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Shopping for an escape

Because I’m a senior and I cannot drive, I’ve had to find other ways to get out. I watch a lot of television, and in the last few years, I’ve done most of my shopping with QVC. I don’t mean to be a commercial, but I must say I am very happy with most of what I get; once in a while I send something back, but the quality of their goods has been excellent. As with any shopping bag with bookskind of shopping, I have lots of days when I can force myself to be practical and not give in to the many temptations I see.  Then there are those days I like everything I see and finally give in and purchase something.  That’s the kind of day I’m having today.  I vowed I wouldn’t spend any money unless I found a Christmas present; but I gave in and bought something for myself!  It’s practical and something I will really use, but I spent some money when I vowed I wouldn’t.  Such is the life of those who love to shop. Everything looks so good on the models, even the larger ones. Shopping is a way we use our imagination, put those clothes on us and dream.

We do the same thing when we shop for a good book.  We look for the color (which is the cover); we notice the style (the print of the book) and we often seek out the design company or the designer (the author).

When you come across the books Genilee and I have written, you’ll see vivid covers, not bright or gaudy, but rich in color and hinting at what is in the book (the way lace might hint at what’s beneath); the style of our books is appealing (Spectacle has chosen easy to read and large type). As for the designers (us), we are still getting to the point where you might recognize us by name. We hope what you’ll learn to associate with that name is entertaining reading. In no way do we consider what we do coming up with deep, provoking or controversial literature.  We see ourselves as writers of “moments of escape,” which we both have shopped for when we read.  Our books are the kind you love to curl up with in a chair in front of the fireplace to lose yourself fully for a few hours in someone else’s life.

Genilee is working hard at getting the third book polished for the publisher’s last reading, while I am trying to produce book four in the Sam Osborne series. The book Genilee’s immersed in—Fate of the Violet Eyes—sees Sam, our detective, falling in love.  I hope you become as absorbed in the characters of the kidnapper and his victim as I was in writing this book.  Meanwhile, I am almost done writing book four, which includes some suggestions made by audiences in a series of book talks we held at various communities.  I already wrote a fifth book, but I put it aside for a while because it doesn’t satisfy me.  Sometimes you just have to put aside something that bothers you—like that dress or that shirt that’s almost good enough. And when you’re shopping QVC, sometimes you have to send it back for a different one or one that fits better.

We hope, of course, that you come across our engaging Fate series in your shopping and decide to try us on. But in the meantime, let me give you a little exercise we do in our book talks (the same exercise that has resulted in including details from communities where we talk into book four).

I often start a book with just a name, then I begin visualizing details for the character and go on to what actions the person might take and end up formulating plots around those details. I thought I’d give you a new name and see what you come up with. I’m looking for things such as age, appearance, personality, job, desires, motivation—give me anything that comes to mind.  If we get some replies as comments, I’ll share with you what I have come up with myself.

Here goes, close your eyes and visualize this person: CHRISTELLA CORTEZ

Have some fun with it!

F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Falling in love with my character

I have a confession to make that my dear husband may not like. I’m in love with Sam Osborne.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Don’t worry though, honey, he’s not a real person. He’s the detective in our Fate series. And unlike with you, this love did not start out with a bang. It took me many months and many revisions of the books before I began to fall for this character. And it didn’t hit me hard until this third book—Fate of the Violet Eyes.

Sam went from being a nice man in Twist of Fate who helped a girl in a wheelchair and a homeless man to a friendly detective in Wretched Fate who helped the main male character as he stumbled into dating. Then in this third book, we readers get to spend a lot more time with the man. His masculinity comes out, and instead of being the person behind the romance, Sam falls in love with his own client. Despite the fact he shouldn’t, he lets that love to the forefront as he helps her try to find her child.

I suppose it’s kind of weird, actually, to fall in love with a character who was originally created by my own mother. But he’s a product of two vivid imaginations: two generations’ ideas of what a good man is. That’s why he’s inquisitive but polite; kind but capable of anger when he’s sees something that’s wrong; quick to laugh, but often introspective.

