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
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
Like this author and blog writer, Sam Osborne has taken a little break. But don’t worry readers: you’re in for a very good next book in The Fate Series. I’m hoping to have Family Fate out for the fall season.
It’s just taken a lot longer to get this one out for two reasons:
First, mom’s physical limitation, especially her eyesight, are more of a challenge than ever. But I have to admire her: despite being 89 and barely able to figure a computer out (much less see the screen), she’s still trying. We are working together now to see how we can put out what will come after Family Fate. We haven’t resolved the mystery underlying our entire series. But mom’s head is working on it, and we’re still discussing whether it will happen in five or a new book! We just have to come up with a way for Mom to put her thoughts on paper. She’s learning braille from the Virginia Department for the Blind. And we’re going to have her start recording her thoughts so we can transfer them to the computer.
The second reason for Sam’s break is a good one: the wonderful plot Mom came up with for Family is quite complicated. That requires a lot more research to make it happen. Before her eyesight got so bad, she had gone through this book three times trying to tie together the details. She actually wrote this story before Treasured Fate, our fourth book. We decided together to put out Treasured first because it was a simpler mystery and was further along.
Now that Family Fate is in my hands, I’m doing the same as Mom had to do: spending a lot of time on research and on making the plot smooth, exciting and flowing. I promise you a very good story, readers.
So what is that plot?
It’s about multiple people disappearing. The missing people don’t seem to be related in any way—they are different ages, sexes, geographic locations. Sam comes into the case via an old friend and works with another detective on the first case. Then they both start to see a pattern. Like with Violet Fate, we get a glimpse into the mind of the “villain” behind it all. And like with most of the other books, a romance develops—this time between the detective Sam works with and one of the victims’ good friends.
Wondering why I chose the picture here for this column? Guess you’re going to have to read the book to find that out!
I was inspired by my little sister Allyn M. Stotz to get back into the grind of keeping in touch with my readers so expect more blogs! As always, I’d love to get your thoughts.
Those of you that are local: Join mom and I, June 11 2-6 at the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department, 13511 Hillendale Dr., Woodbridge, VA.
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: authors with macular degeneration, best mystery books, blind authors, books about disappearances, books about family tragedy, books about kidnappings, elderly authors, F. Sharon Swope, Family Fate, fire, Genilee Swope Parente, getting over physical limitation, Sam Osborne, The Fate Series, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, writing with blindness
© Demage | Dreamstime.com
Reading audience: I need your help. But I’m not going to tell you for what until I finish this blog. You see, I’ve been promising Genilee I would write a blog for a year and a half. I haven’t been able to get there, partly because I just couldn’t make myself do it during this year of significant events and partly because of writer’s block.
Today, I am determined to answer some of the questions often asked of me at book events and during discussions with readers. The single most frequently asked question is: What made you start to write at the age of 83? The truth is that writers don’t always just write on paper. I have been writing books in my mind for over 70 years. I wrote my first novel in the seventh grade about a boy in Paris who lived in a castle. The next year I started to carry “Danny,” the protagonist in Twist of Fate, around in my story-telling brain. Danny was based on a movie character played by Gene Reynolds. He was a homeless young man with no parents, no home, no family, no education and no real friends. Unless you consider me, that is. I carried him around in my mind for the next 70 years. He “talked” to me all the time, and I was determined to put him down on paper. But this particular task was daunting. How can a person survive the world of living on the streets without giving in to crime or addiction? My Danny was strong and honest. I couldn’t, however, find a way to take him off the streets and get him on paper.
What inspired me was that my youngest daughter, Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), wrote her first children’s book (she now has five and several more on the way!) and got it published. That was a wakeup call: If I was ever going to write a book, I needed to get with it. So five years ago, I sat down at my computer and the story began to unfold. Somehow through the act of actually making myself do this routinely, another character was born: Gus. Gus became Danny’s mentor and once he was around, the stumbling blocks began to fall and the story unfolded.
