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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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Spring cleaning

The long, dark cold of winter is mostly behind us, and many of us are beginning the process of cleaning out drawers and closets, un-clumping the dirt that’s packed so we can plant gardens and airing out everything that got so stale over the winter.

In Spring, we begin to see the world differently, starting with the very first moment we smell that the breezes have miraculously changed—instead of heavy and dank, the air is light and fragrant. In Spring, it feels like we are throwing off the cloak of age—that extra few years that winter added to our burden. Spring gives us the urge to step out of that

cloak and move—to take walks and get down on our knees to play in dirt. To live a different life: eat healthy and fresh and sleep with our windows open so we can let in the new breezes. It’s light already when we hop out of bed, and it stays lighter longer so that our work day doesn’t start and end in darkness. We feel like we have more hours and more energy even though nothing has really changed.

Spring gives us the urge for renewal. We may never get around to painting that spare room and turning into a guest haven, but when Spring comes, we think about it. We are sick and tired of the grays of winter, especially in those years (like this one), when the gray was never broken up by the white of snow. So we look around and see our home or our office with fresh eyes, anxious to create something new in celebration of the end of sameness.

SpringCleaning1

As writers, we can take that feeling of renewal to our writing. We can shake the cobwebs out of something we’ve done and take a dust rag to the

 words. We can un-clump our writer’s block and plant the seeds of a new project. We can open the windows of our brain and let the creativity waft into our souls.

Spring is rebirth—wet earthiness and warm happiness. Let’s plant an idea and see it grow.

–Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting a Jump Start

How did you ever get started writing a book?

That’s the single most often-asked question mom and I get at book club meetings and signings and other events where we’re gathered around a table gabbing with readers and potential book buyers.

I usually turn that question over to mom since she was 82 when she started writing. [Okay, okay, I admit it’s also because I’m slightly ashamed that I am probably the person besides my newspaper editor father who has written the most words in our family. And yet, I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write—fiction.]

To answer the question, mom usually picks up The Pea in Peanut Butter to show people that she has a daughter who is a successful children’s author. Allyn Stotz, my sis and her daughter, also started fairly late in life pursuing her passion for story-telling. She’s about to publish a sequel to that first book, has three others in the works or at a publisher, and her stories have appeared in many children’s magazines and one compendium of short stories. None of us in the family knew Al was even pursuing writing for children until she was well into it—attending classes, hooking up with online writer’s groups. Like with everything she does, she pursued it with passion.

“I figured if she could do this, so should I,” mom always says.

Before I knew it, mom was writing, writing, writing away. I was amazed at how much she put into the art with no formal training. I knew she had always been an avid reader, and I knew that like Al, she was a good story teller. But I was as shocked by mom’s zeal as I was when I found out that Allyn was not only interested in writing, but well into it, with many stories already done and being fine-tuned.

And so we come to me … I don’t even know when mom and I had the initial discussion about the possibility of collaborating on the writing. I am an editor by trade so I volunteered to take a look at what she was doing. However, it’s a scary thing for an editor to look at a family member’s work. And so I must refer back to Allyn. I looked at her first works with the same trepidation. What if I hated what my sister or my mom were doing?

I’m an idiot.

Both Al and Mom have always been very creative and that creativity comes shining through in the stories they tell. Allyn was lucky to have worked with talented artist Valerie Bouthyette on that first book who could bring the words to life visually. But the ideas are pure Allyn, and I know she’ll go on to create many more ideas and books. And the same is true of Mom’s characters and plots. Her books (ahem, our books) are just plain fun to read. Like Allyn, mom and I love to lose ourselves in a good story, and to be able to create those stories is a pleasure.

So how did I get started writing? It was a jump-start provided by my family. But now, I’m zooming away down a fun highway, and I don’t intend to ever stop!

Mom and I send our thanks out for the inspiration provided by the Seniors Lunch Bunch from St. Francis of Assisi, Triangle, VA. Thanks to my friend Francia Salguero for introducing us to the group and to Anne Tunney for inviting us.

St. Francis

St. Francis Lunch Bunch

The group asked the question above, but they also asked many more and gave both mom and me the inspiration that makes creative writing and publishing a book so much fun.

