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Can I tap your brain?

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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

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Stuck in the sand

stuck in sand

© Alkan2011 | Dreamstime.com – Red Star Photo

Writers love their metaphors, and I’m smack dab in the middle of one that often applies to how they live: stuck in the sand.

Mostly, it’s quicksand that has hold of me right now, and I’m flailing my arms trying to get someone’s attention. The sand in this case was dumped by clients in my paying gig: managing editor, and it was created by deadlines not being met by others. I have developed the delicate art of becoming the human gnat, buzzing in the ear of those who pay me to be a good editor and manager. But the reality of my daily job is that I have to depend on other people’s schedules and sometimes getting their association or corporate publication out is not as important as the thousands of other tasks on their plates. I’m used to being here in this spot; I’m a patient person and someone usually sees my flailing arms and rescues me.

When it comes to my writing career, however, I’m stuck out in the desert with no one listening. The Fate Series’ publishing situation is about to change and I have to decide if I have the desire or knowledge to self publish or whether I must go through the often-lengthy process of finding a new publisher. Neither scenario appeals in the least; I’ve loved the editors and artists I’ve had up to now. I can’t stand the thought of not having their support. But I happened across this spot accidentally, and I’m sinking in my own indecision about how to solve this problem. Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish book four, working out details with mom in book five and trying to decide what to do about the book of short stories mom and I put together last year that doesn’t appear to be “out there” enough to appeal to today’s short story publishers.

I guess in the case of my writing career, this sand is more like a trap. I’m swinging my clubs trying to understand exactly what’s involved in the very broad and diverse field of publishing today. I’m trying to find time in all of this mess to hit the newest books forward.

But the nice part of the sand trap is that there are those that can give you lessons on how to rescue yourself. Such was the case last weekend when I attended a Virginia Writer’s Club symposium on “Navigating Your Writer’s Life.” The group put together an excellent program balancing the “craft” of writing with the “business” of being an author. I chose mostly business sessions because I need the practicality right now. I came away with so much information my head is spinning. More importantly, I came away having met a roomful of people who have faced or are facing the same issues I am, which means: I’m no longer alone out here in my pile of sand. Many of these people won’t be able to rescue me—they are too busy trying to hit the golf ball themselves. But the place to begin getting answers is to listen to those who have been here, stuck in the sand, and found a way not to let it ruin their scores.

–Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Revving up the engine

When you feel stale with your writing, what do you do to inspire? In the old days, when I was only putting words down occasionally with no goal in mind, I’d dig out the old journals. These journals, written in long hand, still inspire when I give them a chance. But now that I’ve actually published a book with mom, I look to something else – recommitment.happy driving 2 mark

Mom and I carted my dad around Fredericksburg, Virginia this week, visiting places we thought might be interested in book signings. At the end of the day, we had two signings booked and a very hot prospect for a third. Pretty good results from a couple of hours of driving. But the day meant a lot more because what it did was re-inspire. Both of us took almost a month off from marketing because of busy schedules (my daughter graduating, visits from friends and family). Mom was chipping away at book five of the Sam Osborne series. I was finalizing the manuscript for Wretched Fate, the second book of the series. But I think we were both feeling the lull that occurs after the passion of first getting published. By driving around, telling our “story” about the miracle of book one coming out, we created a second wind. Mom and I both love the characters Mom created—Sam Osborne, Casey and Danny—and what happens to them in book one. We love book two and the new heroes Jacob Hardy and Rosalie McGovern even more. So it was easy to turn that passion into a road trip. It also helped that while we were telling our stories of how we became authors, we also could report that book one Twist of Fate is about to be reissued by Spectacle Publishing Media Group, and that book two Wretched Fate, will probably be out by the end of this summer. We felt again the excitement of being an author, and it breathed life into the ordinary.

So fellow creators, find that key that will bring you back to the magic place you were the first or second or third time you looked at your creation and realized how talented you are. It may require doing something like driving around, knocking on doors and bragging a little, but you know you’ll also find people who think that what you’ve done is really cool. Or if you’re within that horrid writer’s block we all hit, sit down at the computer and write something new. Remind yourself again why you’re an author. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s an outlet for your creative soul.

And you’ll find yourself driving home, like mom, dad and I did, listening to an old radio station and singing along with the music.