Book two, Wretched Fate, began with me looking at myself in a mirror, which is a crucial scene in which the main character begins to desire more for her life. Book three, Violet Fate, was the story of what might have happened to Danny if there had been no Gus (you’ll note the strong role the criminal plays in the plot). Book four, Treasured Fate, started as an exercise for seniors we developed for a class Genilee and I gave. The main characters: Elmer Jones and Maud Novec, were names I said aloud to the audience and asked how they saw the characters who fitted those names. We got some fascinating responses, and those of you that were in the audience will recognize some of the traits and descriptions. Treasured Fate is due to come out this summer.
It wasn’t until book five, which is likely going to be called Family Fate, that I began to have real trouble again with writer’s blocks. This time I started with a character that is a far cry from my usual protagonists. And the plot has a lot of complications and twists. I also rewrote the first 15 chapters at least four times. I would stop for a month, and then, because it was a mystery, have to begin at the beginning again to get it to flow. I did this for well over a year—partly because, during that time, we put out our book of short stories—Holiday Connections. I finally forced myself to trudge forward to the end, and that book is now in Genilee’s domain, which means it has to wait for us to get through publication of book four, Treasured Fate.
Meanwhile, I am now working on my second short story book, and once again engrossed in a new character. He’s a modern day Paul Bunyan–standing 7 feet tall, weighing 275 pounds. He has long black hair and a full beard covering his face. He reminds me of a bear but inside, I intend for him to be candy cotton fluff.
But now it’s time to ask your help. I am also seriously considering writing book six in the Fate series, which would be a deeper investigation of Gus’s background and maybe even Danny’s from the original book. To those of you who have read the series and our short stories, I ask: what is your opinion on this? Should I let well enough alone with The Fate Series or try to explain some of the past?
I’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say.
–F. Sharon Swope
Tags: author Swope, continuing a series, developing characters, getting over writer's block, getting started writing, getting through writer's block, mystery series, origin of stories, original of characters, reader input, reader input on author series, reason for writing a book, senior citizen author, swope, The Fate Series, Treasured Fate, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, why I started writing, wretched fate, writers block, writing a series, writing late in life
I woke up this morning and realized I hadn’t written in my blog since well before Christmas, and only once between Thanksgiving and the Holidays. I’m an introspective person with too many best friends (and now a daughter) studying psychology, so I immediately began to question why I would neglect this author duty.
Do I secretly hate this type of writing? That answer came quickly: I took on a new client recently writing columns for their web postings because I enjoy tackling blogs. It’s a refreshing way to use words, and it seems to be a natural fit for me.
So it must be that I’ve been so extremely busy and stressed out this holiday season? That thought emitted a belly laugh, which triggered startled looks from my two cats. They sprinted from their restful perches to hide beneath my still-lit and decorated Christmas tree. I have taken this season very slowly and savored each minute. I’m still enjoying it.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Is it because I’ve been concentrating so heavily on learning how to republish our three original books? Our publishing firm hung up its hat at the end of 2015. Because of my success self publishing Holiday Connections, I’m trying to do the same with our original books—Twist of Fate, Wretched Fate and Violet Fate. I don’t know if I’ll get there; it’s horribly complex and I’m not good at detail work. But I’m stubborn and I’m tackling each little complication as it hits me in the face. Still, I can’t use this as an excuse because I tackle NO complexities first thing in the morning, which is my designated book time. I’m too sleepy and dreamy. I use that state to write creatively.
Then it has got to be because I’ve made so much progress on the fourth book of the Fate Series, right? It’s called Treasured Fate, and I’ve had a professional editor go through it and present me with her findings and suggestions. She gave them to me right before Thanksgiving.
Okay, that one is partially true. On the hours when I badly needed a creative outlet, I’ve been chipping away at the next stage of the writing process, which I expect to go on for many weeks. That’s never stopped me from my obligation to spend a day each week (or so) writing something for our blog, though.
