Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garage Sale Gems: The People

by Kim Van Sickler

I had my first garage sale the other day.

The prep was just as painful as I thought it would be.

First there was all the cleaning and discarding of boxes and mounds of stuff. Did I really think that any of the kids would claim that massive decade-old microwave I saved for them? Why in the world didn't I throw away that obsolete vacuum cleaner that requires a bag and doesn't even stand up straight anymore? And those boxes of clothes stored in the barn? Looks like they kept the mice and voles warm over the winter. Here's what my tree lawn looked like on garbage day.

I know the garbage men were cursing me.

Then there was all the organizing of my life's cast-offs. Sifting through memories. Pricing them. Storing them until garage sale day when the items would be staged for maximum effect.
My garage pre-sale: chock full of crap that I nevertheless felt was worth something.

All of that sucked. But it was necessary. Purge-time could not be delayed any longer.

What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed the garage sale itself.

Gorgeous weather helped. My friend Nancy and I parked ourselves behind our cash boxes at our folding table in the driveway and waited.

For the focused man who announced he was looking for antiques and decided in about 53 seconds that it was time to move on. At that rate, we figured he might have been able to make it to all 81 garage sales scheduled in our community that day.

For the man recovering from mouth and throat cancer with a mutilated face who graciously insisted on paying me a couple of dollars for some sort of tractor apparatus cover I planned to throw out. His beaming wife told us all about the dream workshop he built for himself that sounded like something from Popular Mechanics meets Good Housekeeping.

For the friend who dropped by with her two adorable kids to buy the bike cart that racked up countless miles and countless memories with my kids.

Photo: By far one of my best yard sale purchases!!!  The kids are loving riding around Willowick!!!  Thank you Kim Van Sickler!!!
Sarah is using my old bike cart to take her kids on neighborhood outings and to school.
For the family that lingered a little too long over by all of my pool supplies that were useless to me now that I didn't have my pool. They finally bought my Intel steps and gargantuan pool cover when I threw in every pool part I owned, then we had fun dismantling the ladder to fit in their car.

For the man who bought my son's bike, and then biked back over to tell me how much he liked it, thus allowing me to snag him to help me cart the stuff that didn't sell away. I guess I was good enough company that he returned later with his adorable six-year-old son, who grabbed his fishing pole and earnestly explained to me how it worked. This little whirlwind pinwheeled his way into my vegetable garden where he got a lesson on the veggies and herbs I like to grow and happily picked lettuce for his dinner salad, exclaiming that it was going to be the best salad ever!

Maybe garage sales are fun after all. Even if I only netted $383.

Have you ever suffered through hosting a garage sale? Do you like to shop at them?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My debut novel's out....Now what?

by Kim Van Sickler

Snatched in Gullybrook is the first of the four book's I've written that I've felt was ready to publish. More than ready. I'd spent nearly a year querying the book to agents and hearing back that the book was great...but too edgy. Yes, it's difficult to write a book about sex trafficking of minors as anything other than edgy.

Meanwhile, a human trafficking professor at OSU spent the past year urging me to publish the book so she could recommend it to the students in her massive open online course. I missed her last course. Her next one starts this month (August 2014.)

Did I really want to miss this opportunity again?

Uh, no.

I took the leap. I don't know what I'm doing, but doing it anyway. I enjoyed the publication process with CreateSpace. They were easy to work with, and any issues were resolved quickly and decisively. I loved finding Michael Di Gesu to create my cover art, Michelle Ziegler to develop my website, and Janie Sullivan and Kate Kyle Johnsen to edit my manuscript. Finding Dr. Jacqueline Meshelemiah, during the writing process, to guide me and inspire me. I've been contacting human trafficking organizations, registered to attend a September human trafficking conference, and encouraging book groups to read and discuss this difficult subject.

I decided to donate 10% of the profits I make to organizations that educate about human trafficking or rehabilitate/aid victims.

And I'm working on my next book so that I can take advantage of the momentum created by Snatched in Gullybrook, the first novel set in the sex trade industry and told from three interconnecting viewpoints. (See how I'm choosing to think optimistically, that the book will sell and readers will be looking for my follow-up novel?)

Here's the pitch for Snatched in GullybrookThree of Gullybrook’s teens are manipulated, then snatched from the local mall. In their new lives as sex slaves, Megan, Candace, and Sissy, strangers before their abduction, forge a bond with one another that becomes their lifeline.

I've got a giveaway going on Goodreads.

I hope you enter, or that you buy a copy of this book and become part of the "proceeds" I donate to human trafficking charities. I welcome your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and your recommendations to other readers.

