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The book club blessing

You would think someone who writes books and loves words would always have been active in book clubs. It took a move cross-country for me to finally join book glasses

Part of the reason I finally took action is convenience; I now live in a large community where many people are retired, and while being around people with time on their hands when I’m working full-time has been difficult, I knew there would be several book clubs nearby. I also needed a new place to interact socially and decided it was time to focus some free time on getting to know readers better.

What I didn’t expect when I joined was how much I would enjoy it. I sat myself down on my new back porch with a glass of wine (my favorite way to mull over the whys of life) after the wonderful last meeting of the club and analyzed the situation. Here’s what I came up with:

I needed to share. You know that feeling you get when your mind wanders into the pages of a good book and gets lost completely in the story only to come crashing into a wall as you reach the end and are forced back to the real world of laundry, cat litter, dust bunnies, work stresses? You still feel the abruptness and disappointment when you finish a good book selected for a club; however, you get the relief of knowing other people have been lost inside that same fictional world for a short while, and you can look forward to sharing your experience together at the next meeting.

The club I joined was not a “club” at all before the first meeting. Someone put out a call on the local Nextdoor newsletter to start a new organization and ten “hungry” women answered the call. I could tell at that very first meeting that these ladies were craving what I was: an expansion of what they read and an audience for their thoughts about the story. As a brand-new group, we set our own rules, determined our own direction as far as what to read and left room for flexibility. I also lucked out and got a group of fun women who had no expectations of formalness and no pre-determined level of intellectual conversation that was “acceptable.” No one dominated the conversation, and no one had determined beforehand what being in a book club required.

Our members are a mixed bag. We come from different parts of the U.S. with different career backgrounds and levels of wealth. While we are mostly white bread and mostly older women, we have one youngster who brings fresh ideas, several members who have lived all over the U.S. and both conservative and more progressive thinkers. We are also getting to know gradually how different our upbringings were as we explain why we think about plot direction and characters the way we do.

I’m getting a better grasp of what’s behind how readers get to certain points in their analysis of a story. There have been several “surprises” from my own readers over the years about how they think: People expressing shock at who ended up being the villain when I thought it was too obvious; readers who loved one book over another when I thought I knew which of our plots was strongest. The conclusion I’m drawing from being part of a group of people coming at the book as a reader is this: how you react to what’s happening in the books; why you choose certain types of books as favorites; why you react emotionally to events in the book has to do with the lighting system your own life experiences provided you.

I’ve also come to this conclusion: Belonging to a club is fun because it lets you look over the shoulders of your new friends to see a book in a new light.—Genilee Swope Parente

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Posted by on February 28, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Reflections of a new life

Kelly shows off her kingdom to a new friend: her Mommy’s 96-year-young Uncle Bill Perkett

Many splendid things have happened to me since last spring: a move cross country, the first time I purchased a home for love, moving near family I’ve seen too little of over the years. I feel released from the last decade of  facing old age—not only the hardship of caring for elderly parents but realizing I’ve arrived on the senior doorstep myself. With this move to Texas, I feel like a new woman. The wonder of what I feel in this newness is reflected in a little canine face: the face of my beagle Kelly.

Kelly lost her sister Laney just before we made this move. It’s not that the loss seemed to depress her; we’ve only had her a short time and adjusting to a bigger dog who picked on her was tough. She’s a timid little being, though she musters through most of what life throws her way without too much complaint. She doesn’t bay; she doesn’t bark or chew, and she whines only a little. But I wouldn’t have said she had a lot of personality until we moved to Texas.

Our new home holds as much fascination for Kelly as it does for the two humans who purchased it. Unlike us, she isn’t in awe of the crown molding, tile floors, big rooms or the newness of the community. For Kelly, it’s all about the back yard. I get up every morning and make a cup of coffee, then sit on the back patio. At first I was there to appreciate the weather, which happened to be beautiful the first weeks we moved, and the pecan trees, which are huge and leafy and grand. The weather got hot, the yard got muggy and buggy, but I still go out there and sit, and I still enjoy the heck out of it … for another reason. I let Kelly out and she races to the end of a short stone pathway, then plops her little butt down to survey her kingdom. Those beautiful trees are home to dozens of squirrels and birds and bugs. There are neighborhood canines that occasionally come out to visit at the fence.

