gantos’ Newbery-winning novel, DEAD END IN NORVELT, a character says, “…most people think history has to be about a big event like a catastrophe or a moment of divine creation, but every soul is a book of their own history… Sadly, we don’t know the history of every person who ever lived…
This sentiment is why I write historical fiction, and why I write the kind of historical fiction I write.

Millions of real people have lived on this earth in ways that were barely noticed. Some would have stayed unnoticed if their skeletons had not been unearthed thousands of years later and studied. Paleontologists and archeologists can tell us about long gone people by their remains and artifacts they left behind.
The more recent past has been recorded and handed down to us. We read about famous inventors and their inventions. We learn about generals, kings, and presidents, artists and writers, and even outlaws and criminals.

But what about “average” people? People who struggled through their everyday lives, fighting their own personal battles, living their own dramas, but not “making history” by their actions.
We might have heard stories passed down by our parents and grandparents. We can pass those stories on to our own children and grandchildren, stories that get a little less firm in our memories as time fades them. And what about those who don’t have progeny to tell their stories to? Are their stories lost forever?

I research the way people lived in the last two hundred or so years. I listen to stories handed down by families, including my own. I create fictional characters, whose lives are a mixture of many real-life people, people whose stories haven’t been recorded in history books. I write fictional stories that COULD HAVE happened to people. It is my way of trying to make their lives live on, to have meaning for a new generation of readers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: Be the Spider

by Kim Van Sickler

IWSG Badge
Click on the logo to sign up or learn more.

I am a co-host this month!

July's other co-hosts are: 
Krista McLaughlin - http://www.kjmclaughlin.com/
Heather Gardner http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/

Vote for IWSG as one of Writers Digests' Best 101 Websites by e-mailing them at :
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, subject line 101 Websites, and suggest the IWSG - http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This week I am gathered with family at my sister's place in Lake Lure, NC (home of the famous lift-practice scene with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing.) We've been making the annual pilgrimage here for 12 years now and have become fairly good at boat-propelled water sports. So it seems appropriate to share one of my favorite coaching stories with you now.
Lift-scene practice was filmed in Lake Lure, NC.
A number of years ago, my brother-in-law was encouraging my 6-foot 3-inch husband to successfully complete a deep-water start on the long rope on his slalom ski. A slalom ski is one ski with bindings for both feet. You can either start with your non-lead foot out of the binding and insert it after you're up and balanced, or start with it already inserted into the rear binding. My husband and I like to start with both feet already secured, but he was having trouble transitioning to the long rope behind the boat and getting up. My brother-in-law had him start on the boom, a rod beside the boat, with a little tow rope. Once Steve mastered that move, he moved to a short rope behind the boat. But the long rope transition was hard for a tall guy like him. The longer the rope, the longer your body has to fight to get itself out of the water. A lot can go wrong in that time, usually involving him getting pulled face forward and wiping out.

My brother-in-law Chris, as impressive a skiier as you've ever seen, the kind of guy who thinks it's fun to ski on various inanimate objects like garbage can lids, and blows us all away with his barefoot skiing, knew my husband was getting frustrated. Steve was losing his balance in those last few moments when he had to fight hardest to maintain it. He needed to dig in a little longer before trying to stand.  But his gut reaction every time was to try and stand as quickly as possible.

"Are you the spider or the fly?" Chris asked Steve after his umpteenth spill.

We all just looked at him, wondering where this was going.

"The fly is oblivious, but the spider knows that he must be patient and wait for his time to strike. Timing is everything. If he strikes too early, the object of his desires gets away from him. You have to wait until your weight is balanced on that board before you try to stand. You have to fight that urge to get up too early. Now, I ask you. Are you that lowly fly, ready to get clobbered? Or are you the spider, ready to persevere and snatch your goal?

"Be the spider!"
http://blog.cranialaperture.com/2013_08_01_archive.html
"I am the spider!" Steve yelled from the water. We all cheered from the boat. Chris motored ahead until the tow line was taut, and waited for Steve's signal to start. 

"Hit it!" my husband yelled, a new determination in his voice. 

The engine roared to life. The boat accelerated. At the end of the long rope, Steve fought the slalom ski. Concentration marbled his face. He stayed low, shifting his weight, pushing against the ski that thrummed to take off with or without him. 

Only then did he attempt to go vertical.

With only a slight bobble, he stood.

He was the spider.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop: Snatched!

by Kim Van Sickler

Writer and photographer extraordinaire Ann Finkelstein tagged me for the Writing Process Blog Hop. I'm happy to play along!

