Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Snatched In Gullybrook (and a giveaway)


Three of Gullybrook's own are targeted by a group of men and women who know exactly how to get what they want. What they want are teenage girls. Where they find them is the local mall. Megan's been taking care of herself since her parents split. She feels abandoned and confused, especially at the crush she's developed on one of her new girlfriends. Normally, Megan steers clear of the mall, but her girlfriend has been eyeing a particular piece of jewelry, and it is her birthday. When Megan's plan to steal the present backfires, she's escorted by bogus mall security to a van that transports her to a new life. Candace knows nothing will ever come of the crush she has on her older first cousin. But it's looking distinctly possible that he could become her stepbrother at the rate things are going between her daddy and her aunt. When she's approached for a job at the mall, she's thrilled at the attention, and the chance to show everyone she's growing up. But her secret interview turns into her abduction. Sissy is Daddy's little princess, a romantic who's saving herself for marriage. Shopping is her safe place, especially when Mom and Daddy are fighting. Until the day a solicitous female shopper befriends her and turns her refuge into her downfall. Told through interconnecting viewpoints, Snatched in Gullybrook follows these girls as they are kidnapped, assigned new identities, and navigate the brutal world of sex trafficking. Despite the horrors of what they see and endure, they form a bond with one another. A bond that gives them strength to persevere, even when all looks lost.

My review:

Snatched in Gullybrook is written exceptionally well. It's about a topic most of us don't want to think about. The human trafficking or the sex trade really exists and needs to be brought out into the open. This book brings it to the forefront.

You feel the horror the girls feel when they are snatched. Your writhe with disgust as they are introduced into their new world. Your heart breaks for them over and over again and then you see a glimmer of hope for them. But then you crash as they fail, but you start hoping again...(I'm not going to say anymore. I don't want to be a spoiler. You'll have to read the book. I will warn you that it is very explicit.)

Kim Van Sickler is a former prosecuting attorney who prefers to use her research skills to inform her fiction rather than arguing law in a courtroom. She lives in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, with her family and rescue dog, Peter. Snatched in Gullybrook is her debut novel and is endorsed by human trafficking experts for its vivid and realistic portrayal of domestic minor sex trafficking.

Kim and I met through my blog in April. She is a delightful lady. She asked me to do a book review and sent me a PDF of her book. I thought it was such an amazing (but hard topic) book that I agreed to do the post and then decided I would buy a copy to give away.  If you would like to win a copy (from me), a signed business card and some special candy (from Kim) please tell me in the comments. To be eligible you need to follow my blog and follow Kim's blog.

If you'd like to read a sample of Kim's writing and help her win a contest you can read her awesome article about grief on the Midlife Collage Blog. If you like it and/or leave a comment it will help her win. (Be a pal...)

Here are some important links:

Kim's Blog
Kim's Website
Kim on Twitter
Snatched in Gullybrook on Goodreads (there's a giveaway here too)
Snatched in Gullybrook on Amazon (and if you can't wait to see if you win it...)

The winner will be announced on September 29th and I'm going to share some cool news on October 3rd.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Plotter or Pantser?

Some people say they are plotters and some say they are pantsers, to be honest I'm not sure what I am. Maybe you guys can tell me once you see my writing process.

For the historical fiction MG novel I just completed (well, until I hear otherwise), I started by listening to my grandparents tell about their experiences during WWII. I started taking notes and telling them why I was jotting down their memories. I took lots of notes and am so grateful they were willing to share what was a difficult time in their lives with me.

I also wrote letters and got letters back from other family members who lived during this time period.

Then I typed up notes and potential scenes to use in my manuscripts.

I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. Some books were for children and some were not, most notably I read selections from Winston Churchill's THE SECOND WORLD WAR series. (I have to quote him here, as his words were and are such an inspiration to me.) ~Never, never, never give up~ I realize he was talking about the war and the spirits of the people in England, but for me it took on a whole different meaning. Sharing my families and friends stories is something I have to do and I won't give up until it is published. It was my honor to fictionalize moments in their lives.

I visited museums and took lots of pictures, then organized them into envelopes, so when I started writing I could pull out photos for those scenes.

One museum I visited had replicas of government brochures, posters, and letters available for purchase. These items were extremely helpful for finding details about daily living. I also visited antique shops and purchased bits and pieces to inspire me. My grandfather gave me some documents from the war, too.

Then I organized all the research and books into files based on locations that they applied to.

I printed of a variety of different maps of England. I even found one that showed the railroad system during the war.

To my surprise, one of my blog friends, Gary at Klahanie Blog, told me he was from the village in England I was writing about. He sent me photographs, which was spectacular, as I hadn't been to Leek since I was a child.