I finally realized it’s for the same reason I had to hit my late 50s before I found a way to write a book: routine.
That’s a really yawn-inducing answer to this yawn-inducing blog entry, but it’s the truth. And most of my fellow writers and creative friends will understand what I mean. You can have genius-level ideas floating around in your head, but unless you find a practical way to get them out, they’ll stay in your head. For me, it was getting up that extra hour in morning and working on fiction. I had let “getting up” slip and was too often sleeping in. When I did get up, I allowed myself to work my paying job because I wanted or needed more time late in the day for seasonal activities.
But I’m back on track now, the holidays behind me and anxious to see where the track leads next. It must be working: It’s 7:15 and I’ve been up an hour, and lo and behold: a blog entry was born.
Come to think of it: I don’t walk the dog until 8 a.m. so I have 45 minutes to do what I love a whole lot more than blogs: working on my books!
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: creative outlet, finding time for creative outlet, finding time to be an author, finding time to write, finetuning the writing process, frustrations with self publishing, getting published, getting up to write, passion for writing, procrastination, routine of writing, the writing process, Treasured Fate, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, wretched fate
Mom and I are purposely filling up our summer and fall schedules with author events and arts and crafts shows. We’ll soon be busier than we’ve been in years. Unfortunately, that’s because both of us were confined by taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s. We spent many hours making sure Dad was safe, and we did so willingly and with love. We even dragged him to a few of our book events, where we occasionally were rewarded with glimpses of my dad’s great, gentle smile. Alzheimer’s took much away from him, but it did not take his friendliness even when he had no idea whose hand he was shaking.
But we are now enjoying the freedom to attend what we want. With three books under our belts (and two more in the works), we are in another phase of being authors: getting out there and letting as many people know about our books as possible. We’re returning to some of the communities where we started our marketing efforts. We are also pursuing a new venue that began last holiday season and really took off: arts and crafts fairs.
In both cases, we are there to get people to buy our books and it feels great when they do. Selling anything piece by piece is a hard way to market a product, but it can be rewarding: we’re doing something we love and hoping to make some money at it.
Also, selling this way allows you another great benefit: you get to meet your audience. Whether you make earrings, quilts or books, creating something but just sticking it on a shelf never allows you the greatest reward of all: exposure to those who love your art. We are now at the point that we occasionally run into people who have read our books and want to talk about them. We also just love to meet the people that might be potential readers. If they stop at our booth, listen to our story and flip through our books to check our writing style, they have shown an interest in reading and/or writing. They are fascinated by what we’ve done and they validate the hours we spent doing it.
Don’t believe the naysayers that say reading books is a dead entertainment. We’ve been there first-hand and seen the passion in people’s eyes. Unless you’re a reader, it’s hard to understand. But reading is an activity that allows your brain to create the story from within. Even children, who have pictures to help them along, are using their brains to fill in the blanks. They don’t have a giant screen and loud music and noises telling their brains exactly what to think.
So gather up your pennies and come see us at a fair or event. You can spend those cents at another booth, and we’ll be perfectly happy. We are all artists and crafters and we want you to see what we do.
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: Alzheimer's, arts and crafts shows, author fair, author marketing, book fair, love of reading, marketing books, meeting readers, meeting your audience, reading books, reading fiction, reading mysteries, rewards of reading, rewards of writing, selling your art, selling your books, selling your crafts, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, wretched fate, writing books
I always get very excited when I realize I’m done with draft one of a new Fate Series book. I remain excited right up until I face the reality that there’s usually a draft two, three, four and five to go! But as writers that have been producing books longer than my few years no doubt have discovered, the process of research and the ability to see forward and backward in your plot gets easier with experience. Draft one, then, becomes more significant because a lot of the smoothing out and polishing has already occurred.
