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What a great week for celebrations

My ex-Navy hubby and I were driving home from Pensacola last Monday, mulling over what a fantastic weekend we’d just spent at the reunion of the U.S.S. Coronado when I turned to him and said: “and a good time was had by all.”

It made both of us laugh—the grammar is so atrocious. But the sentiment is sometimes so appropriate.whole crew

The phrase is one that has stuck inside my head since the days of working at my hometown newspaper—we are talking WAY back when we had local neighboring village representatives that basically wrote gossip columns on social events in their necks of the country. None of the women could write worth a lick, but they were vital to that era and people read every word of their columns, which often ended with that phrase.

The words seem to pop into my head after any major event that has had me in a slight tizzy leading up to it because of the necessary planning or the hassle of preparation. After the dust has settled, the event concluded, I realize it was all worth it—everyone had a good time.

Such was certainly the case with the Pensacola trip. I did none of the planning—a crew from just after the years my husband served had put the whole wonderful weekend together. But we had to drive two days to get there and it was right before the Applebee’s book launch for mom and me, so the week leading up to the naval reunion was hectic. Still, the timing was perfect because it took my mind off the details of the launch, details that have plagued me for the last month and consumed a lot of my spare time.

Hubby and I didn’t know a soul going into that U.S.S. Coronado reunion. We listened to stories from the ship and swapped life’s details with a large roomful of people and by the end of two days, had many new friends. Meanwhile, I got to taste just a little bit of the part of my dear husband’s life that preceded me: the Navy.

A good time was truly had by all.

And when we returned home, it was finally time for the launch. I was biting my nails by the time it came…absolutely positive no one would come. That it would be me and my mom at a table with a sad little tray of cheese sticks and restaurant patrons walking by wondering why there were balloons.

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We had a blast: the restaurant had put out the red carpet: literally. They’d also decorated the alcove where our event was held, made giant teaser signs with sayings from the books and put out loads of appetizers. Lo and behold, guests started arriving immediately and we had a crowded event the whole three hours. We sold loads of books, but even more importantly, we saw what a great support system we had and how many people still love to read enough to be thrilled to get autographed copies of books.

To Sara McElroy and Dennis Benson of Potomac Family Dining: what a terrific and wonderful launch you gave us. To the local restaurant staff: thank you for all your kind words and your cooperation (not to mention the yummy and bountiful treats). And to Applebee’s Grill and Bar: you really did make it a neighborhood event.

A good time was had by all.

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 15, 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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The excitement of being picked

Sometimes the little thrills balance out even the biggest challenges, which in writing include long hours of creation following by painful periods of waiting for your books to come out.

Mom and I recently had the pleasure of showing our book at a community fair at Potomac Woods apartments, Woodbridge, VA. We were returning to the Woods after a successful book signing, and like the first event, residents were enthusiastic about buying our book.

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Sally Okuly (middle) and the authors

But the nicest surprise came not from sales, but from two other factors: first, there were a number of residents who stopped by to comment on the book because they’d already read it. But the second surprise was even better: Mom and I donated a copy as a door prize drawing. Those fair participants whose names were drawn had a table full of goodies to choose from as prizes. When it came time for lucky Sally Okuly to pick, she walked up to the table and, ignoring the baskets of bath goodies, bags of cosmetics, warm fuzzy blankets, terrific gift certificates and other goods from the generous fair vendors, picked up Twist of Fate, a big smile on her face. She had already stopped by our display table with infectious enthusiasm about what we’d accomplished by writing a mystery/romance. But to have her select our book as her prize was an honor we won’t soon forget.

It shows us we’ve reached one of our main goals—to pass along to people who are readers the pleasure that mom and I (avid readers ourselves) get out of jumping into a good plot. Enough people have told us how much they enjoyed losing themselves for a few hours in Twist of Fate that we know we’ve attained that goal.

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Thursday Thrillers

Which brings me to this week’s event. Mom and I were featured speakers at the Potomac Community Library’s Thursday Thriller’s club. And let us just say: the thrill was all ours. There were about 20 avid mystery readers in attendance, and they provided us fresh perspective on our work. Nothing is more rewarding to the writer than to hear that your readers 1) did not figure out who the villain was, and 2) loved your characters, which made it a pleasure to read.

We’ll write more about that experience in our next blog, but to my writing friends reading this week, let me leave you with advice: get book clubs to read your material.  What they have to say around a table can be an eye-opening experience. And being invited to tell an audience how you became a writer is a heady experience.

Our thanks to Potomac Woods management, who put on a terrific event for their residents, and to Barbara and the members of Thursday Thrillers.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Conquering the Dragon – part II

IMG_4030As Genilee reported in her last blog, we installed a new program, Dragonspeak, on my computer to help me dictate. This is my first attempt at writing the blog on it. I began last night at 11 p.m. when I wrote the first draft of this column, and thought I had saved it.  To my dismay this morning I couldn’t find it anywhere. Oh well … on to draft two!
Last week Genilee and I had a book signing at Potomac Woods homes in Woodbridge. We deemed it a success because we sold eight books. My daughter and fellow author, Allyn Stotz, told us that it’s generally accepted that if you sell three books at a book signing, you are doing well. She urged us to be patient, but I’m glad for her encouragement because by those standards, every one of our signings has been a success! And selling eight books was a tremendous success!

Part of the reason is the people that help us out, as Genilee has pointed out in this blog. The same can be true at Potomac Woods. Mary, a resident there and a manager for Dress Barn, Genilee’s favorite shop, told her friends about this book signing, then went into work late just so she could pick up another few books! Anyway, her friends and quite a few residents showed up thanks to the publicity the community provided, and we are very grateful to them not only for buying our book, but also for answering our questions. We took advantage of the time we had to brainstorm about ideas on other places to hold book signings.  All of those in attendance were extremely helpful, and we want to thank them as well as Mary.