She’ll wait until she sees action—a squirrel travelling a branch, a deer in the neighbor’s yard. Then she races close to the action and squats to watch her doggy movies. Then, something will distract her across the yard and she’ll run to that spot as if she’d decided to change channels or flip a page in the “book” she’s reading. We have a very tough time getting her to come back into the house at all. When she’s in the yard, she’s entered her own little world where I’m sure she sees things and reacts to things in ways we mere humans cannot comprehend.

I never thought of a dog as having an imagination. But I can see her mind creating a world in our backyard that exists only for her. When she comes to us finally after repeatedly calling her, she has a smile on her face. “Okay Mom and Dad. I’m here. Let’s get this eating or hydration or nap time thing out of the way so I can get back out there and play.” She’s usually all by herself out there in the yard, but she’s never alone.

After this experience, no one can tell me that a dog doesn’t smile, doesn’t dream, doesn’t create. My pup, like me, is filled with the possibilities this new world presents.–Genilee Swope Parente





Posted by on September 5, 2019 in Uncategorized


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When being shocked is a good thing

Unlike some people I know, I like surprises; the further down my jaw drops, the better the experience.

I’m hard to surprise because I’ve done enough sneaking around planning how to bowl over someone on their special occasion (ask my daughter what an excellent Santa Claus I was). I notice when something is out of whack or someone is trying to cover up what’s really happening. It makes it difficult to be a mystery reader because I figure out the plot way too soon.

A special night of celebration

In fact, there’ve been only a few times when someone really shocked me: My 60th birthday (thank you handsome and clever husband and those who traveled the country to participate) and the night I received the top award from my professional communications association (oh, okay, I admit. I was very suspicious when my husband got dressed up and wanted to sit through a stiff-collared banquet).

Now I can add the night of April 11, 2019, when Luke Haas, the leader of the association whose magazine I do, gave me his president’s award.

Why was I surprised? Because I have spent my entire career working on improving the communications that associations send out to their members; I’m paid to do it. Very few people have ever thought to thank me for my effort and why should they have to? I’m accomplishing exactly what I set out to do.

I already knew that many people in this association, the International Cast Polymer Association, appreciated what I was contributing—I’ve had a good support system from the start. It’s a wonderful group of people, and they believe in their industry and what they do. They also recognize those who make things happen. But to be honored by them was not something I could have foreseen. That’s why it was something that shocked me. Okay, I’ll admit, it amazed, astonished, astounded, dumbfounded, floored, rocked, thunderstruck me (Thank you Merriam Webster’s thesaurus).

I find it deliciously ironic that the speakers at the conference where I received the honor seemed to be returning again and again to the same theme: engaging employees by showing them you appreciate and recognize what they do. The main speaker at the conference, a dynamic woman by the name of Lisa Ryan, calls it Grategy (gratitude as a strategy). What she said made sense to me because too much of life goes by with all of us running our little hamster wheels whispering: I gotta get this done because it’s my job; I gotta get this done because I’m on a deadline. I’m not just talking about corporate people because many of us are also in the business of taking care of children or family members or homes that need our time. We don’t take the time to find a way to recognize what it is that get’s done, and it’s partly because no one else notices.

By giving me this award, Luke stopped my hamster wheel and showed me that what I accomplished in the last few years was noticed and appreciated.

But he also gets the golden star because he successfully surprised me!!

Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Uncategorized


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A not-so-starved artist

A not-so-starved artist

I don’t usually associate terms such as “crisis of epic proportions” and “extinction” with what I do as a passion: write books. However, I came across both terms this week in the analysis of a recent survey looking into the status of author income in the U.S.