In celebration of this momentous occasion, it’s time to share our plot and how it came about: As mom has explained at various events, she starts the process with characters. They pop into her head to haunt her night time and grow and expand as her imagination begins to take over. The plot then just happens almost like an internal movie, she says. Although that sounds easy, it’s only the beginning. There are many weeks and months and lunches at Applebee’s and car trips of discussing characters and working out details both before and after I get the book to begin my work.
With book four, however, readers should realize how much they played a part in the first step. Mom and I used the first few chapters of what became book four: Treasured Fate in exercises at seniors’ communities, church groups and book clubs. The book hadn’t even been written beyond those chapters, but we wrote down and considered many suggestions as far as our characters. We hope some of our readers that attended those sessions will recognize their ideas.
Mom began with Elmer Martin, then came up with Maud Novak as his love interest. It was pretty astounding at those classes how many people had the same idea of who those two people were as Mom did.
Elmer has been farming all his life. He loves what he does, but realizes it’s time to find a wife. Maud has been a caregiver, first for an ailing mother, then for her stepfather. The lives of Elmer and Maud become intertwined when Maud’s stepfather dies and a mysterious birth daughter shows up to kick Maud out of the home she’s lived in most of her life. She answers a classified ad Elmer placed for a wife.
The scenario becomes complicated when someone tries to kill Maud. Sam investigates and realizes that it may have something to do with a mysterious treasure the stepfather has stashed away. Are the treasure and the attempt on her life related? Why did Maud’s beloved stepfather leave everything to a birth daughter who was never a part of his life? Do Elmer and Maud take the unusual leap into instant matrimony despite the fact they’re strangers?
Well, dear readers, you’ll just have to find that out!
I’ll be looking for beta readers for this book if you want to contribute to the plot. My plan is to finish draft two and let a few people get a peek with a hope you can lend some additional guidance. Email me if you’re interested. All I can offer is acknowledgement for your efforts. And a great read of course!
Genilee Swope Parente: email@example.com.
Tags: beta readers, coming up with characters, cozy mystery, creating characters, creating plots, creative writing, instant matrimony, murder mystery, new Fate Series book, new plots, plots of books, romantic mystery, Swope Parente, The Fate Series, Treasure, Treasured Fate, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, wretched fate
Two weeks to go until our book launch and I’m wondering how authors who are widely recognized and have a zillion books out ever do it! Somehow I cannot see James Patterson or Mary Higgins Clark keeping an excel spreadsheet in an attempt to keep organized.
Granted this is a first-ever event for both Applebee’s and these authors but I know the same ingredients must go into the mix of many significant book events: much nail biting, hours of planning, scratching at the doors of local media, multiple trips to the post office to drop off invites, many encouraging hurrahs from good friends who remember (when they get those invites) that you write books, quick trips around town to drop off fliers and beg for publicity, hours awake at night as ideas keep popping into your head and … most importantly … pure terror that when you arrive at your own event, the wind will be whistling a lonely tune through the mostly empty room.
I know the terror is unfounded―my husband and child love me enough to show up. My mom and I both have good friends. But this is a party and even though I haven’t planned one in several years, I used a magic formula one of my best friends gave me many years ago: Invite as diverse a mix of people as you can find so that when they show up, they’ll have some interesting conversations. For this party, I reached into every pocket of civilization I could think of to alert people in the community that we were celebrating, and they were invited.
It’s never failed me in the past … and hopefully it will make for a fascinating evening of mingling and fun.
I hope you’ll join mom and me May 14 between 4 and 7 for an evening that promises to be … exciting.–Genilee Swope Parente
FINAL INVITATION Swope Parente
Tags: Applebee's, being an author, book event, book launch, celebrating a book launch, Dumfries event, James patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, planning a book event, planning a book launch, Spectacle Publishing Media Group, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, Woodbridge event, wretched fate
Mom and I got some exciting news this week, and we’d like your help with the planning.
We are launching book three, Violet Fate and re-launching books one and two, Twist of Fate and , at a special open house May 14 hosted by our local Applebee’s.