Book signings are really fun for us because the people who come are full of encouragement. This week, we are really excited because for the first time, we’re guest authors at a book club—the Scarlett Hatter Book Club. We probably won’t sell many books, but we get to talk about Twist of Fate and hopefully get their comments and suggestions. Part of the reason it was possible to do this is that our book is now in the Potomac Community Library and the Prince William County library system. That’s also an exciting development for authors, and we’re pursuing getting another nearby library to carry the book.

Our second book, Wretched Fate, is now at the publishers. We are hoping for publication soon (doesn’t everyone?), though we don’t know yet what corrections and changes we’ll need to make. We’ll keep you informed via this blog and our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/genileesharon.swopeparente. We also just found out that Allyn has her own facebook page at www.facebook.com/AllynStotz.author. Show your support for our fellow writer by visiting and liking her page, as well as her blog at http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/.

Meanwhile, we are also working on our holiday short stories. This will contain 12 stories for 12 different holidays, and I think our readers will find them both unique and heartwarming. We hope to get this published before next Christmas.

By the way, “Hi” to Verna, my very special friend.

Love, Sharon

 

F. Sharon Swope

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Conquering the Dragon

Conquering the Dragon

My dear 85-year-old mom is caught up with this week in doing battle with Technology.

She bought a new computer and her kids bought her a new, higher resolution, flat screen, big bad monitor that we hope will help her with her failing eyesight.

I have to admire those my mom’s age who are brave enough to tackle technology (and yes, Verna, I’m including you!) It’s scary enough to have to face all the bells and whistles and foreign concepts that go along with cell phones and satellite technology and new operating systems. But to face it when you’re visually impaired like my ma and have no computer geek husband (my personal saving grace) to help you figure it out is beyond brave.

My mom knows the value of today’s technology, just as she knows the miracle of modern medicine (she’d be blind now if born 10 years earlier). Technology helped her reach this dream of becoming a published author. Of course, it’s also been the cause of many an afternoon of frustration such as a recent few hours spent trying to figure out how she’d turned her work upside down. And I mean that literally: her monitor showed a view that was flipped 180 degrees!

But thank goodness now for a free program my brother Mark found called NVDA (http://www.nvda-project.org/). It talks her through the commands on her computer and reads back what she types. And we’ve just discovered that Microsoft Windows has an access center provided with most computers that has a narrative aid (it reads the screen) and a magnifier. My sister in law Cindy also bought me Dragon Speak for Home, which allows you to dictate instead of type and works amazingly well.

However, having these wonderful technology tools available is one small step in the stupendously large task of learning how to use them. I am no great computer whiz myself, and I see just fine. But I can tell you that after playing with all of these in an attempt to set them up so that mom could get started just about drove me completely bonkers.

So we’ll check in with Sharon in a week or two and see if she still has her sanity as she tries to slay the friendly dragon.

Genilee Swope Parente

P.S.  We will be at Potomac Woods Apartments, 2001 Southampton Street, Woodbridge, VA 22191 Wednesday, March 20 at 11, and they have kindly invited the general public. Come see us, buy a book, get a book signed or just chat. We’ll be at Stafford Garden Apartments for a signing tomorrow at 1:30.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Signing Event’s Takeaway

latestIf I had to sum up how book signings and events have gone for mom and me, I’d borrow a fictional line from saucy heroine Blanche Debois of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Some say apologies to Tennessee Williams may be in order because the line exposes the frailty of the character. Others, however, say the line simply sums up how Blanche has chosen to deal with the harshness of her life.

I use it because it sums up what I choose to take away from these events.
As authors, we work very hard, writing and rewriting and fine-tuning plot points. For many of us, it involves giving up what little free time we can scrape together in order to pursue the joy we get from the written word.

The smiles, encouraging words and excitement we get when someone asks us to sign a book, when someone gushes about how proud we should be to have accomplished the seemingly impossible task of getting published—are the reward.

And occasionally, we DO depend on their kindness, as was the case this past weekend when we held a book signing at River Run apartments. We arrived too early and since it was the weekend, there was no office to let us in. Three very nice ladies sitting in the lounge must have decided my 85-year-old mom with her cane and my 87-year-old dad lugging heavy boxes were probably not an immediate threat to safety so they let us in, out of the cold. They were cautious, but once we explained that we were there for a signing, they offered words of encouragement, tried to locate the newsletter that should have announced the signing, talked to passing residents long enough to find out that a notice DID go out.

And one dear lady just pulled out her phone and called the weekend answering service and explained the situation (I had tried the same thing and gotten nowhere. She must have been more forceful—Ah depend on the kind…niss of strangers!).

As it turned out, the event had been set up, donuts from management arrived from another dear lady on her scooter, who helped to set them up, and the signing went as planned. It wasn’t heavily trafficked but we sold what we considered to be a successful amount. However, it was not that few dollars you make at a signing that made the event a success. It was how very nice the people were, how encouraging and excited to find out that we had written a book. It was the German lady (a teacher) who chatted with us for many minutes and gave me advice to pass along to my daughter, who is pursuing education in college. It was the woman who had pulled out her phone in the first place and her companions from the lobby, who sat through much of the signing and grabbed hold of passing friends. It was one of those passing friends, a gentleman who stood and recited his inspirational poems, and it was the woman there to meet up with her mother but who ended up booking us for her mystery club. It was also everyone who—even if they didn’t buy a book—offered smiles and kind words.

That is the kindness of strangers.

Thanks to River Run residents and their kindness.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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