Wednesday, October 22, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Three years ago, a group of 8 friends at a Highlights Foundation Writers’ Workshop started this blog. It was the brain child of Kim Van Sickler, and Kim has been the main member to keep it afloat.

Since its inception, one member has left to deal with enormous health issues (We love you, Grace!) and two members left to begin their own inspirational blog at City Muse/Country Muse. A few others only occasionally put in rare, but welcome, appearances when their busy schedules and inspiration allow. But Kim has gone out into the blogosphere and developed a following, and always manages to come up with a post when needed, no matter what.

When Swagger began, I couldn’t envision being able to write new posts on a regular basis. After all, I was busy with ideas for novels and short stories. So were all the other Swaggers. But over the past 3 years, I have written more than 100 blog posts, some of them on topics delegated by blog hops. Others were inspired by events in my own life, like getting a publishing contract for my debut novel LIKE A RIVER (due out April 7, 2015 from Calkins Creek). I have also told stories from my childhood, that had been tucked safely in a file drawer inside my mind.

Life has thrown many things at all of us, those kinds of things that Life throws, things that could end a blog’s existence. But Swagger survives—and thrives.
                                Happy birthday, Swagger!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Come Visit Me at Literary Rambles!

by Kim Van Sickler

I'm over at Literary Rambles today! Come visit!

My first review from the Snatched in Gullybrook giveaway on Goodreads was posted by a winner who lives on a military base in Germany. You can read it, along with other reviews of the book, here.

On Wednesday I will be at the Not Under Our Roof Conference in Lima, Ohio. It's a sex trafficking awareness conference tailored to workers in the hotel and tourism industries.

Kim signing books at the University of Toledo's Sex Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Workers Conference last month.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall Giveaway!
by Melissa Kline

This month my company is hosting a super easy, writer-friendly giveaway starring my dystopian YA novel, My Beginning and hot-off-the-press psych thriller, A Fine Line. Four autographed copies are up for grabs. Just leave a comment below per the entry instructions or visit the giveaway site at, and tell us what you think of our cover images. That's it!


Here's a sneak peek at the entry images and rules: 


Tell us what lurks beyond the 
keyhole. Use your wildest 
imagination to come up with
what lies behind these rust 
stained walls. Is it an escape? 
A prison? Who, or what's out 
there? Or within?


This Rorschach image 
was created specifically for the
cover of A Fine Line. Use 
your imagination to decipher
what's in the ink. What do 
you see? Blobs of 
black, white and grey? Or
something else? Is it light
and happy? Or dark and
Tell us your thoughts at or leave a message with your answers in the comments below for a chance to win one of these spooky Halloween reads!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Today's post is written for the IWSG's monthly blog hop. Visit the link below for more information.

IWSG Badge

In June, I gave a talk to the local chapter of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators on my 40-year journey to a published novel. That’s not a typo. It took me 40 years.

When I looked back over all those years, I saw what seemed at the time to be failures. I see now that they were just steps in my journey. Any step that moved me forward was not a failure.

Slow and steady got Kathy her publishing contract.
Some of those steps were learning experiences at workshops, classes, and conferences. Forty years has taught me a great deal. When I look back at the naïve young beginner I was when I started, I am surprised by how little I knew.

I networked and made contacts. Even if those contacts did not land me a book contract, they moved me forward with dealing with professionals and taught me about the publishing industry. Some of those contacts taught me how NOT to deal with people and some became dear friends.

Other steps were days, months, and years of writing. My about-to-be-published novel is actually the eleventh one I wrote. Were the others failures? No way. Each taught me more and more about plotting, character, and Voice. Each led me closer to the one that’s being published. Each made me a better writer. (And there is still a chance that a rewrite of Number 9 will be published. Time will tell. I haven’t given up on it yet.)

Every step in my journey was a necessary one for me to take. I am extremely proud of my novel LIKE A RIVER (due out in April from Calkins Creek). I am glad that my first published novel was not written by that naïve young beginner, but by the experienced, seasoned writer I am now.

What I am telling you today is that the only failure is quitting. Everything else is just a step forward in your writer’s journey. Appreciate each one for what it is. And I hope your journey will not take you 40 years.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Versatile Bloggers

by Kim Van Sickler

It all started here:
Thanks to SittieCates for the award! Check out her other recipients here:

And now for the rules. 
1. Thank the person who nominated you with a link back to them. (See above.)
2. Tell 7 things about yourself. (See below.)
3. Pass this award to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they have received the Versatile Blogger Award.

Seven Things About Myself

1.      I self-published my debut novel, Snatched in Gullybrook in August 2014, and by September I was presenting a copy of my book to the author of The Whistleblower after her presentation at Miami University, and selling copies of my book at a sex trafficking conference at the University of Toledo.

