The Old Days

I came across a screen shot of my very first website. Yep. I designed it myself with SiteSpinner. A cool little software program that helps those unfamiliar with coding. It was WYSIWYG type and I used it for years. If you can read some of the small print, you will see I was a romantic suspense and paranormal writer. That’s paranormal romance writer by the way.Screen Shot 2019-08-25 at 11.27.12 AMOne day, I hope to pull out one of my paranormal romances and rewrite it and see if someone else likes it besides myself.

If you’re wondering, I wrote eleven books before I sold my first one. It was actually book number ten, my second romantic suspense, that Avon Impulse (HarperCollins) published. The first two books I ever wrote need to be thrown out, and only the plots used. One was a historical romance set in the Middle Ages. The next was a romantic suspense, not spy or assassin like my Circle books, but a former DEA agent (heroine) recuperating from her years being undercover. During the operation, she became addicted to cocaine while she played the drug lord’s girlfriend and she screwed up even more. She’d fallen for him. After putting him in prison, and length stay in rehab, she came under investigation. The special agent (hero) investigating her begins to have feelings for her. The drug lord escapes prison and troubles ensue.

No. I haven’t read it in years, but I still remember the plot.

October is a good month for me.  My first book, Circle of Desire, was published October 18, 2011, and on October 14, 2014, I agreed with Loveswept (Penguin-Random House) on a two-book contract. (Those books came out in 2016.) It was a mostly lovely experience I will never forget. The best part was joining forces with my agent, Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency. Love her!

So far, I’ve published 10 books.  All of them can be found at most major booksellers’ websites. Only one was from my pre-published days (yep, my debut book). So I guess you could say, I have a good stack to pull from when I have the time.

Presently, I’m working on a new Hockey Romance titled Fake Play.

 

 

Only Takes a Smile

Only Takes a Smile

In May, I moved out of my house of 25 years and into a new home and new neighborhood. I love it, nice quiet area on a dead-end street. So different from the busy street I used to live on with only two neighbors (one on each side).

Now, nearly every weekday when I leave to go to my day-job, I drive by two neighborhood ladies in snazzy workout clothes having their morning walk. Being the friendly sort, I raise my hand and smile. They are a little hesitate, but they always give me a wave back, but no smile. I’m okay with that. Rome wasn’t built in a day. They know where I live, but nothing else about me.

For a few days last week, I’ve been running late and left after they passed my house. But one day, I walked out my front door as they were going by. Not wanting to act unfriendly, I waved, guessing they might look over. One of the ladies did glance my way. Obviously, not the leader of the two. Instead of waving back, she snapped her face forward, her hair whipping around, and they continued on. I bet her neck ached later that day.

My husband knew of my ritual of waving and smiling at them. So he asked before I closed the door, “Did they wave back?”

I leaned back into the house and said, “Noooo,” trying my best not to burst out laughing. They will never be friendly if they think I’m making fun of them. But this so reminds me of high school. Crazy.

Well, we’ll see how it goes next week. I’ll let you know.

 

Newly Designed Website

How do you like my newly designed website? I should’ve been writing but the way my website looked after changing it about a month ago really bugged me. So I worked on it all afternoon until 2:30 a.m. in the morning. I think I finally got it right and love it. What do you think?

If you’re wondering, it’s a template provided by WordPress. They have some great offers and no they are not paying me to say that. But I believe in saying up front if I had help and I sure did.

Now for me to get back to writing. That’s what I really love. Some good news to come soon. Probably by next weekend.

T-Shirts Are Not For All Occasions

IMG_1345First remember, my blog, my opinion. I can’t tell you what to do. I can only tell my family. HA!

And no, I’m not about to talk about hockey. I just want to first show you I do wear (what I consider) unfeminine clothing on occasion. That includes T-shirts. For years, I had only two or three T-shirts and that was mostly to wear when I’m painting walls or doing housework. But when I started watching and going to hockey games, I wanted to support my team and decided it would be okay to wear their T-shirts. Yes, they have a few cut for women, but those are tight. If I was forty years younger and fifty, okay, hundred pounds lighter, I would wear them, but I’ve seen the women at games, most are like me. Bless their hearts. NHL believes all women who support their men are thin and young. I can tell you, they need to increase the offers in plus sizes. Us fat people have money to spend, and we don’t have to ask hubby.

