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Stand Up for Sentimentality

When Mom and I were trying to push Holiday Connections at publishers, the only consistent reply we received back was that the stories weren’t hard-edged enough for commercial appeal. I’m afraid it’s true, folks; F. Sharon and Genilee created feel-good stories so I’m afraid you’ll need to go elsewhere for your blood and guts this holiday season.final cover

But that’s okay with us. We intend for these books to be sentimental. When mom created her first drafts, she had in mind the stories you used to get out of Good Housekeeping and Redbook. It’s  not that those stories didn’t address issues. They were often poignant tales of a simple person addressing a hard reality such as a kid growing up, a relationship falling apart or a major life challenge. They made you stop and lose yourself in someone else’s problems for a while. And yes, some of them ended happily ever after, but part of the beauty was that it wasn’t always. Kind of  like life is: some happy endings and many slaps in the face.

Mom and I have readily admitted we have no hopes of being branded literary geniuses—we entered the game too late. We are creators of tales we think people will want to read. That is their sole purpose: to get people to READ. The Fate Series was an evolution, and we think each book is better than the last for different reasons—we think the characters in Wretched Fate are more rounded than those in Twisted Fate. We were already falling in love with our protagonist Sam Osborne by Violet Fate, which is why it’s appropriate he fell in love in the third book. With Holiday Connections, we just let go and allowed ourselves to be saps about a lot of things.

We offer no apologies because we think reading should be a pleasure, and if you get pleasure out of short stories that end on a good note, you’ll like our newest book. We also understand that books can be an escape and for some people, escape works best as darkness, despair and deeper dilemmas than the characters in Holiday Connections face. We’ll leave the zombies, serial killers and graphic details up to television and movies, which do an excellent job.

Come to our books for a different reason: to get a brief respite from hum drum, but one that leaves you feeling positive and ready to read what happens next.

November is going by quickly folks. We’re offering the book at discount from what you’ll get on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com so that we can afford to send them out at a better price for gifts. Write swopeparente@gmail.com for details on how to get a signed copy. And don’t forget yourself when you’re making out that gift list!

For kindle lovers, the book is now available in ebook form on amazon.com.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Fishing for readers

The most common question both mom and I get when we speak to book clubs and meetings is: where do you get your inspiration and ideas? How did you come up with a girl in a wheelchair and a boy who is homeless who get thrown together in a snowstorm? How were you able to lead readers away from the true villain so they were surprised at “who dunnit?” We’ve discussed this issue many times, and we’ll be talking about it for many more years. This is because the source of creativity for each of us, at least for these Sam Osborne books, is different.

Mom is a story-former. She lays in bed at night and the characters come to her, then when she sits down at the computer, they spill at random, sometimes shocking her with their actions. The story has its own steam. I would call myself, in terms of this series, the word polisher. I take what she’s written and my own knowledge from years of being an editor, as well as my knowledge of how my own mom thinks, and I do what I do best: flourish. I fill in the descriptions, round out the characters, paint the scenery.

I think the reason this book series works so well is that we have combined those two aspects of being a writer. Both are vital and the best books are written by authors thagoldfish_and_hookt can do both. You have to have tasty-looking bait or readers will just ignore your lure. But you also need a good, solid story line to keep them hooked and reel them in.

Think about some of your favorite authors. Mary Higgins Clark, for example, is a master story teller. She can create twists and turns that fascinate. But would you read her work if she didn’t also have the skill it takes to give you a smooth ride? You barely know you’re boating when you read a Mary Higgins Clark novel. You just cut through the waves on your way to the destination she’s created. A good example from my own personal favorites is P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin. My teenage daughter got me to read the first in the House of Night series and once I was on my way, I didn’t stop reading until I realized I was spending way too much time reading a teenagers’ series (that was about book seven and I’m just taking a break!). The series is about vampires, which is a sore subject (forgive the pun) for someone of my generation who feels the teenage world has been bombarded with fangs, fur and blood. I was fascinated with why I couldn’t put down the Cast authors’ books, and I now believe it’s because the mother’s many years as a writer and the daughter’s input into what youth truly reads were the two main ingredients. The series has a good story line and the words are put together smoothly.