2.      I’ve been a hard-core Girl Scout volunteer for the past ten years, and just this week was offered (and accepted) a paying job with Girl Scouts.

3.      In 2014, my second marriage almost fell apart. But my husband has always been my best friend and we are still together.

4.      I love to exercise. Spinning, yoga, weights, hiking, biking. If I don’t exercise every day I get squirrely.

5.      The outdoors speaks to me. My happiest times are communing with nature.

6.      When I was a teenager, I had an unhealthy compulsion to eat when I was unhappy. Stuffing my face with sweets felt great as they were going down, horrible afterwards. My first brush with addiction.

7.      As much as I love exercise, I am also a bit of a klutz and have had two torn ACLs repaired from two different falls while downhill skiing, as well as part of my elbow replaced from a bike accident. I have had four major biking accidents involving either flying over my handlebars or being hit by cars.

My Fifteen Awardees

Fifteen is a lot of winners! But here are fifteen blogs that I've recently discovered (that is a relative term, isn't it?) and truly enjoy for their eclectic and entertaining content.
1. Beverly Stowe McClure over at The Story of a Writer  
2. Fundy Blue at Standing into Danger 
4. S.K. Mayhew, Kid Lit Writer at Random Writings of my Random Thoughts 
6. Journey with Choki G. A Journey that Awaits the Last Breath
7. Christina Wiley at Juggling Real Food and Real Life
8. Hilary Melton-Butcher at Positive Letters…inspirational stories… 
9. Michael Di Gesu. In Time 
11. Cathy Olliffe-Webster. Cold Lake Cathy 
12. Jennifer Chandler. The Cup & Page 
13. Coming Down the Mountain. Expat Writer Living Abroad 
14. Robyn Alan Engel’s blog: Life by Chocolate 

 Now to notify my multifaceted, multitalented recipients... 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Underrated Treasures Blogfest: Good things come in three's?

by Kim Van Sickler

Alex Cavanaugh piqued my interest with this blogfest, based on a book, movie, band/artist, or show that we love, but you may not have ever heard of before.

I thought of my example right away.

Next blogfest

I think it's a combination of the cinematography (my first view of the Greek island of Santorini, a place I just HAD to visit, and did, about 15 years after first seeing this movie.)

The naughty topic:
Ménage à trois with beautiful people, including Daryl Hanna.

And my first real consideration of whether a threesome relationship is realistic, healthy, and practical. (Final analysis: No, no, and no.) Exciting, but a total fantasy...

Like Caddyshack, Animal House, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, and Love Actually, this is a movie that's fun to watch again every so often. For the scenery, for the simple yet entertaining story-line, for the fantastical concept of people falling in love and enjoying one another without jealousy tearing them apart.

Has anyone else seen this movie? If so, did the premise intrigue you as much as it did a barely post-teen me?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing from the Perspective of the Opposite Gender

by Melissa Kline

This is always an interesting topic and one that I probably get asked about the most as a writer of fiction from both male and female point of views.

Nearly half of my fiction is written from the male perspective. I can’t say that there was a grand a-,ha moment in my writing journey that provoked it, or that I intentionally set out to tackle the male mind. For me, the male voice flowed naturally into my consciousness with the idea of a new book. Granted, my early male characters are a bit on the girly side, though my practice improved over time.
When I was a teen I read many books written from the male perspective like The OutsidersThe Giver and Hatchet. I was drawn to the masculine voices within these books. I believe they helped me form a connection to the masculine side of my writing.

Although my process is mostly organic, I do have a few tactics to share that may help with this craft.

Don't get intimidated by gender. Think of your character as a “blank slate” per se.  When it comes down to it, we are simply writing about human beings. Everyone has emotions, feelings, experiences, talents, etc. What makes our characters who they are is how they react to these situations.  Strip your character down to the basics and look at who they are as a human being.

Add quirks, idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, traits and peculiarities that make them who they are. Male, female or otherwise, every character should have a well-developed voice and personality. While you are developing your character, add in trademarks that make them unique. This may help define more of those gender-driven traits.

Listen to dialogue from the opposite sex. Expose yourself to media, movies, books and television that star people who remind you of your character or the character you want to develop. How does he/she respond or react in various situations? Study the difference between genders and what makes them different.

Interview your character. This is a great way of getting inside the mind of any character. Come up with some basic interview questions or find a list of generic ones online and literally interview your character. Do your best to embody them as you answer the questions. What drives them? What are their “favorites”? What are they afraid of? You’ll be surprised at how much is revealed with this exercise.

Visualize and create.  If you’re struggling to understand what makes your character tick, try a different strategy: create! Make a vision board with images from magazines, printings, etc. of your character and their hobbies. What colors do they like? What are they into? What do they look like? If you’re a visual person, this can be very helpful.

How do you feel about writing from the perspective of the opposite gender? Is it difficult or easy? I’d love to hear your thoughts! J