Ever felt like a giant fissure opened up in your chest and sucked out your heart?
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 Parente
Tags: being an author, challenges of sandwich generation, destiny, entering new phases of life, hole in heart, lifestyle for sandwich generation, losing caregiver responsibility, losing family, loss of lifestyle, loss of loved ones, major life changes, major lifestyle changes, new phases of life, sandwich generation, saying goodbye to sandwich lifestyle, summer 2018 major lifestyle changes, time to write, when destiny 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.”
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
Tags: dealing with change, dealing with crisis, dealing with grief, dealing with life changes, dealing with upheavals, getting through change, getting through major change, great upheaval, life changes, life-changing times, significant life changes, tornado of change, white tornado, white tornado of change
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
Tags: BARD books, BARD mystery books, best books for the blind, blind reading lists, expanding book reading audience, importance of audio book to blind, importance of audio books, library of congess services to blind, mysteries for the blind, mysteries on BARD, new audiences for books, reading to the blind, visualizing characters, visualizing plots, why people read, words as images
I think it’s glorious that Mother Nature blanketed us with snow on the second day of Spring. This winter hasn’t given the D.C. area a day like this, and I know that while all of us here are grumbling, groaning and complaining―deep down, we revel in it.
It’s proof that the alarm clock may not be almighty, that our everyday routines can be uprooted and thrown into chaos, that we really cannot accomplish that dreaded task we said absolutely had to get done today at the office. We can’t get out of our own homes. We’re weighed down by inaccessibility to the rest of the world and the danger of the roads.
Yet I know that mothers or father revel in the fact there is no need to get little Jimmy to the bus stop by 8:30. Jimmy and his brothers and sisters savor the feeling of bedcovers a little longer, then spring out of bed ready to celebrate the get-out-of-jail-card feeling of canceled school.
We need these kinds of days to wash our souls―to remind us we are not always in charge. There will always be surprises at hand!
Even if we are one of the hundreds of people who run to the store to stock up on enough eggs and diapers to last weeks past the one day the snow is expected to stay, part of the process of a winter storm is visualizing post apocalypse scenarios. What would we do if electricity, water, computers, cars were not a given? My God, what if pizza delivery and seven-11s didn’t exist ! ?
As our brains are busy grinding out the what ifs, our eyes are feasting: black tree bark painted with vanilla frosting; mounds of sugary powder everywhere; a veil of blinding whiteness falling from the sky; the blank slate of sidewalks and hills just before they are invaded by boots and sleighs.
And suddenly the pictures of doomsday and danger are replaced by one thought: it sure is beautiful.–Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: appreciating the beauty of snow, benefits of Acts of God, benefits of upsetting our routine, closed workday for snow, DC snowstorm today, enjoying the snow, getting out of school, imagining doomsday, living without 7-11, Mother Nature upsets, snow upsetting routine
During my wonderful 25th anniversary trip to Europe, I reaffirmed what a klutz I am by dropping a scooter on my foot. That’s not an easy task to accomplish but as my friends and family will tell you, I’m a pro at awkward accidents.
Amazingly, the only bones I’ve ever broken in my body up to now are my nose and both small toes. I can now add four hairline fractures and a torn ligament to the list. Unfortunately, that’s all on one foot, and they don’t give you a cast for this—just a huge boot and a warning that much patience will be required.
The warning was a good one.
I’ve been unable to drive a car for months now, reliant on others to do the grocery shopping, pick up medicine, run errands, carry stuff up and down stairs, cook, clean, get my ma to the doctor—you get the idea. I hobble along for a day or two thinking the foot is getting better only to have it flare up again and put me back in my chair, the foot propped up, alternating ice and heat.
My fatalistic friends would say: everything happens for a reason. That’s hard to take when you’re in pain, but I have learned a few things from this experience:
- Before this happened, I was getting more exercise than I realized. A couple years ago, I got a fitbit and while it only lasted a few months, the lesson it taught stayed with me, which is: the biggest advantage of living in a three-level house is that you have to go up or down the stairs many times a day. That’s a lot of steps I’m not getting right now, and believe it or not, I miss the freedom of being able to run up the stairs to get a hoodie when I’m cold.