And I also think falling for the characters happens to a lot of writers: we spend so much time with them in the writing/rewriting/editing process, they become part of our life.

So forgive me, dear husband. But I’m hoping to make others fall in love with Sam Osborne as well. And I’m sorry, but my love affair with Sam will continue. Mom is now working on book four and book five is already drafted. You’ll just have to put up with me, honey, until the Fate series is complete. And you know what? I hope that doesn’t ever happen. I’d miss my Sam too much!

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Heading into freshness

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Dreamstime

When summer reaches its long hot end and fall is peeking around the corner, I always get a blast of fresh air: as if someone had opened a door to let in a cool breeze. I used to be able to pinpoint that feeling: I’d spent the summer trying to keep my child entertained through camps and activities that took her away from the television screen. School was about to begin, and because I had a child who always loved teachers and classrooms (i.e., return to friends), buying sneakers and stuffing a backpack with supplies felt new and invigorating. It reminded me how excited I was growing up when school was about to start.

My child is college age and stuffs her own school bag these days, and I left school in the dust 40 years ago. But I still get the feeling; and I cherish it enough to call fall my favorite season.

I usually get to autumn and realize I’m not facing a wall of appointments and scheduled events. Summer’s stretch of fitting in visits around family events and vacations is over. And whatever freelance extra assignment I took on over the summer always seems to have a deadline of just after Labor Day. At the beginning of fall, it’s pre-holiday-rush with only the barely celebrated holidays of Columbus and Veteran’s Days to screw up the schedule. And I don’t feel that sudden urge that spring brings to hurry-up-and-plan while the weather holds.

Fall’s freshness also has to do with the end of summer’s dying season. Brown and yellow, sand and dust, bugs and humidity fade into the background while rust, gold and orange emerge, drawing our eyes upward to the crisp blue of autumn skies and the stark white clouds that accent the tree tops. If I was a painter, fall would be my subject.

Fall also brings back the desire to move: longer walks in the woods with the dog, a new exercise program, the time to think about new directions.

So I’m making a promise to myself. I’m throwing off the sluggishness of summer and along with it, the feeling mom and I have had with recent book promotions and writing that we are moving in molasses. We’re waiting on progress on book three; we’re experiencing the harsh reality that a second book is harder to market than a first; we’re trying to find a publisher for our short story collection; we’re finding it hard to move forward with new writing when we need to spend so much time trying to promote.

It’s time to feel the new possibilities that fall always brings. I’m going to stuff my backpack with new places to contact for book events. I’m going to sharpen some new pencils (boot up the computer) and sit down each morning to write something new. And I’m going to head off to “school” by looking for new ways to learn how to be successful as an author.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 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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Stretching the brain

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dreamstime

One of the most common questions Mom and I get at book functions is: where do you get your ideas

The answer to that question is just about as easy to find as the answer to another question we ask each other frequently: where the heck did that dream come from? Mom and I both have vivid imaginations that create wild dreams. Last week, for example, I dreamed my sister Monya lived in a mansion so huge she had one, double-gymnasium-sized room where she held a yoga class with 40 of her closest women friends. It isn’t that the concept was so far out; if she had a house that large she might indeed set aside a room just for her friends and exercise. The dream was amazing because of the detail my brain created. I still see the green fronds of plants everywhere, gold archways decorated with Roman-themed crown moulding, the wheat-colored weaved mat I exercised upon. I can hear the gently falling sound of water that filled that room, and I feel my envy that so many of the women looked toned and relaxed in the white robed gym outfits my mind created.

I went over and over details of the day before that dream and could find no hints where the gym or white robes came from.

I will say, however, that my dreams are even more vivid since I started writing frequently, which tells me something about the nature of creativity and how it feeds upon itself. For me personally, I believe my ideas spring from mental agility that comes with practice. The more I sit down and write, the easier ideas come. In a way, it’s like a yoga class for the brain—by practicing, I’m flexing my thinking and the next time I get on the mat, the ideas move more smoothly.