Once I finished with my initial research, I organized and typed up my notes. Then I wrote them on index cards. It may seem redundant to write notes, type notes and then write them again, but each time I did this I was ingraining the research into my brain.

I kept a list of words and phrases that I liked and were appropriate for the time period. I mounted them on poster boards and then hung them up on bulletin boards in my office.

By now I kind of know where the scenes are going to take place in my story, so I mount the scene cards on poster board and then mount what could potentially happen in each location. I try to use the senses as much as possible in each scene. (ex: the sounds, the smells, how things feel and taste)

Most of the poster boards  were hanging on the bulletin boards in my office, so I could glance up from my desk and review them as I was writing and thinking. I also used an easel for the scene I was currently working on close to me.

I didn't use all of my research notes in this manuscript, but I left the manuscript open ended so if I do have the opportunity to write a sequel I already have some starting spots.

I'm sure there are much better ways of organizing your research and thoughts, but this worked for me. I think you have to find what method works for you...

So, what do you think? Am I a plotter or a pantser?

What are you?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Books As Gifts With Kelly Polark!

Today I have a guest post by picture book/middle grade author, Kelly Polark! Her latest picture book, WORDS ON BIRDS, was released this summer!


It's beautiful summertime! Time for graduation parties, birthday parties, or just time to relax and read.

Books are always a great gift idea, and if you can pair it with something else cute - even better.

Check out these fabulous gift ideas that include books, wonderful books!


COCK-A-DOODLE-OOPS! by Lori Degman with either a Melissa and Doug farm puzzle and/or a cute farm stuffed animal!

ROCKABET: CLASSIC EDITION (ABC picture book of rock) by Kelly Polark with a Lego Rock Band game, a Hello Kitty KISS Edition, or a toy instrument! A band tee or onesie would be cool, too!

CHU'S DAY & CHU'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL by Neil Gaiman with Chu the stuffed panda,  some school accessories, and/or a cute box of tissues!


ORIGAMI YODA gift set by Tom Angleberger with what else but Star Wars Legos or toys!

ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK by Kelly Polark with an ITunes gift card!

WISH YOU WEREN'T by Sherrie Petersen with this astronomy ball!


DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and this Dauntless tee!

The DRAGONFLY series by Leigh T. Moore with some cool shades!

SHIVER trilogy boxed set by Maggie Stiefvater with a cute wolf tee!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Flooded With Gratitude

It may be hard to believe, but I'm at a loss for words that are big enough to express my gratitude. 

On July 7th, the tornado sirens were going off, rain was pounding our home and we were in the basement watching it all out the windows. (Naturally, my brilliant hubby was on the other side of the state.) The rain water made a beautiful waterfall coming over our egress wall. (I even video taped it on my phone.) We noticed the water rising in the bottom of the egress. It rose quickly, almost to the window sill. The TV went off the air, the sirens went off again, and I tried to move the weather radio to the bathroom with the pets. My beautiful daughter was in a panic because she thought her toilet was wasn't. The egress had emptied...into my house.

We (including my niece who is here for the summer) dashed around picking up anything on the floor, putting the furniture up on blocks, carrying as much as we could upstairs. I texted my brilliant husband on the other side of the state asking how to turn off the gas on the fireplace. He called a friend to come see what was going on. I texted a friend with a strong, college bound, football playing, son to see if he could come help. Within minutes friends began showing up at our house. They didn't bother to knock, they just came in and started helping get everything out of the basements. (Thank goodness for Rubbermaid tubs!) 

Within hours, the carpet and padding was removed, fans and dehumidifiers were busy drying the rest of the floors, pizza was ordered and wine was being poured.

The outpouring from our friends overwhelmed me. The next day people (even one who also had a flooded basement) called to check in on me.

We moved here almost six years ago. I didn't (really) open up to building true friendships until about a year and a half ago. I don't know how I will ever be able to show these amazing people how grateful I am for their friendship. 

The lesson I've learned from this is more than I have amazing friends. When you truly allow yourself to open up and build friendships, it allows you to not only to be the person they turn to, but they can be the people you can turn to when you are pushed past your limits. It feels pretty amazing to have so many people I can turn to.

Do you have a group of friends you can turn to? If not (yet), are you ready to open your heart and start building those kind of relationships?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

And The Winner of a Hardback copy of Burnout is...

The winner is Tracey Cox! (chosen by

A month or so ago I was invited to do a post on the Utah Children's Writer Blog, after I commented on one of their posts about the writing process.  If you have a chance you can hop over to the Utah Children's Writer Blog and see how I prepared to write my historical fiction MG novel. Be prepared for lots of photos and minimal words. (Yes, I had my first professional photos made. Although, my hair is a bit lighter now thanks to the magic of the sun and the best hair salon around.)

