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Heavenly Speculation

9.4.15

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When someone close to you dies, it triggers thoughts of whether you believe in heaven and what it would be like. I have not believed in pearly gates and streets paved in gold since I was a young child, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s a heaven. I just don’t need precious gems and fancy streets around for all of eternity.

I have this other idea in mind; I want my heavenly reward to be the ability to time travel. I’ll admit I’m a sci-fi fan, but I’m not really thinking in terms of H.G. Wells—I don’t think we can actually physically be there or change what’s already happened. My idea of a good time after death would be the ability to go back and forth through periods in my life to experience again the joys and sorrows. We forget so much of what happens to us, and I suppose if we could travel this way, we’d discover how much we embellish the good times and brick up the bad to protect ourselves.  But if you’ve already lived your life and you can’t do anything about it, wouldn’t it be fun to just be an observer and remember the details? My idea wouldn’t stop with our own lives—that wouldn’t take all of eternity. We might also have the ability to go back into previous lives, or if reincarnation does not exist, to previous eras of time to study how they dressed and acted or what really happened during certain historical events.

No one ever accused me of being a conventional thinker, and that’s just fine with me.

I do think my idea of heaven is based partly on the fact I consider myself an observer. I have spent all of my life watching things happen, then recording them. It’s worked well in my pursuit of a career because it’s what journalists, authors and photographers do, three of the jobs I’ve spent the most time loving. I’ve always known I was not the individual that was going to organize the best event or campaign ever, make a million bucks, make a huge impact on society or give myself completely to a particular cause. I’m just here to see what happens and put it down on paper.

Come to think of it, I may have received this trait from my dad, the newspaper editor. So if my theory holds true about heaven, that means daddy is zipping around history right now, having a wonderful time.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Swope Clan in Edgerton

I don’t think I’ve ever received as many hugs in as short a time as I did during a 48-hour period last weekend. I went to Edgerton, my home town, for a book tour with mom and my sister Allyn. Mom and I weren’t the stars of that show; Allyn has kept in touch with many people and has some really close friends who are her cheerleaders. They became our cheerleaders too. But all of us, including those of us not there as pen-wielding celebrities, but rather as supporters, got a huge dose of Home Town Pride, and it was nice to be a small part of that pride.

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Our hostest Susan Herman of Susan’s Hair Flair and president of the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce

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Verna and mom

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Allyn & Sondra

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Mr. Smith (center)

A few highlights:

We were sitting at breakfast the first morning, already happy to be together and sharing laughs when my nieces walked into the restaurant. They flew in from Texas to surprise grandma and grandpa—arriving at 3 a.m. the previous night after a grueling flight on a cheaper airline. Once I saw them, I knew that—no matter the results of our book events—the weekend had just become something I’d never forget.

Our high school English teacher Richard Smith came to the Edgerton Public Library signing. I am quite certain I never hugged Mr. Smith in high school. Hugs were not so plentiful in those days. But neither Al nor I could help ourselves when we saw him. He is the teacher that got us interested in words. He laughingly explained he doesn’t read fiction (though he read our first book) anymore because his life was so consumed by it when he was a teacher. But he still has that delicious acerbic wit that delighted us as teenagers so much that we paid attention to him in class.

Verna Wortkoetter, the friend mom has remained closest to, not only had the clan and some old neighbors over for lunch, she invited some of mom’s old sorority sisters. The gesture was especially thoughtful because Verna was not part of that club. But she knew how important it was to mom, and she knew they’d all soon be trading memories of the parties they had and what had happened to the rest of the crew. I believe my nieces got a taste of grandma’s (and grandpa’s) wilder days by listening to the stories.

My husband saw his first parade, and (as I expected) instantly transformed into a kid. He kept himself from scrambling into the street after candy, but it couldn’t have been easy.

All of us choked up when grandpa struggled up out of his chair to sing the star spangled banner word for word. Alzheimers has nothing over patriotism!

God seemed to be smiling down on the whole weekend as the weather, which is usually hot and humid and miserable this time of year in Ohio, was gorgeous and sunny and cool.

The number of people who told us they were proud of what we’d done was incredible. It just kept coming and coming from old classmates and neighbors and friends of friends.

One of the signings we had was at Susan’s Hair flair right downtown Edgerton in the building that used to house the Edgerton Public Library. As I looked around at that building, I realized that it all really began there with mom pushing us all to learn to love books. Here it was, 50 plus years later, and we were back, signing books we had written ourselves. Thanks Mom, for getting us started on this path.

 

–Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Stepping it Up

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One reality prospective authors need to face is that getting published is not winning a sweepstakes. No one is going to show up at your door with a giant check, flash you a brilliant smile, shake your hand and shout: Congratulations, you’re a winner!

Getting published is a series of steps. If you can keep your momentum, the steps go upward—working towards bigger and better goals and often getting easier as you climb. Some of those steps are major ones: my sister, children’s book author Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), took a giant hop up this week: she saw her second book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words, in final form—ready for press. I know that seeing the heroin of her first book, The Pea in Peanut Butter, come to life again on the pages and knowing people will soon hold her creation in their admiring hands has to be a wonderful feeling: in this case, it’s enough of a leap up to carry her past some challenges to come.