- Animals do not understand humans with deficiencies. The look in my dogs’ eyes at the time I’d normally be taking them for a walk breaks my heart. Even though it’s been two months, they do not understand that one of their “gods” has weaknesses. They just sniff my boot and run from those mean evil metal crutches I brought into this house.
- My mom has more patience than I realized. My co author has been physically limited for most of the time we’ve been writing. She’s also blind and now unable to do any writing on the computer. I realize now the depth of the challenges she faces every day.
But the most important take-away of all:
- I married the right man. Who do you think’s been making those trips up and down the steps and to the store and taking the dogs for their walks and feeding me these many days? My daughter helps when she’s here, but that’s rare. It’s my man doing it all. And when he brings me a cup of warm delicious coffee he learned to make just the way I like it, and when he balls me out for doing too much while my foot is trying to heal … I realize again how much I love him.
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: being disabled, fatalism, good marriage, hobbling, homebound by injury, injury to foot, life lessons, love and caregiving, stuck at home, stuck in the house, taking care of injured loved one, taking care of injuries, the best caregiver, using crutches
One of the goals mom and I have had for our series is to redo the covers to make them easier to view online and more attractive and modern in their looks. Design for a cover can be very expensive so we searched for, and found an affordable way to do this through a web company: Fiverr, which allows creative individuals from around the world to bid on projects in their field. When Architect of Fate, book five, was released last fall, we tested the international system by asking for bids on that cover with a hint that if we were happy with the results of this new book cover, we wanted the rest of the covers done with a similar look.
We received quite a few bids and picked Harshani Fernando, a designer in Sri Lanka whose work we thought was eye catching. We loved the drama she put into Architect of Fate’s look enough to offer the other covers to her as we could afford them.
I won’t say the process didn’t have its ups and downs: dealing with someone so far away who speaks a different language is bound to have some challenges. We also had some scheduling problems as well as difficulty trying to figure out Fiverr’s web site, which requires you to correspond with your chosen vendor only through their own system. We also were doing all this during the busiest season we have: the holiday craft fair season.
But we kept with it, kept the faith in Harshani’s creativity, and now have five appealing covers.
What this experience affirmed to me personally is that, as authors, our instincts are our greatest tool. We have to be our own champions—researching, writing, editing, marketing, selling—we have to spare a little of our creative juices to accomplish all that in a way we can afford. In this case, we needed to find a less expensive way to tap into the world of creative designers. Six years ago, when we started writing, this international bidding channel would not have been available to us. I found out about it at several writer’s conferences.
I’m not the most sophisticated internet user and the Fiverr site confused me almost from the get-go. But we liked what we were seeing from the designers there; we liked what we saw in Harshani’s portfolio. The result is that we’re happy we reached across the world to snatch up the talents of someone in a country we’ll probably never get to visit.
And now we present the works of Harshani Fernando. We’d love to hear from readers what you think.–Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: affordable ways to afford cover, affordable ways to afford redesign, appealing book cover, Fiverr, hiring fiverr designer, hiring foreign designer, marketing your book, new book covers, new book looks, new look for The Fate Series, redesigning book cover, The Fate Series
I’m generally not a negative person, but this holiday has not been one of the finest for my family. So far:
- I crushed one of my feet in a Vespa accident while in Florence, Italy for my 25th wedding anniversary trip.
- My father-in-law fell in his apartment and was rushed to the medical center.
- My sister-in-law fell outside her home and sprained an ankle.
- My dog went into the vets for a biopsy and came out minus a chunk of her tummy.
- My mother fell in her apartment and was rushed to the ER.
- My daughter crashed her car.
- My husband, who never gets sick, got really sick and spent the last days remaining to shop in a bed.
- I got what he had and am carrying forth the family hacking, coughing and dizziness.