I think if mom had started writing earlier in life, she would have become the wordsmith I am. And I hope that through her example, I’ll be able to sit down some day and let my own story lines emerge more fully. I’ve started that process with a book of my own about a girl who learns to travel outside her physical body. For now, though, I’m happy with the progress of Sam Osborne and the characters in the Twist of Fate series. And pretty soon, we’ll be casting out the next line: Wretched Fate.
Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Old-fashioned Goodness

cooking 4For more than 70 years I’ve enjoyed cooking, but lately it’s become a chore. I still do it many days and often for an event or family get together. But it doesn’t carry the enjoyment I had when I was younger. This was especially true during the first few years of my marriage. Since this was right after World War II, cooking was something that was a challenge on our limited budgets (not to mention the lack of all of today’s fancy kitchen gadgets.) But it was something to be proud of, and something that gave us a challenge and usually a success every day.

Once the kids were born, it became a challenge for a different reason, mostly because there were so many foods they didn’t really like. It wasn’t fun, believe me, when one of my children refused to eat anything with ground meat of any kind and another one hated meat and potatoes so badly she acted insulted when I chose it for dinner. I think I began enjoying it again when I realized I just couldn’t please everyone so I stopped trying, started looking for new recipes and started experimenting.

I especially like to cook when I can make up something—I have a general dish in mind and certain ingredients, but no specific recipe. The trouble is, when I have a success this way, I’ve generally forgotten to write it down. It doesn’t seem to ever turn out quite as well as that first time, but maybe that has to do with remembering how good the initial success felt.

Like with writing, one of the reasons people enjoy cooking is the audience. For most of my senior years, my husband has been that audience unless we’re going to an event. Now my husband is good about everything and has never complained about anything I ever made and often complimented me. But he wouldn’t cook himself. He was raised in a different era than men today; he never even did much grilling—it just wasn’t his thing. This was fine because he enjoyed what I made and made me feel good about my cooking skills. After almost 65 years of marriage, however, even cooking for this one-man audience has become a chore.

If you’re wondering what my point is, I started writing this column after having a craving for something I used to make a long time ago, one of my personal favorites. It’s a simple recipe given to me by my brother-in-law’s wife. It’s just a frosting, which I usually put on a cake made from a mix. But it really crowns the cake and makes it a showpiece for its flavor. Somehow it’s just as good as eating candy. My son Mark mentioned it to me not too long ago, and it reminded me that there are simple recipes that stand the test of time as well the test of age. When it came to cakes, usually my kids preferred something simpler – white cake with white frosting. This one was the exception.

spry

Museum of American Packaging

Since this recipe is in my brain because I plan to make this frosting for a potluck I’m attending next week, I thought I’d pass it along to you. It reminds me that even with all the ease of canned frosting and boxed mixes, sometimes going back to the old-fashioned way of cooking produces something that reminds you why you like to cook: because you like to eat good food and you like to give that pleasure to others. If you’re wondering what “Spry” is, you have travel back to the 1950s and 1960s. It was a shortening that rivaled Crisco and was actually better tasting at the time, but lost the battle. I’ve left it in this recipe to keep it historically accurate. You’d have to travel to Cyprus today to buy any, so I’d advise substituting shortening!

Brown sugar frosting
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Spry
1 cup brown sugar

Mix together in medium size saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add 1/4 cup milk.  Bring to boil again and boil for 3 minutes over low heat.  Take off stove and cool. When cool, add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar.  When thoroughly blended, frost over prepared baked cake. Very good on spice cake or white cakes.

For our readers, I want to leave you with this thought: when something becomes a chore, even when it’s something you’re as passionate about as your writing, one place to look for inspiration is to your own past. Dust off that old recipe or old creation and visit again how good it was.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE LOCAL, Sharon and Genilee will be at the Porter Library, 2001 Parkway Blvd, Stafford, VA Thursday night beginning at 7:30 p.m. to sign copies of Twist of Fate.

F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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