 –Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s a Community Thing …

Several significant events happened since mom wrote the last blog that illustrate the rewards of being an author:

I flipped up the front page of my hometown newspaper, The Edgerton Earth, to see a bottom page spread covering our Twist of Fate book series. People who know me really well understand why that’s such a thrill. When your roots are firmly entrenched in a small town, you measure much of what happens in your life against the values you grew up with … in my life (and mom and dad’s for that matter), many of those values came from close interaction with our neighbors, classmates, friends in Edgerton. It’s true what they say about small towns: everyone knows your business. But it’s also true that when Earth logopeople need help or support, there is usually some other resident in town who comes to their aid (Yep, there’s Verna again … and the many small things Doug and Becky Mavis did for classmate Steve come to mind.). I loved growing up in Edgerton, and it will always be part of who I am and part of my writing. Since dad was the editor of The Edgerton Earth for many years and mom was a columnist as well as business manager, the town’s paper is in my blood. Current editor Cindy Thiel did a great job of capturing what it’s been like to become a writing family.CLICK HERE TO SEE ARTICLE

Mom and I also met a week ago with the Scarlett Hatter’s book club in Woodbridge. Their candid comments and generous praise for the story were inspiring and eye-opening. I was heartened to hear that no one knew for sure who the villain was. And I was glad to get some feedback that will help us craft future stories. But even more

scarlett hatters

than that, the joie de vivre of that group of ladies, who meet frequently to give each other support and make each other laugh, is encouraging. Like living in a small town, they have found a community in each other, and they are lucky to have that shared bond.

Finally, Twist of Fate has become Spectacle Publishing Media Group’s number one seller! Thanks to our readers for making our dreams come true.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Finding Our Way

lostIt seems like I have spent most of my time in the last two weeks getting lost, which I guess at 85 isn’t that unusual. The reason for this recent misadventure, however, is a good one: I have been busy trying to find places to hold book signings. I have had phenomenal luck in securing places and have come away from this experience with affirmation, once again, that the world is full of very nice people. What I’ve discovered also, however, is that, above and beyond the difficulty of “selling” yourself at my age is the challenge of actually finding your way to new places you’ve never been. I am now completely blind when it comes to reading highway signs (and for the most part, any printed words). It used to be my job to hold the map and point out the way to whereever my husband Bob and I were headed. I can’t do that anymore so I am pretty useless in helping us to get there. Meanwhile, Bob, who is now 87, used to always know what direction he was driving, but that doesn’t happen so much anymore. I suppose this is just part of growing older—trying to find your way from here to there, but it is frustrating to say the least.

Somehow, though, we managed to finally arrive at our destinations through a series of back and forth and turning around. At one point, I told Bob: “Just follow the ambulance.” Since we were looking for apartment complexes for people over the age of 55, I figured it was worth a shot! Sadly, I was right—we came right to the door we were looking for!

This is all a big change from the days when I was growing up in Michigan and always knew about where I was. North was always Lake Michigan – and from that I could always find my way. Even in the very early days of our marriage, when we lived in giant Los Angeles, I knew my way because I knew the ocean was always to our west. I managed to maintain that sense of direction right up until the years when we moved to Ohio, and it all went out the window—lost to a world of flat fields of corn. Unfortunately, the sense of direction never developed on the east coast, despite the fact the Atlantic is not so far away.
Anyway, for the past few weeks, I’ve also been lost in another way: I’ve been trying to find my way around my own computer. Instead of writing new material, I have been rewriting and trying to update my story timeline for book three. That means inserting chapters and keeping everything in correct position, which is not easy when you are almost blind. Oh, I can do almost everything except read what I’ve written. And thankfully, my son Mark installed a program on my computer that reads back to me. Thank goodness for my little man with the British accent who tells me everything I have written. He can be annoying at times, but he’s needed. And I have a new computer coming soon that will even “write” as I dictate. Isn’t modern science wonderful? It used to be that when you reached my age and had my problem, there wasn’t much you could do. Not so today—you can dictate to a machine, which puts your words on paper. Then you can make corrections and even have your machine read it all back!
I guess when I look back at the last few weeks of getting lost and frustrations with my eyesight and computer, the lesson that has been reaffirmed is simply: “Never give up.” Somehow, in spite of the obstacles, there is a way if you just keep trying. Don’t let age keep you from your dreams.