Because of the anniversary trip, we got started very late on holiday shopping/planning/decorating, which squeezed our schedule even tighter this year. But the main reason I’m feeling holiday blues is that it’s been a steady pounding. Just as we’ve dealt with one crisis, another falls on our heads. It’s been an endless stream of “oh noooooooo’s!”
But you know what? I may be singing the blues but it’s not a dirge. Why should it be? After all,
- The foot thing happened on the last day of my trip. It could not dampen my new-found passion for Paris and for Italy. I am on crutches, but managed my holiday shopping without a physical visit to a store. That wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
- My father in law was not seriously hurt and the crusty old goat seems to be doing fine. He has finally been convinced that the help his family has arranged may be necessary and that he should be using a walker.
- My sister-in-law was bedridden for a couple of days but is now moving around with the help of an ace bandage. Meanwhile, I’ve nicknamed the two of us, the Gimp Girls.
- The growth on the dog was not cancer.
- My mom suffered only a cut to the head that required a stitch as well as some sore bones.
- My daughter’s accident was mostly a fender bender and even though it was her fault, she wasn’t charged.
- My cold is physical proof that my husband loves me so much, HE’LL SHARE EVERYTHING.
So, I’m grabbing my crutches and my cough drops and limping downstairs to finish my wrapping. That is … if I don’t go tumbling down the steps.
–Genilee Swope Parente
One of the features I really like about Facebook is what I’ll call the memory boomerang: Facebook sends out a reminder of a major event that occurred a year to five years ago. We were boomeranged this week with the release of our very first book: Twist of Fate.
I was shocked to see that it had only been five years ago I wrote an entry that indicated the book was about to be launched. So much has happened in such a short amount of time. The most significant is that we are now in midst of launching Architect of Fate, book five of our series. Including our book of short stories (Holiday Connections), that means we’ve managed to put out six books in five years. We’re also now in the third iteration of covers—having given in to our original publishers’ desire to create a consistent look, but never really liking that look—we’re redoing our covers so they make a splash and can attract some attention online.
The new look for Twist of Fate
For the Nora Roberts’s or James Pattersons of the world, such developments would be no accomplishment; they are well established authors who do this for a living and have staff and lots of money to back them up. To a woman in her sixties who works an everyday job, helps to take care of her elderly mom and tries to make her wonderful husband and daughter priorities; and to her co-author who is in her nineties (as of November 13) and who has macular degeneration and very limited physical capabilities, six books is no small miracle.
One trait that I have learned that mom and I have in common is stubbornness. But I don’t say that in a negative way. Writing a book, and even more importantly, getting a book into print and then selling it, is hard work. Even more significantly, it creates long periods of time when you just want to give up—nothing is happening or the plot is going nowhere or there are no book events to keep your blood boiling or you get a critical comment or no comment at all from friends or fans you’d hope were at least reading the book. Mom and I (and my sister, children’s book author Allyn M. Stotz) have leaned on each other when those times come. We’ve laughed through the tears and frustrations, put on our cheerleader panties and pushed on.
It’s what you do when you’ve found something that gives you passion.
So here’s to all the authors in the world who are out there pushing to get their words before an audience and here’s to all the would-be writers who sit down at the computer and take that first step: putting down their thoughts. And especially: here’s to all those readers who take a few minutes to write a review or send a word of encouragement.
It’s a tough life being an author, but with enough stubbornness and help from fans and supporters: dreams do come true.—Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: accomplishing the impossible, Allyn M. Stotz, Architect of Fate, authors in their nineties, authors with macular degeneration, Facebook boomerang, feeling of accomplishment, getting published, Grandma Moses cases, hardships of getting published, hardships of writing a book, Holiday Connections, macular degeneration, realizing a dream, relaunching a series, sticking to it, stubbornness of authors, stubbornness of writers, Twist of Fate, writing challenges, writing while working full-time
I woke up this morning with the feeling that I’d lost 100 pounds.
If I’d actually lost 100 pounds, I would not have sprung out of bed the way I did—I’d have called the EMS and checked to see which of my limbs suddenly fell off during the night.