Thanks to everyone who got on twitter and spread the positive with me on Thursday. It's amazing how often someone else's Tweet hits close to home....and how much posting your own positive words can impact your own day...

Keep being positive!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Veuillez m'aider tendance! And a Burnout Giveaway

Veuillez m'aider tendance! 
(Please help me trend!)

I'm not someone who asks for favors or help often, but I'm going to ask you guys to help me with something this week. When I was hosting #sweetheartpbcontest, #midgrademadness, and #yahugs I had the opportunity to help a lot of writers doing I two things I love to do: connecting people and editing. Seeing my hashtags was really cool. It made me think, about trending and the value of trending.

Other than writing and my family, having a positive impact on the people who I "touch" really matters to me. Several years ago I "hosted" a #bepositive Tweet event and lots of people joined in, including Literary Agent Terrie Wolf. She and some of her followers expanded on my idea and created #bepositivehour.  Every week day from 3:00-4:00 PM in whatever time zone you live in you tweet something positive using #bepositivehour. Some of the tweets are so good I would have RT (retweeted) them more than once if it was allowed. Writing positive things is empowering and sending them out to the Universe could potentially change someone's day from a negative to a positive.


What I'm asking you to do is please join me on Thursday, June 26th from 3:00-4:00 PM in your time zone to help me trend #bepositivehour. You'll have fun I promise! Plus have a chance to win a hardback copy of BURNOUT by Kristi Helvig.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Author bio: 
Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics on her blog. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs.

You can find out more about Kristi on her website/blog and follow her on Twitter.

How to win  a hardback copy of BURNOUT...

Commit (in the comments) to joining me on Thursday, June 26th from 3:00-4:00 PM (in your time zone) for #bepositivehour. I'll use to choose the lucky winner on Friday. I will be checking the person chooses did tweet. (I have a #bepositivehour list on my Tweetdeck.)

I hope everyone joins me on Thursday and that we can make #bepositivehour trend...


Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Best Thing I've Ever Done/Created

It all started here, well a couple months earlier than this picture, but this is one of my favorite photos.

Waiting ten years after you get married to get pregnant has its benefits and a few drawbacks. You're more mature. You've finished your education and hopefully paid off your student loans. You have a career, so you'll be able to provide well for your child/children, but the unexpected can happen. It's much harder to get pregnant when you are twenty-right than when you were in your early twenties. It took us two years of surgeries and drugs to finally get pregnant. So when our precious little girl finally arrived we were filled with joy and commitment to give her the best life we possibly could.

When she was old enough she did gymnastics, then ballet, tap, and jazz. She even gave soccer and volleyball a whirl, but she found her passion when she entered the 9th grade. Theater.

Just seeing this photo again takes my breath away.

 In this scene Erik Mueterthies has been institutionalized for mental health issues caused by an abusive mother and Katherine is his social worker. I swear no one in the auditorium made a single sound in this powerful scene. The Boys Next Door was an amazing play. My daughter will be pursuing a BFA in acting. My husband and I are so excited for her.

I may have gotten a bit carried away with our launching her into the real world/college party.

The best compliment of the day (for me) was when one of her friends said our house looked like a Pinterest Page.

I may have gotten a little carried away, as I'm not showing you all the don't have the I'm just trying to hit the highlights.

The next weekend was full of smiles and tears and family fun, as 15 family members traveled from 10-18 hours to see her graduate.

After everyone went home we hit the airways...and went to New York City for the first time.

This was the view from our room. That's the Hudson River in the distance. The front of our hotel was on Times Square.

We went to three shows...this trip was all about letting our daughter sample NYC. I'm pretty sure she had a wonderful time.

We walked between 5 and 8 miles a day. It was wonderful: the sounds, the smells, the people, the sights and the lights!

One day we did take a bus tour. I would recommend doing that to anyone going to NY. It was outstanding!

 Freedom Tower

The World Trade Center Memorial

The Bull of Wall Street

Any Law and Order fans out there?

A couple things really surprised me...

I did not expect there to be so many trees.

There were all kinds of vendors lining the street: food, souvenirs, purses, sunglasses, artwork and many more.

I fell in love with Central Park. The contrast between the old and the new was just amazing.

Times Square was full of people no matter what time of day or night it was and I never felt unsafe.

There were street performers everywhere: everything from people dressed up in Statue of Liberty costumes, to artists and musicians.  We even saw a couple guys making giant bubbles.

This trip was mostly about celebrating our daughter, but we managed to throw in one thing especially for me...

I could continue to go on and on, but I'll stop and reflect for a moment...

Our daughter is the best thing in my life (don't tell my hubby). I'm going to miss her tremendously when she goes off to college, but I know with her talent, passion and drive that one day we'll be back in New York watching her on Broadway.

Thanks for stopping by and indulging my proud mommy post.