F. Sharon Swope
p.s. from Genilee: My mom is one amazing woman! This is what she and dad have been doing:
Book signings:
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. River Run apartments, Minnieville and Prince William Parkway, Dale City, VA
Wednesday, March 6, 11 a.m. Potomac Woods apartments, 2001 Southampton St., Woodbridge, VA.
Thursday, March 14, 1:30 to 3:30 Stafford Gardens, Mountain View Rd., Stafford, VA
We’ve also applied to participate in the Second Annual Local Author’s Fair, Bull Run Regional Library, May 4 and are participating in the Third Thursday Thrillers book group meeting, Potomac Community Library May 16.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Peek into Book Three

magnifying glassI just received a phone call from a lovely woman who met Genilee in a dress store, found out about Twist of Fate, our first book, ordered it, then called to tell us how much she enjoyed the story. It’s people like her that make what Genilee and I do truly enjoyable. She also said what many of the people who have read the book say: hurry up and write the second one!

We have done just that and sent it off to the publisher for editing. I am very fond of this second book (Wretched Fate) because the characters are so different—both from one another and from the characters in the first book. Someone asked me recently how I go about coming up with these characters and the rest of my writing. Do I visualize and work out the personalities and appearance on paper, figure out the plot and timeline and outline everything? No, I don’t. I write exactly the way I remember Sidney Shelton saying in an interview that he used: “I just sit down and write. No planning. It just comes to me.”

However, like all things in life, the process doesn’t end with the first draft. I go through what I’ve done. Right now, for example I am going through Book No. 3: Fate of the Violet Eyes. And let me tell you, this second draft is not fun. I love to sit down and just write—rereading it, however, is a chore. Not just because it’s not as fun, but because the computer and I don’t always get along. I am 85, and like many people my age, very dumb about all that a computer can do for me, as well as what I must do to use it right. Inserting new chapters and then getting them in the right place, changing new chapter numbers to replace the old —well, it’s not my cup of tea. I get thoroughly mixed up, to say the least.

Still, it’s been fun remembering what I wrote because it’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with these characters and plot (I’ve finished book four and gone on to write a book unrelated to this series). The third book is a about a kidnapping, something Detective Sam Osborne (who is a recurring figure in the series) does not want to handle because of his past experiences (You’ll get a glimpse of those experience in books one and two). The main characters in the Fate of the Violet Eyes tale are the male kidnapper and a little girl he takes, and one of the most endearing aspects of this book is the effect the girl has on her captor. I sincerely hope you will be as intrigued with these two characters as I was while I was creating them.
And I’ll leave our readers with one more juicy tidbit that should get you to buy this book: Sam falls in love!

Thanks to everyone who has called or written to encourage us and tell us how much you are enjoying the Twist of Fate series.

F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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New Beginnings

As 2012 evolves into 2013, my mom and I wear broad smiles of satisfaction. It took two years, but mom’s idea to create a way to bring Danny to life and introduce him to a heroine (Casey) he could fall in love with, came to fruition in the wonderful year of 2012. But the most heartwarming aspect of this process is that it’s just begun. Mom, despite her faltering eyesight, has already written four books centered on the detective in Twist of Fate and by her admittance, each book is better than the last.

With that in mind, I want to start 2013 by giving our blog followers something readers are already requesting (a positive sign the first book is well received!): a peak at book two.

Both Casey and Danny return but in diminished roles. Sam has hired Casey as his personal assistant, and she’s turning out to be a top-notch investigator. Both the detective and his assistant are helped by the fact that Danny went into law enforcement and is now on the Lancaster police force.

The central figures, however, are two new characters:

Jacob is a rich, reclusive author who writes juicy romances despite the fact he’s been holed up in his mansion for many years, safe from the outside pressures of the world and free to dream up his heroes and heroines. He is the product of an overbearing father and a completely submissive mother and has fully compartmentalized his current life. He needs routine and the safety of his own walls to be able to write and he draws his inspiration from a set of beautiful, but austere oriental statues.

Rosalie is an overweight, but voluptuous single woman who has never been able to settle on a career, whose sharp tongue and strong opinions have gotten her into trouble many times and who lives for the pleasure of consuming the written word. She lives with her mother, has only a few friends, and is about to be out of a job (again.)

Jacob is pressured by his own agent into hiring a typist to speed up production of his manuscripts. Rosalie pushes her way into the job and what happens between them is a gradual awakening of desire.

Meanwhile, our four-book hero detective Sam Osborne is hired by Jacob to find out who is stealing Jacob’s oriental statues despite the fact the mansion is locked up tight as a fortress.