What am I working on now?
Snatched in Gullybrook, a YA contemporary with an expected publication date in August 2014. I'm self-publishing my debut novel and totally enamored with the process. I LOVE taking charge and bringing my line editor (Janie Sullivan from The Center for Writing Excellence) and my cover artist (Michael di Gesu) on board to collaborate with me. I love that Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, a human trafficking expert at OSU, tells me that my book is the most realistic depiction of domestic trafficking she's ever read, and I've got to publish it now so she can make it required reading for her trafficking classes. This is how writing is supposed to be! What a rush! My heart beats faster just writing about it!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
This book is unique in that it is told from the POV of three teenage trafficking victims. All of the "experts" told me not to write it this way. They wanted the story told in one POV, but I strongly believe that telling it from three, and dovetailing the stories together, emphasizes the trafficking nature of this crime. There are more people trafficked in the world today than at any other time in human history. And in the U.S., traffickers are getting bolder. Girls from middle and upper class families are targeted via social media, via men who pretend to care about them, via women who pretend to be concerned about them, and via children their own age who pretend to be their friends. These trusting victims are manipulated, kidnapped, and forced into a life they never dreamed could happen to them.

Why do I write what I do?
I write what captures my attention, grabs hold, and refuses to let go, like my dog with his ratty piece of rawhide he gnaws at until it's coated in saliva-y grime. My other finished novel is an MG historical fiction about an orphan who works as a muleskinner (mule driver) on the 1840s Ohio Canal. The Canal Era fascinates me, and it played a huge part in the settlement of the area where I live (Northern Ohio).

How does my writing process work?
I love research! I read, watch movies, talk to experts, and sometimes try to replicate my characters' journeys. In the case of my Ohio Canal book, I actually backpacked 110 miles of the restored canal towpath in five days, a pace not dissimilar to what my muleskinner would have done. It exhausted me! I'm also a big fan of thumbing through magazines and finding pictures of my characters as I'm brainstorming my plot. Then I flesh out biographies of them as I go along, returning to my photos frequently to stare and absorb their physical power. Pretty soon I'm dreaming about them as I know them.

Megan, the maybe lesbian and sometimes kleptomaniac.
Candace, the cheerleader.
Sissy, Daddy's little princess and shopaholic.
My major villains! Clockwise: Pimps: Tex, Iron Man, and Romeo, and Trixie: befriender of unsuspecting girls.
What about you? Share something with me about your writing process, your reading process, your process of selecting what you want to write or read about... I love hearing about other journeys.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I NEVER EAT ALONE

by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Have you ever been bored? What did that feel like? It’s a feeling I experience only rarely. Like when listening to a dull speaker.

For the most part, I don’t have time to be bored. My time is filled with family and friends and writing. And if I do have moments of time in between those things, like waiting in the doctor’s office or eating a meal by myself, I read. Books have been part of my life since I was a small child.

These days, I eat most of my meals at our kitchen table with my husband, but if he isn’t around, I have a book handy. I have eaten meals during the battle of Gettysburg or on the wild prairie or watching two soul mates search for and find each other.

Other restaurant patrons might wonder what made me laugh out loud. (One day it was WEDNESDAY WARS). A waitress might catch me wiping tears from my cheeks. (Lots of books have done that.)

Yes, I have to deal with the occasional (or frequent) soda splash or ketchup blot on a page, but I wipe it off and continue on the journey the author has laid out for me. If I find the book boring, I have a back-up book at the ready.

Readers like me know how to not get bored. I always, always have a book close by. And I never eat alone.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making Art

by Kim Van Sickler

Last week a group of us got together to try our hand at painting.

There are franchises like this all over. The idea is you take a group of people looking for a social bonding activity and teach them all how to paint the same picture.
Artists Uncork'd
We used a non-franchise group called Artists Uncork'd, based in Cleveland, OH. Sara showed up at our neighborhood hangout an hour ahead of time to set up the individual place-settings of: easel, canvas, pallet of paints, cup of water, paper towel, and variety of paintbrushes. We provided our own refreshments. Edible and drinkable. Sara stood at the front of the room with her own teacher-sized easel and instructed us step by step through the painting process.

Before our big day we had reviewed the organization's website and Facebook page and selected our painting. Now all there was to do was replicate it. No problem, huh?

When everyone began arriving I heard a lot of, "I don't have a clue how to paint; about the best I can draw are stick figures." I belonged to this camp.

But Sara was patient. She nurtured us. Leaked snippets of essential information in a methodical fashion so we had just what we needed when we needed it. Like the schoolteacher she formerly was. And our canvasses metamorphosed.

Ultimately we arrived at 16 unique variations of "Cleveland Starry Nights".

Even though we referenced the same original drawing, and all tried to copy what Sara was doing at the front of the room, every single picture turned out differently. Every one reflected the personality of the artist who made it.

Our end result was a reflection of us.

Now that is art.