The study is done periodically by the Author’s Guild. Results of the 2018 update were released early this year, and the guild states up front that one of the significant changes in methodology with the most recent study was that it was opened up to non-members of the guild to get a much broader picture of all authors. But what the guild and the analysis had to say was disheartening, though hardly a surprise to any of us that are working full time in a money-making gig while scratching out time after-hours to write.

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Sadly, the “extinction” term in the analysis was used to describe what’s happening to writers who pursue literary fiction: fiction created as an art form, not just for entertainment. All of us have a bit of literary fiction in us or we would not do what we do. So, I’m hoping that term itself is not going the way of the dinosaurs.

The crisis terminology, on the other, was used to describe the overall situation for authors of all genres of both fiction and nonfiction. That situation is this: income for anyone who writes books is down 3% overall from 2014 (the last survey) and down considerably from 2009 ($10,500 average for all writers, including those who consider themselves full-time, down to $6,080 in 2018.) That’s income in general, which means any income generated from being an author; when income from book-related only activities was measured (royalties, direct sales, advances, rights), the numbers are bleaker: down 21%.

So you see my friends, those of us writing books aren’t exactly in it to get rich.

Instead, we’re in it to enrich others.

Most people who write are avid readers. I’m not talking in terms of quantity of books. Some people don’t have much extra time. I’m talking in terms of choice. When my husband is called away from home for the evening, I don’t automatically go in search of the remote, rubbing my hands together and cackling, excited that finally I am in control.

I go in search of my kindle, crossing my fingers that I remembered to charge it this morning, then settling in my favorite chair and reveling in the quiet of the house.

This does not make me a better person. I am not choosing to spend my time volunteering to feed the homeless or cleaning out the attic. I’m choosing to lose myself and my thoughts in words—to take a trip in my head.

But the feeling I get is power nonetheless. Unlike when I watch television, I am in control of the picture and the sound. I get to decide just how handsome my hero is, if an action makes the character in my book a villain or a victim or whether what’s happening might be caused by the past or a sign of what’s to come.

Nothing relaxes me more, and I want to give that feeling to other people. If fact, I have given that feeling if I listen to my own readers when they tell me how much they love my stories.

Which brings me back to rich versus enrich.

I have never judged a person’s worth by how big their house is or how much stuff they fill it up with or what’s parked in the driveway. I wasn’t brought up that way. So while it saddens me that it’s next to impossible to make any money creating a good plot, I’ve learned to file that thought away when I sit down to let my fingers fly across the keyboard. Writing is an art form, a creative outlet that like other art forms, is hard to justify as a career.

But easy to use to measure whether you consider yourself a success.–Genilee Swope Parente

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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Uncategorized


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To Max and Laney and All My Furry Friends

I once had a veterinarian who sent me a sympathy card with a sentiment that has stayed with me through the ups and downs of having animals: As painful as it is to us, pet owners can do something for our loved ones we can never do for our human companions. We can give them a dignified, pain-free departure.

This week I found out that my canine baby Laney has cancer and that my beautiful niece had to put down her beloved dog. Why does it always seem like these things happen in bunches? Is it to ensure we devote a chunk of time delving into the issues, crying out our eyes, coming to grips with how we really feel about dying or taking care of pets or making decisions that weigh resources against the reality of a few more months granted to us (usually not to them) to deal with what we know is coming?

I don’t need that chunk of time; I’ve been through this enough to know how I feel, and it’s this: every pet is unique; every situation different. And all of death sucks majorly. But it’s been worth it to me to suffer the pain of loss. If I could count up every time I’ve walked through a door to be greeted by an animal anxious to see me, every time a cat or dog has made me laugh because they’ve done something ridiculous that somehow makes sense; every expression I’ve tried to “interpret” and every picture I’ve taken and gone “aw” and shoved in someone else’s face to admire, I’d be a miracle worker; no one can (or should) keep track. Taking care of animals is about learning to live in the moment—both the moments when we are amazed and the moments when we are challenged.