The book is entitled: Wretched Fate. But who and what “Wretched” represents is the real meat and mystery of this story.
We’re almost through with the writing and polishing, though the book will go through a long editing/finishing stage. But we’re confident you’ll love Jacob and Rosalie as much as you love Danny and Casey. Stay tuned to this blog to find out more …

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Miracles do Happen

Mom and I just want to announce that we became published authors today, December 1, the beginning of this wonderful month of miracles. Our thanks to every person who encouraged us and kept us going during the long process of creation and publication. And our thanks to Spectacle, our publisher, who made it happen for us.

The book is now available for ebooks on amazon. It will be available on Barnes & Noble by tomorrow and within days as a print book on both sites. You can link to Amazon HERE. Stay tuned to this site for links to Barnes & Noble and to the print versions.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Thanks from the finely aged writer

The things we give thanks for, at ages 50 and 80 plus, are different than what we were grateful for in our early years. Especially when we’ve been given, as mom and I have, a chance to rediscover and fine-tune a dream that may have existed when we were younger, but only late at night, when exhaustion battled with longing for the energy to do something creative.

The first item on our lists of reasons to give thanks will remain the same regardless of age: love from family and friends. But beyond that, we are grateful for the reality that:

• The hated alarm clock that used to rouse us from our beds in the morning has been replaced by the 5 a.m. “wake-up” brainstorm: “aha … I could have the villain be a tiny person who is accessing the crime scene through a doggie door!”

• High-heeled, pointy-toed shoes that rested beneath our office desks have been replaced by fuzzy pink bedroom slippers.

• Our husbands, who used to listen to our complaints about coworkers and tight deadlines and not getting paid enough, have adjusted to put up with distracted, dreamy gazing. Not getting paid enough remains in the bitching bag, but gets brought up a little less frequently.

• The sometimes unreasonable, but completely fulfilling pride we used to feel when one of our children handed us a new painting for refrigerator posting has transformed into the excitement we feel when we finish a chapter or milestone and are one step closer to publication.

• The conversations with friends we used to savor over steaming cups of coffee still begin with what’s happening with family, but end up seeking advice about plot direction instead of potty training, teenage dating or the psychological makeup of males.

• The aches and pains of young age, which centered around chasing kids and spring cleaning, now derive from forgetting to get up from the computer to take a break from our writing frenzy.

On this 2013 Thanksgiving Day, we feel blessed that our first book, Twist of Fate, is about to be released both as an ebook and a printed book. We live in an age where the process of getting published has completely evolved, and we know we were fortunate to have found Spectacle Publishing Media Group, who is helping our dream happen.

But we are especially thankful that we have our family members and so many friends that are celebrating at our side. — Genilee Swope Parente

Mom and I

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Fretting over nothing

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My husband and I have been busy packing this past week: Our oldest and our youngest daughters decided it was time we get our families together for Thanksgiving this year. So Bob and I are off to spend a week in Louisiana and a week in Texas.  At ages 85 (for me) and 87 (for Bob), getting ready for such a trip is never easy. It seems the older we get, the more “problems” we can manufacture … we seem to have perfected the art of fretting over the details.  Unfortunately, that means little worries too often become big ones.

Yet, deep in my heart I know that we’re really fretting over nothing. Once we are buckled into our seats, we are on our way to a visit that promises to be heartwarming and fun.

As a result of preparation, I haven’t been able to get much writing done this week, and, of course, won’t be able to for the next two weeks. Since the publication date for our first book—Twist of Fate—draws near, it’s hard for me to leave the excitement behind. I don’t have an exact date, but the book will most likely come out while I’m gone. I wish I could tell all my readers and friends the exact day when our mystery-romance story will come out, bringing to life our hero—homeless, kind-hearted Danny—and our heroine—rich, wheelchair-bound Casey. But in the world of publishing, pinning down exact dates is tough. All I can tell you is that if you have an e-book reader, keep checking Barnes & Noble or Amazon. The printed version will take a little while longer.

As you can see from the background of this blog and the picture here, the cover of Twist of Fate is blue with white lettering representing the big snowstorm that plays such an important role in the book. You’ll see an empty wheelchair with a single red rose on the seat and a drop of blood on the floor. I won’t tell you the symbolism behind our cover, but I hope you’ll keep checking for that image.  Don’t give up, dear supporters, our book is definitely on its way. And I guess it’s time Bob and I were on our way to see our loved ones.

Genilee and I will keep you posted!

F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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