I took a big step this week, too, though it wasn’t that golden glow event of seeing my name on a printed page. My step was that I submitted our first draft of Fate of the Violet Eyes, book three of the Sam Osborne series, to our publisher. That means for just a moment, I can sit back, take a deep breath, and realize I’ve done all I could to make this book better than the last two. Having been through this twice already, it also means that I can finally let the experts at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, tell me how to make it even greater.

While it’s vital to our sanity as authors for us to acknowledge and feel our accomplishments—pat ourselves on the back for the steps we overcome, Allyn, as well as Mom and I, will not rest long in this heaven. That’s because as authors of more than one book, we know there are many steps ahead, even after the book is in print. The hardest part about becoming an author is the reality that getting to the point where your book populates the crowded lists on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is much easier than what comes next: getting someone to notice it. And having tracked the blogs of several major writers, I know that, unless you’re James Patterson, you have to direct and participate in how well your book goes over. You have to force yourself to become what you may not be: a marketer. And I bet even Mr. Patterson sometimes dreads putting on a suit or combing his hair to give a speech, an interview or to make a video to post on his official website. We are writers―our art is creation of stories and the alignment of words in such a way that we lead readers down a path we want them to travel. The reality is that, even if you’re shy, you have to believe in your own work enough to want others to feel what you felt when you were creating it.

My intention in saying this is not to throw water in prospective author’s face. While Allyn, Mom and I have been learning how tough it is, we’ve also seen the rewards. Every time you lift a foot and climb up another step, you gain a little strength; you make the next stage of the climb a little easier because you have one thing going for you that you didn’t have before. Whenever you need it, you can turn and gaze back down the staircase and see yourself on that first little stair. You can remember that you are climbing towards your dream—which is a brave step not many people do in their lives. You can feel what it’s like to have recognized what you want enough to have built the staircase in the first place.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Lights, Camera, Action?

If anyone had told me five years ago that I would be a television star, I would have called them nuts.

Never mind the miracle of finishing three books, getting published twice, getting offered a contract on a third book. And yes, it’s a small miracle that being an author has brought me out of my shell long enough to speak in front of audiences.

But last week, mom and I launched our official road to celebrity-hood by taping the Rich Massabny show—Conversations with Rich (airing times on this page).

How could I have foreseen before all this began that I would be a television star!! Okay, maybe not a star. Just a twinkle in a few fan’s eyes if anyone tunes into the show. But there we were—mom and I—sitting on black plastic chairs, mike’s clipped to our bosoms, chatting with Rich, who is pretty well known in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, like we were old friends. How exciting to experience the heat and blinding bright of the lighting and be with the guys and gals with clipboards saying all sorts of fascinating things like, “1,2,3 check. Production room? What do you mean you can’t hear us? Is mike four even ON?”rich massabny

I just KNEW at that exact moment that we’d made it—fame at last. Okay, maybe not fame and there really wasn’t a lot of guys and gals. Just a friendly fellow with a pony tail, several youngsters who looked like they’d just left diapers behind last week, and a nervous young man who kept clearing his throat.

But it was our first filming crew. The same crew with which we’d just shared the delicious spread produced for the television crew. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a spread or one of those feasts that unions require for movie crews. It was leftovers from the cooking show that went on just before we did, but we could tell it was delicious by the many ums and ooohs. We couldn’t eat because we were too nervous. Okay, really it was because mom and I too often tend to wear what we attempt to put in our mouths, and we didn’t want to spoil our new blouses.

Then there was the excitement leading up to the taping. You know … that room with a star and the makeup girl fussing to make you look just right. Okay, that’s a downright lie. I sat in a waiting room and made conversation with my fellow author―mom. At one point, I ducked into the ladies room and put on lipstick―which I hate in the hopes that it would make me less pale. It didn’t work.

Nevertheless, there we were, “on stage” for the first time, sharing our hopes and dreams with the whole wide world. All right, maybe our hopes are really that just a few people who might happen to be bored with Jimmy Fallon will flip through the channels at the exact moment we’re on.

But back to my original thought. I could not have imagined five years ago that instead of sitting watching the tube next week, I’ll be watching myself.

Oh wait, does that mean I have to look at my double chin? Ah well, the price of fame …

 

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Stress-Free Zone

Writing is the one thing I do for myself that involves no anxiety, uncertainty or vacillation. I won’t allow it. We all need one aspect of our lives where we’re just free to be ourselves without influence of outside pressure. I’ve decided it will be writing.

What that means on a daily basis is that, no matter what I face that day or how much of a work load I carry, I give myself one hour first thing in the morning with only a cup of coffee between sleep and empty or unfinished pages. I don’t even allow the baleful eyes of my sweet hound dog to tempt me away from my task. She’s learned, after a year or so of this routine, that the leash is next on my list.