It’s not easy cleaning up dog poo or kitty spray or vomit especially since pets just love to leave you little “gifts” most often first thing in the morning. It’s not hard creating running commentary for your pet when they crash into something, then try to act like they intended to be such a klutz. (“I was just testing that coffee table to see how tough it is, Mom. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”)

It’s just plain bliss to be stroking a dog or cat, not even concentrating on what you’re doing, then suddenly feel a tongue on your skin.

That tongue and that expression and that bark at the door is the thank you that people who never have pets can’t understand. It’s a language I’ve enjoyed learning and one that has continued to evolve over the years. It will get me through the next few hard months with Laney, and I intend to make it part of the rest of my life.

Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Uncategorized


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What I wish for you this holiday season

I asked myself this morning: if you could give your readers a Christmas present, what would it be?

If I was a better businesswoman, I would answer that question with: a new book all of you would pay gobs of money to get. But this is the season of giving, not taking. Since I’m not looking to get coal in my stocking, I’ll skip that idea. If I was a magician or genie, I might conjure up a wad of cash to hand over to everyone; who doesn’t need a wad of cash?  Sorry to disappoint you, dear readers—I have no special powers.

So I’m left with wishes, and those wishes have to be based on what I appreciate most in my own life right now.

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I’d start with time. My two best friends in this area are running particularly short on this commodity. One is caring for grandkids almost full time, a development she could not have for foreseen a decade ago when her biggest worry in life was her own adult child. The other is about to pick up roots and move across country, in the middle of an already hectic work schedule. And these are just my own friends: I see the shortage of time to do things on the faces of every person who hurries by my table at arts and crafts events or collides with other shoppers in the aisles of stores.

Meanwhile, I have more time on my hands than I could have envisioned just a year ago. With both my husband and I losing the responsibility of caregiving for elderly parents recently, we have more minutes and hours than we’ve had in many years. I’m savoring this holiday season simply because I have the time to do so. I wish the same for you.

Second would be that all of you have family close to you. It’s funny I would say that now since both my mom and my daughter moved and my father-in-law passed away. The size of the family around me shrank this year. But what this has done is make me appreciate the minutes I’ve had with all of them, draw closer to those who still live close by and look forward to the time when I’ll reside close to my sisters and nieces and their families, as well as Mom and my daughter and nephew.

The third is that this family also includes friends. Again, one of my friends is moving cross-country and the other is so busy we find it hard to get together. They are both in my heart this season and though we didn’t have much holiday time this year, it’s their friendship and the friendship of other good friends that is one of the blessings I’ve appreciated most all the years of my life.

So readers, I wish you family and friends and the time to savor it all. Merry Christmas.

Genilee Swope Parente



Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Uncategorized


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A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

Robert Bausch and my daughter Christina

I’d like to thank a perfect stranger this morning: Robert Bausch.

I never met this man, but I regret that fact. My daughter Christina tried for years to get me to take one of his writing or literature classes. He is the only college teacher that made a huge impression on her: she took his classes multiple times just because she enjoyed them so much: he was a great storyteller that inspired her to want more from words. Granted, my daughter always loved school, but there was only one other teacher that affected her on that level: her fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Owens, who turned her from a problem child with mid-road grades to a kid with goals, the desire to learn and the ability to get the good grades she wanted.

What more important profession can there be than a teacher? Personally, I couldn’t do it: I haven’t the patience. But I admire those who have chosen to do so, and I’ve been deeply affected by several of my teachers. The right instructor can completely turn around how a student feels about a class subject or school in general, and can help a student find a new passion in life.