Why Applebee’s? Mom and I have been meeting there from almost the beginning of our collaboration. We needed a nearby restaurant that was comfortable, had good food (since we go there so much), and was reasonably priced. Applebee’s changes their menu enough that we are still going there almost four years later. But the real reason is because we acknowledge the wait staff in our first book. They’ve listened to mom and I discuss how to poison someone and get away with it, how to murder a person in the middle of a blizzard, how to steal valuables from an entirely locked up house and many other juicy tidbits. They’ve also listened to us lament about how hard it is to market a book, how rewarding it is to talk about what we’re doing and how in the heck we became authors in the first place.
It seemed logical that we would hold a special event in our neighborhood grill and bar, and when I contacted corporate Applebee’s, I was met with much enthusiasm. The local franchise owner, Potomac Family Dining Group, also jumped on board, and we’re now all planning this event together.
What we need from our blog readers is suggestions for what to do at the event, how to attract attendees and what giveaways might be appropriate for an author. We want to make this occasion fun for our readers.
We also want to attract the attention of local media so let us know what newspapers you read, radio stations you listen to and television stations you watch.
And please come anytime between 4 and 7 p.m. and join the fun:
May 14, Applebee’s Grill & Bar, 3330 Pine Bluff Drive (on Jefferson Davis Highway), Dumfries, VA 22026
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: Applebee's, attracting media attention, becoming authors, book celebration, book launch, book marketing, book party, creative writing marketing, getting readers help, launching a book, launching a series, local book event, local restaurant event, mystery novels, special event, Twist of Fate, upcoming Woodbridge VA events, Violet Fate, Woodbridge VA, wretched fate
It’s spring … oh, okay, maybe not yet. But it’s definitely time for spring, if you measure the length and severity of this winter. Just talk to anyone from Boston or Montreal, and you’ll see in their shell-shocked, still frozen eyeballs how badly we all need the season to get here. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll probably hear the whispered chant: “6:45 P.M. March 20–if I can just make it to 6:45 P.M. March 20 …”
That’s the official time that spring begins in Eastern Daylight Time.
It’s been a hard and long winter and we all deserve the rebirth and rejuvenation we associate with this season. The English definition of “spring” is to pounce, to leap, to jump into activity. Water bubbling up from the ground is called: a spring.
So let’s pounce. Let’s bounce off the bleakness and cold of a severe winter and get into action.
For me and for mom that will mean looking forward to marketing and talking about our latest book: Violet Fate. It’s our favorite so far, but it came out during the worst winter of our life. We experienced the kind of loss that stops all action and all desire to plan the future—we lost my father, her husband.
As we were driving this week to pick up his last effects, we talked about what we are feeling now. We are still reeling, but we want to move forward again. And one of the feelings we recognize, when it comes to getting published is astonishment: who could have imagined just a few years ago that mom and I would have three books out and three more in action. Who would have thought that my sister Allyn would be a successful children’s book author with even more books in action than us or that she would inspire us to pursue this dream? Who could have imagined that mom and I would ever be called a “mother/daughter writing duo,” would appear on television, would give talks all over Northern Virginia? Who could have predicted Mom and I and Allyn would sweat together through the ups and downs of getting published.
We had to put our talks with Applebee’s about an official launch on hold to get through the loss of this winter. But we’re talking to them again, and we’re going to make it happen with one change: it will be a book party—a celebration of the surprises life has in store. Some of those surprises may include sub-zero weather and mounds of snow … and soul-wrenching grief. But others will start with what inevitably happens in spring: a seed germinates, spreads its tiny sprout through the nourishment of the soil where it’s placed, sticks its little head through to the sunshine, and if give enough food: grows into plants and finally flowers.
Genilee Swope Parente
Tags: beginning of spring, being authors, getting through grief, getting through winter, grief, inspirational moments, losing loved ones, meaning of spring, rebirth, rejuvenation, spring, Twist of Fate, Violet Fate, wretched fate, writing delays, writing restarts