What it means on the weekends is that I allow the computer to call with a voice louder than domestic tasks. I

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don’t always listen to that voice—if I did, I’d have laundry to the ceiling, and I’d never get a closet or drawer cleaned out. But I give that voice the prominence it deserves, and sometimes it wins out over other sounds. [Oh, okay, being a lousy homemaker helps in this case.]

But even with major book events, I let only the joy of being an author come through the doors with me. I’m shy by nature so speaking before groups or sitting behind a table trying to get passersby to stop and look at our book should not be comfortable for me. And I feel the jitters bubble towards the surface occasionally. Instead of waiting for them to break through, however, I remind myself that I’m there as a writer. Why should I care if someone ignores me or I stumble over my words?

The only experience I have to compare this with is my wedding. I planned, I saved, I fussed before the event. But when the day came, and despite the fact I knew I’d trip walking up the steps in a gown with a train, I honestly felt no nervousness. I asked myself after the ceremony why and came up with this answer: because I knew what I was doing was right. I didn’t doubt for a second that I was marrying the right man so I didn’t care what others thought of the wedding arrangements, how I looked, or whether I fell flat on my face. I was exactly where I needed to be.

When I sit before the computer playing with words; when I sit with mom at my side and a stack of books in front of us; when mom and I find ourselves among a group of strangers looking to be entertained or informed, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. It took a long time to get here, but who cares. I’ve arrived.

–Genilee Swope Parente

Wretched2

Look for Wretched Fate coming out this month!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Taking a bow

Mom and I had another book signing this week, and as with most of these events, it was nothing like the previous ones. However, we walked away with smiles on our face, and it was not because of the books we sold. Here’s why:

In July, we spoke at two senior communities in Fredericksburg – The Crossings and the Chancellor–both great meetings because the residents were truly interested in how two older women (a mother/daughter team no less!) finally got around to fulfilling a dream. We didn’t sell many books at those meetings and didn’t expect to—we were there to pump ourselves up and remember how great being an author can be.

This week, however, we tried our first book store event. We’ve been hesitant to jump into that circuit because the store has to take a cut so we’re lucky to break even. I think we also both visualized a situation similar to the library book signings we’ve done: sitting at a table with just a sign and a smile and watching people go by without looking our way. People at the library do not expect or want to see someone trying to sell them a product—even if it’s a book!

Last Saturday, we set up a table at 2nd and Charles, a huge used book (as well as used movies, instruments, albums) store, put on those smiles and put up the sign. But instead of being ignored, people stopped; people talked; some people bought—shoppers of all ages and types kept pouring through that front door and walking by the table.2nd and charles

It was delightful so many people paused to meet the authors and exclaim over our fortune and fortitude in getting our books into print. The staff at 2nd and Charles bent over backwards to make us feel comfortable and appreciated. And we sold more books than we’ve sold at any recent event.

However, what made us smile as we packed our materials away was something entirely different: we realized that the constant stream of traffic meant there are many many readers out there. Despite the 3D Imax glitter of movies, the 100-plus channels most people have on their televisions, the graphic fantasy worlds of computer and Xbox games, those who shop at 2nd and Charles choose to hold a book in their hands and let their minds do the work. Of course it made us smile: they are our audience and this is our curtain call.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Making friends with our synapses

How many of us have a smart phone, an iPod, a tablet or reading device that we don’t really know how to use? Since nothing comes with a manual anymore (and no one read them when they did), chances are, with most gadgets we buy today, we use at most a quarter of the features. We chose the device for a specific reason (cool navigation, the ability to read a book in all light levels, a calendar reminder we hope will keep us organized), but as it turns out, that darn piece of technology is full of bells and whistles and more bells that we will NEVER use and certainly never understand. Okay, I’ll admit it, I don’t even know how to set the time on my Radio Shack alarm clock. When the power goes out, I first cuss at myself for failing to put batteries in, then play with the buttons for 10 minutes or so knowing it’s a certain sequence (my dear husband bought the clock because it was billed as “simple,” which today means two buttons that will do everything if only you know exactly how and when to punch them, hold them in and let them out.)For those of us over 40, this phenomenon is a constant source of stress. Between computers that crash and smart phones that we just KNOW have a silent button somewhere, we spend way too much time using the phrase “Why do they have to make it so complicated!!”

Do we just give up, throw the phone in the lake, the iPod in the drawer and the tablet in the closet?

That’s a big “no” for most of us. We’ve come to depend on that magic feature that makes it all worthwhile. The lucky ones (like me) have a teenager or another tech-savvy friend or loved one (thank you God, for giving me my geek husband).

So here’s one way to look at the situation: your brain is like your device. It’s crammed with creativity and magic, so many ideas that you’ll never use them all. We may get frustrated on those days when we just can’t pull what we want out of our head. But surely there is someone out there (or something if our brains came with manuals)Synapses working for us that can help.

Don’t give up on that computing device that sits on your shoulders—even when you can’t access what you want. Make friends with it, get help understanding it (a writing class, an online writers group) and you will find you simply can’t live without it.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
Synapses working for us
 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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