But this was just a feeling. As I brushed my teeth and squinted into the bathroom mirror, I asked myself: why am I suddenly so much lighter? As soon as my brain caught up to my body and came fully awake, I realized: it’s because Architect of Fate has gone to press.
Those of you who are authors know exactly what I mean. There are stages to writing a book and this is the final one—you’ve slaved and labored and cursed and dreamed this book for month upon month, and finally got it to a place that enabled you to send it off. Once it’s gone to the printers, it’s like your baby has grown up and left the nest. (Oh wait, my human baby grew up a long time ago and still lives in the nest). Okay, then, it’s like you’ve been carrying around a baby inside you for nine months and your water finally breaks. There’s nothing you can do now except go to the hospital or call in the midwife and hope for a smooth birth.
Parenthood is an appropriate analogy either way. On the fast-paced highway of raising children, there are many conflicting road signs—tons of decisions to make, loads of advice to sift through, many scary moments in the process. With authorhood, those decisions are vast, from what characters work in your plot to how much money you can afford to pay an editor. At some point, however, you realize you’re done: you’ve written and rewritten and sent it off to that editor, then rewritten and edited and sent it off the editor again, then tried to keep your chin up when your final read reveals that you need to proof it one more time. But finally, it’s out of your hands: you’ve approved the final the printer provides and signed off on having it put on a press.
Thus, the 100-pound weight loss.
However, having already been through this process, I realize I must relish these few moments of lightness because the real work is about to begin. Authors today do not simply write a book and send it off to the printer or their agent or their publisher. They spend as much time marketing that book as writing it. If they didn’t, the wonderful story they hope others will read would never get out there. Today’s publishing world means millions of stories are floating around; To get people to grab yours requires an author to also be a public relations specialist.
Ah well, the wonderful feeling of accomplishment at having written another book will be there to help me as I tackle this harder part of the job. It will bolster me, just as looking at the beautiful face of my daughter each day lets me know that every little frustration I’ve experienced along the way cannot compare to the love I feel for the end result.
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: Architect of Fate, author as PR, birth of a book, birthing a book, book as baby, book as child, book finally released, book to printers, feeling accomplished, feeling of accomplishment, finally writing that book, gestation period for books, getting book into print, going to press, love of finished book, love of writing books, my book is my child, releasing final book, The Fate Series
Mom and I have two exciting events coming down the pike. First, the fifth book of The Fate Series—Architect of Fate―should be out in the next few weeks. Architect of Fate is a two-year labor of love. Mom created such an intricate plot that both of us have been working on smoothing it out and ensuring we were as accurate as possible. We’ve talked to police, the FBI, specialists in pharmacology, a psychologist, you name it, trying to get as close as we could to what would really happen if four people of widely varied backgrounds suddenly went missing.
For this book, we also made a major decision regarding what happens in the life of our main character, Sam Osborne, and we changed the ending and the name of the book accordingly. I won’t tell you more, but those of you who have come to love our hero have got to read this installment—we’ve been stringing you along with a mystery that involves Sam so we decided it was time readers had more details.
The second exciting development is that we’ll be relaunching our series this spring. We’re doing this for several reasons. You’ll see when Architect of Fate comes out that the cover is vastly different than what we’ve had before. We loved what the artist for this book did enough that we’re redoing all the covers to make them more appealing and easier to see. We’re also relaunching as part of an effort to make our books more accessible to people. We hope to fulfill the many requests we’ve had to put our books on tape, and we’re seeking other new channels for reaching readers we know would love the series.
Our blog’s been too quiet over the last year—even as our sales have gone up and our plans for the future have crystallized. We’ve concentrated on moving forward, and we hope you’ll be there to help us get there.
–Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: Architect of Fate, best mystery series, best new mystery series, best recent mystery series, book launch, F. Sharon Swope, Genilee Swope Parente, getting The Fate Series, Holiday Connections, launching a book, mystery book series, mystery/romance series, packaging a book series, recent mystery/romance series, relaunching a series, republishing a series, Sam Osborne the detective, The Fate Series, Treasured Fate, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, wretched fate