Genilee Swope Parentehappy driving

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting over the Speed Bumps

Speed_BumpLike many writers, I seemed to be suffering from a period where my writing is at a standstill. For the first six books, the words just rolled out of me and onto the computer. But my writing seems to be suffering from stumbling blocks lately. One of those speed bumps is the reality that, as my books have progressed, the plots get more and more complicated. I’ve never had much trouble coming up the characters—they just form in my head and crystallize as I’m writing. However, writing and then fine-tuning mystery plots is difficult. There are many details that have to be figured out as far as how something could logically happen. And it’s not always easy to lead readers on side-trips so they don’t figure out “who dunnit” too early in the book. This is especially difficult with the Sam Osborne book I’ve trying to write now, which involves a murder. The killing could have been a case of a mistaken identity, which makes finding out the murderer more difficult. You’ll have to wait until that’s all on paper to see what I mean. As with the other books, I really like my main characters in this book.

Part of my problem, too, is that I took the last year to sit down and draft some short stories. Book Four of the Sam Osborne series was done, and I needed a new challenge so before I returned to my detective, I wanted to try some short stories. I’d done a few stories that were based on facts for magazines. This year, I wrote an entire collection based on seasonal holidays.

Now, I have an idea for how to return to Sam. However, it began in my head as a short story. I’m seeing now how much more detail, work and time it takes to write a full-length novel and wondering if writing short stories was a better form for me. I guess I’ll find out as I spend more nights lying in bed thinking about this latest plot!

Book signings have also been slow lately, partly because of my husband’s health—it’s difficult for him to drive places when he doesn’t know where he’s going, and I can no longer read a map or the road signs. And like with most people, life has gotten in the way—my daughter and writing partner works more than full time and has a graduating senior; my other two daughters came to visit; and these events have made for a busy Spring.

However, all of this having been said, Genilee and I have recommitted to Book One—Twist of Fate and hit the streets together again to set up more signings and events. We’ve already had one success, which we’ll report on closer to the event.

We were also excited to find out that Spectacle Publishing Media Group has decided to issue a second edition of the first book right before book two comes out. We are Spectacle’s top seller and proud of that fact. I’ll hope you’ll visit their site to see what else they’ve published recently (Spectaclepmg.com.) And both of our latest releases will be happening this summer – the reissue probably in July and the publishing of Wretched Fate to follow in August or September.

I am very proud of Wretched Fate and love the characters of Jacob and Rosalie. They are both unusual in their lifestyles—Jacob a recluse with a famous name, Rosalie a woman in need of a direction for her life. When they meet and work together to solve the crime, something magical happens. We think something magical will also happen when you read it!

F. Sharon Swope

 

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Writer’s Cramps

For two years I had no trouble writing stories. Of course there were the inevitable slow periods when you have to establish a routine to keep yourself writing. But after the agreement came in from Spectacle Media Publishing Group to get my first book out there, my creative juices were really flowing. At least until the time for that group’s staff to do their part in getting us published came into play and the waiting period began. Although I know it hasn’t been unusually long in getting our book in print, I seem to have lost some of my enthusiasm. I guess at my age, I need to know that someone is reading what I write.
For over thirty years I had that satisfaction because I wrote a column for a weekly newspaper. I guess this made me used to having almost instantaneous response to what I was writing. The column, which was called “Apron Strings,” was about my children and my life back then, but it always ended with a recipe, especially once I got that helpful tip established. Then people were not only anxious to read the escapades of my family, but they wanted that final benefit: a recipe, and they began to send me scads of suggestions. I would weigh ten tons today if I had tried every recipe sent.
I know most people reading this blog don’t care about recipes, but blogging is similar to writing that column in that the readers want to hear aspects of your life as an author. Fortunately, what I have to report right now is great news. That wonderful time when our first book, Twist of Fate, will be published is nearing: the ebook should be out end of October/beginning of November and printed versions will be available before Christmas. As I’ve waited, I haven’t really slowed much: I have rewritten book number 2, Wretched Fate, and reread and corrected book number 3, Fate of the Violet Eyes. Meanwhile, book number 4 in the Sam Osborne series, which doesn’t yet have a title, is completely written but needs work. I even have first drafts for nine-tenths of book number 5, which is a compilation of short stories.
Still, while I’m steadily picking away at all of those projects, I must confess that until I actually see something in print, I feel I’ve reached a stumbling block, which has extended to trying to come up with blog topics. So, dear readers, I’m returning to my old habits and ending with a recipe today. Try it: it doesn’t sound like much but it’s really delicious and just enough different to make it fun to prepare. Oh, and we really should give it a writing theme so I’ll call it:
INSPIRATION SALAD
½ head broccoli
1 cup chopped pecans
½ head cauliflower
1-cup raisins
1 large onion
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Sauce Mix
1/2 cup sugar or splenda
3 T. vinegar
1-cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
Instructions: chop broccoli, cauliflower, onion, raisins, and pecans; place in large salad bowl Add cheese. Mix sauce ingredients; toss with vegetables, etc. Will keep well for several days.

And while you’re waiting: get to work on that next book project!

— Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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