With Bob Bausch, it’s also personal. Robert Bausch is an acclaimed novelist with a host of books under his name and a twin brother, Richard, who is also a recognized novelist. Robert’s recent death elicited publicity that showed me how deeply respected he was. He received awards not only for his writing, but for his teaching. Robert was a professor at George Mason and several other Virginia universities, as well as Northern Virginia Community College, where my daughter went to school. Robert also helped to found writers’ retreats and workshops that made a difference in many other creative wordsmiths’ lives. Robert’s books and works are an eclectic collection of history, a lot of humor and a study of human nature and tragedy.

But what his students knew him best for was storytelling. His tales were legendary, leaving students always wondering if he was pulling their leg or telling the truth. Most concluded it was probably a little of both. What he taught my daughter is how to use words to create illusions and leave an impression on a reader. As an author myself, how could I not adore him for giving my daughter that wonderful gift; I would have loved to have been the one to inspire her that way. But I am not a teacher, and I’m not great at spinning a yarn verbally. I can appreciate the talent there is in having those abilities, and I have seen in my child how it’s taught her to appreciate the craft of writing.

Thank you, Bob Bausch, for giving my baby a passion I share. Your students and admirers will miss you.

Christina’s story, “Dream Date,” is dedicated to Robert Bausch. It’s included in our collection of short stories, “Relative Connections,” which is this year’s holiday book release. Look for it in early November.


Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized


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Filling up the hole

Ever felt like a giant fissure opened up in your chest and sucked out your heart?dreamstime_xs_36668714

Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I’m allowed; I’m a writer.

And I will tell you that the events of this past summer have left a hole in the center of my being that I’m now faced with filling. It’s not a permanent hole—and it came about because of some positive as well as negative developments. But it hurts like surgery right now.

As I explained in my last blog, in just a few months, my mom and my daughter both made the decision to move 1,400 miles away, my father-in-law got sick and left this earth, and I suddenly went from caregiver and worried mom to having a lot of time to do things I haven’t done in years, including spending a lot more time writing what I want. As soon as I can stop crying about all the loss, I’ll likely enjoy myself. But the Kleenex is still tucked in my shirt sleeve because the move and his passing are only days and weeks old.

Underneath that top level of sorrow is the feeling that this was all somehow meant to be. I’ve never really believed that we are predestined to live a certain life. Yet the way this summer went just fell into place. My father-in-law buried three woman he came to love during his time on this earth. He’s been in emotional pain since he lost the last one, and his body just seemed to catch up with his head last spring. He went downhill very fast, and he wanted only one thing: to be done. We buried him with a beautiful military ceremony at Quantico, and we’re all pretty sure he’s up in heaven listening to three woman yammer at him and grinning ear to ear.

My mother went through a scary summer where 27 apartments in her building were evacuated and water started creeping down the hallway towards her apartment. Many of her friends moved away and she spent a couple of days in a hotel because her bathroom was not functioning. She is now safe in a home with a mother-in-law suite in Texas with two other daughters and their husbands, three grandchildren and a great grandson to keep her happy and vibrant.

My daughter made one of the hardest decisions of her young life: that she needed a complete lifestyle change to jumpstart the future she knows she can have. Since my husband and I had already made the decision to retire in that area of the country, I’m just delighted it’s there she’s gone.

So I’m left here wondering what to do next. My hubby and I already are making plans to relax and enjoy time as a couple after quite a few years of taking care of elderly parents. I’ve started a new mystery book with input from my Fate Series co-author mom, who intends to keep me on my toes writing, writing, writing. And I plan to spend much of the next year honing my word skills, keeping in better touch with my readers and learning everything I can about publishing and being published.