But ideas also come from stimulation, and you have to recognize and acknowledge what’s happening to you to be stimulated by it. When you walk, do you stare at the pavement in front of you? Or do you look around and see? Our world is made of millions of microcosms and if you raise your head you’ll spot them. My dog Laney has given me lessons in this wonder. We’ll be walking along a path and suddenly, she’ll stop dead in her tracks. If I didn’t see her nose twitching, I’d think she’d turned to stone, she’s so still. While Laney is a hound-mix, she’s a site-hound, not a scent hound. Whatever she’s smelling is only backup to what she’s seeing. I thought the first few times it happened she was nuts. Then one time, I stopped walking and just waited. And waited and waited some more, not making a sound, just telling myself I was nuts right alongside her. After what seemed like five minutes, a young adolescent deer stepped right out in front of us. We were in a field and the deer had been on a hill below us, eating its way upward. I guess it couldn’t smell us because of the direction of the wind. There it was in all its male teenage glory, small antlers beginning to show, not yet old enough that the site of us brought instant fear. The deer stared at us and we stared back for several more minutes. The deer didn’t move until Laney’s dog-ness took over, and she couldn’t contain her excitement. She made a move towards the deer, and it turned and white-tailed it out of there.

For a brief few minutes, our microcosms intertwined, but only because Laney and I stopped our world long enough to let the deer walk into it. And none of us―Laney, the young deer or I―would have had the experience if we’d kept our noses to the ground.DSCN0457

 

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting Back to Edgerton

125th

Some of the Swopes at the 125th town birthday

Despite the fact we haven’t lived in our hometown for years, Edgerton remains a deep part of who the Swope family is. For that reason, we’re going back there this summer carting boxes of books and hoping to meet up with some of the best supporters we’ve had.

Allyn’s current connection with the hometown runs deepest because she has family there from her marriage to Brad Stotz.  For those of you who don’t know that name, Allyn Stotz is my sister, a children’s book author (www.allynstotz.blogspot.com) who will be carting boxes of The Pea in Peanut Butter and the recently released Kailee Finds Magic IN Words with her to Edgerton. Allyn has kept in contact with many of her friends from high school and made some new ones in the years since she and Brad moved to Louisiana. Allyn, Mom and I all feel strongly that Edgerton is part of who we are, and we often talk about what a wonderful environment Edgerton provided for our family. Mom was a substitute teacher there and wrote a local column for the newspaper that my dad ran (the Edgerton Earth). I developed a nucleus of high school friends so strong that when I celebrated my 60th this year, my husband invited a couple of them to travel great distances so that I can have a truly wonderful surprise. I have tried to reconnect with some of my friends from the awesome years of high school through facebook and to follow what’s happening with some of the other people of Edgerton.

Many of the good people of Edgerton have already bought our books and wrote to cheer us on. Allyn had a book signing and reading when The Pea was released. Still, we’re all packing up the cars and heading that way, dragging not only boxes, but our husbands and Mark, a major supporter for Allyn and for us and a researcher for Mom and I (not to mention our dearly beloved brother/son).

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Verna and dad at the old Edgerton Earth

Mom is 86; dad is 88 and ailing from Alzheimers. Mark, Allyn and I are still young enough NOT to want to mention how very old we are. So why are we traveling 12 and 15 hours for book signings?  Because it’s part of who we are. Mom and I acknowledged Edgerton and one of our great cheerleaders, Verna Wortkoetter in our last book. Mom and Verna developed a relationship early in the years when we first moved to Edgerton. Verna showed mom quickly what the town was like when she made sure mom felt comfortable in Edgerton and knew that if the Swopes needed help in any way, the Wortkoetters were there. I still feel thrilled when Verna’s daughter Jane Jacobs, who I became close to growing up, announces another grandchild. And I still go through the Edgerton Earth each week looking for the names of the families we knew.

And we all try to stay in touch. I’ve learned that Facebook’s greatest strength is that it allows people to maintain links with their past, and it has been a great tool for the Swopes.  Several of my high school buddies pop up almost every day and when I read about their lives, it reconnects me with who I am.

It’s a long way back to Edgerton. Not only in miles, but in years. But I’m very much looking forward to the trip.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Stepping it Up

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dreamstime

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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