I also welcome your advice. I'm learning as I go. This is a process. I'm in it for the long-term and want to do things the right way. What pearls of wisdom do you have for this debut novelist?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stay Strong & Carry On

IWSG Badge

by Melissa Kline

Stay Strong and Wings by Tirana-Weaving

It doesn't matter how many books you’ve written, which articles you’ve had published, how many literary awards you've won or what you current “status” is as a writer – we all feel insecure and uncertain when it comes to our writing.

The above is a spin on a quote that has always stuck with me – because it’s so very true! I am on the verge of publishing a third novel and my insides are wiggling and jiggling with nerves. Will whoever read it like it? Is it written good enough? Does it make sense? Will others “get” it? What if there’s a typo? Or God forbid a ton of mistakes?

I could go all day with the ridiculous thoughts that run through my mind at the thought of sharing a piece of myself with the world. But at the heart of it all, I simply want to be accepted, understood, validated and celebrated – just like the rest of us!

I had no idea I wanted to be a professional writer for most of my life. Writing to me was fun, entertaining and a form of escape. It wasn't until after the completion of my fifth novel that I realized I wanted to share my writing with the world. I had been writing my entire life, but up to that point all of my novels were private. There was something that occurred while writing that fifth book - a metamorphosis. Since then, I have been very passionate about sharing my writing with others…but that still doesn't mean it is easy!
Melissa's book Storm was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
 Regardless of all of these complicated nerves, feelings and emotions, it is so very important to stay positive, keep pushing on and believe in you. Try not to take criticism from publishers, editors, peers and family so personally. Everyone is going to have a different opinion and advice on what you should or shouldn't do. Stay true to yourself and your own ideals. Most importantly don't ever give up! You never know whom you might inspire or impress.

There is nothing in the world more humbling than writing. Stay strong, my friends and carry on!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Last week during a dinner out, the subject came up about how sentimental some people are. I am one of them.

I hold onto things that belonged to my parents and grandparents, not valuable antiques, just things that were theirs. I treasure “artwork” my kids made for me and still hang Christmas ornaments they made in nursery school. I have every card and letter my husband ever gave me. All precious reminders of those who mean so much to me.

But today the unthinkable happened. I lost something my whole family—whole extended family-cherishes as much as I do. Kathleen’s ring. A teeny-tiny christening ring.

Kathleen was my dad’s younger sister who died at the age of two from a ruptured appendix. I was named for her. And 38 years ago, when my grandma died, my dad and his siblings decided to give Kathleen’s ring to me. ME! Because I carry her name. I treasure that ring and wore it on a gold chain around my neck, the last surviving possession of a little girl, a reminder of family and my roots.

Today I went for a walk with my camera, snapping pictures of trees, flowers, and country buildings. At one point, I noticed my gold chain had broken and was hanging over my shoulder. The ring was gone! I looked down to the spot where I stood when I first missed it. No ring.

I looked inside my shirt and in my bra. No ring.

I searched the area all around me before I called to my husband and we retraced my steps. I had walked through grassy areas and along gravel drives, but I had photos of the places I stopped, so we could follow the pictures back the way I had come. Still no ring.

For two hours, we looked through gravel and searched a field of grass one blade at a time, thinking about the family heirloom that had been entrusted to me 38 years ago. How could I go home without it?

I have to confess that losing rings is not new for me. I usually wear eight of them. My fingers contract when they get cold and a ring falls off. I wave my hand to shoo a fly, and a ring goes flying. It has happened more than a dozen times. AND I or someone else has found them again. Every time.

It once took 15 months for my engagement ring to turn up again, but it did. It was in my house the whole time.

And a ring I was certain was at the bottom of Lake Arrowhead was found by my friends Jon and Patty Egan in Jon’s truck (which we had ridden in to get to the lake).

This time because of the location I was in, and because of the terrain and the size of the ring, I was afraid it was gone for good. But I couldn’t give up. I sent up a few prayers (Saint Anthony) and pleaded with both Dad (gone now 21 years) and Kathleen for help.

We kept looking, but were about to lose the light, when my husband yelled to me from a spot on a gravel drive. He held up his hand. There was no way to see the tiny ring it held at that distance, but I yelled “Really?” and he nodded. “Really? You found it?” My husband found Kathleen’s ring! I cried with joy as I hugged him over and over.

The family heirloom is now safely tucked away in a jewelry box. I am not sure if I should buy a new chain or keep the ring locked away. But I am grateful to my husband and to any saints or deceased relatives who looked over his shoulder and pointed him in the right direction.

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!)

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


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.