But first, I’ve got a shovel to get out so I can start the process of healing. — Genilee Swope Parentedreamstime_xs_85565144

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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


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A tornado of changes

When I was a young child, I used to dream about a white tornado. Most times, it was a scary dream: I grew up in the Midwest, which has seen its share of disaster caused by funnel clouds. However, being a child with an optimistic imagination that often turned fire-breathing dragons into puppy-like creatures, I sometimes saw the tornado of my dreams as a hero: sweeping into the basement and straightening up my toys so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

It takes a historian, not an analyst, to figure out where my dreams came from: Ajax had a commercial for its ammonia-based, liquid cleaner beginning in the early 1960s that featured people taking the top off a the bottle, which released a white tornado to carry through the Ajax theme of “stronger than dirt.”dreamstime_xs_73725675

I see the year 2018 as my modern white tornado tackling some grit. My family has experienced great upheaval starting with sickness and injury, then losing a friend to tragedy, seeing a beloved parent lose his ability to function, experiencing the fear of having another parent almost lose her home. The year swept in, destroyed much in its path and created chaos.

As a writer, the greatest change is that my co-author, my mom, is moving a thousand-plus miles away. As a mother, the hardest change is that my daughter is doing the same thing. I’m going from being part of the sandwich generation to dealing with a solitude I haven’t felt since I was in my thirties, single and living each day for myself without worrying much about the family who lived so far away.

My mind is reaching for the positives in this white tornado: my mom will be with my other sisters, well-cared for and in a better living situation. My daughter will get the life experience I think she really needs to grow into her own. I will get some quality time with my husband that we both want and more time to write my own stories.  But I’m not a child so it’s not as easy to let go of the dragon.  The path the tornado took has left much residue behind: I see it in the sadness on the faces of my husband and sister-in-law; in the stress I see in both my mom and my daughter’s eyes. I feel it my heart when I think about how I’ll live without the wisdom of my ma, the daily laughter of my baby girl, the good-hearted joking of my father-in-law.

I can only hope that when we put the lid back on the bottle of 2018 and tuck it away on the shelf, the world might look like a cleaner, fresher place.–Genilee Swope Parente





Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized


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Why it’s a thrill …

When mom and I discovered a week or so ago that our books had been produced in audio form by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Disadvantaged (BARD), we were elated. We posted on Facebook and received many positive comments. I realized, however, that not many people understood why were so excited.

Believe me reading fans, it isn’t because we’ll be making any money. We don’t make a cent and can’t reuse the audio form ourselves. We’re excited because this opens up an entire new world of minds to the adventures of Sam Osborne. The people who are BARD readers have either a visual or physical challenge that makes it hard for them to hold a book or see the words. BARD works through regional libraries to provide a service that allows them to listen to a narrator read the words.

One of the reasons Mom and I (and every reader I know) love books so much is that reading allows you to put your own spin on a story. You visualize the characters in your head as you go, make up the scenes in your mind as the words feed you more information, give your own spin on what the hero or heroine is like, filling in their motivations as you pick up more and more details from the plot. With movies or television, someone is telling you what to see. With books, you’re making it up and interpreting as you go.

Mom would not be able to read at all if not for BARD and other mobile reading programs. My smart brother bought her an iPad several years ago. We can download audible books from the library and other sources. Mom also has one the readers the Virginia Department of the Blind sends out that takes special BARD cassettes. Those two sources of books have become a vital part of her existence.

Our books were suggested for the BARD system by Merilee, a wonderful woman who works for the department of the blind and is trying to teach mom braille. Once someone applies to have a book or books put into the system, the material then goes through a qualification system. If accepted, the Library of Congress finds a narrator to read the books into the system.

Mom and I sat in Mom’s living room with her iPad this past Sunday, searching on the BARD system for “Swope” and “Fate” and up pops the first four books as one download. A few minutes later, we hear the voice of a talented reader start from the very beginning of Twist of Fate.

The reason this is significant is that mom has never read one of her own books. She has files on her iPad of each of the books that allows her to listen to a computer voice read word by word. But it’s just not the same as having someone put the right inflections into the language. We both had tears in our eyes by the time the narrator read through the acknowledgements. Mom is finally reading her own books.

So are thousands of other people who could not do so without help from talking books. Sam Osborne and the other characters in our Fate Series have come alive for a huge new audience. Who wouldn’t be thrilled? — Genilee Swope Parente

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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Uncategorized


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