Anyway, for the last twenty years or a little more, I’ve seen women going to restaurants (not talking about fast food), movies, shopping (dear GOD! I won’t even get into talking about Walmart) at nice department stores, and even funerals wearing T-shirts. Yep, funerals. Remember T-shirts were originally made to wear beneath a shirt.

When my daughters were growing up, I would buy them nice classic feminine clothes, especially for the fun dances the school put on. What do the boys wear? T-shirts and cargo pants. Why? Why? They ruin the pictures with their sorry clothing. I won’t blame their moms (much), but as my daughter grew older, they learned to tell the fellows what to wear. Yes. They don’t want to be embarrassed by being seen with clueless boys/men.

How many times have you been out about and seen two people together (I’m not talking about gay couples) and cannot tell who is the female? Both are wearing baggy T-shirts, blue jeans, flip-flops, and their hair cut above the ears or hidden beneath a hat.

Personally, I’m proud to be a woman. I don’t wear frilly clothes and rarely wear dresses (though I love them, but hate my fat legs), but even overweight as I am, if you saw me walk by, you would know I’m female. Even with a T-shirt on (rarely out and about unless going or coming from a game), I have a purse, girly shoes, dangling earrings, makeup, and my hair below my ears and styled like a woman. (I really wish I could grow it long to my shoulders, but my hair is baby fine.)

You don’t have to wear stilettos (more power to you if you can) and a neckline down to your navel or skirt up to your butt. RuPaul can do that and as of today, he’s not a woman (he does look good in or out of a dress and makeup). I say you can be comfortable without a blasted T-shirt and still be feminine.

Be proud to be a woman and let others know it, even in subtle ways.

 

 

 

In The Fast Food Lane

In The Fast Food Lane

parking spaces

Like many Americans I love to eat fast food and most times, I enjoy walking in and taking it easy before heading back to the day job. One thing I noticed is all fast food places have skinny parking places. Really? What are they trying to do? Keep us from coming inside? Make us use their drive-through?

My car has a ding on the passenger door because of those stupid parking spaces, but I want to eat inside. I don’t want to make a mess in my car.

And of course, like every eating place I’ve ever been to, fast or formal dining, the restrooms have only one to three stalls. What’s up with that? I had to wait in line the other day for one out of two stalls provided. Women have to move clothes a lot to take care of business. Not just a zipper and undies. So it takes time.

I do say, I get tickled seeing men stand in lines for the restroom at an ice rink. Probably because there are often more men than women attending. Oh, yes, I loved walking straight into the restroom during a hockey game. No wait. Awesome!

Another reason to love hockey!

Divorce and Fancy Towels

IMG_1196Over the years, I’ve read many romances where the heroine or hero had children with a divorced (or never married) spouse. I find it all interesting to see how younger authors handle the situation. It appears to be one extreme to the other. The parents get along like old distant friends to pure hate for each other. Sounds about right from what I see nowadays.

My parents divorced at the beginning of the new norm (kids living in two households) in the 1960s. Check out this chart. I thought it was interesting how there was one bump after World War II. I guess all of those misbehaving war brides got kicked out the door. (Thinking of Bridges of Madison County – I intensely dislike that book. Cheating war bride.)

Considering divorce is the lowest it’s been since pre-WII, it’s still high and there are children still dealing with a parent who isn’t there 100% and often 0% of the time, along with strange step-parents and half and step-siblings. I mean strange as in their habits are not the same ones you are used to from the first five to ten years of your life. And many children are living in poverty because don’t we know it takes two incomes to make an average living, and sadly, women make only 80% of what men do in the same job. In the state I live, it’s 74%. I believe it. Click here to read more. 

Anyway, I remember how I felt when I “visited” with my dad. I wasn’t lucky enough to have room to myself. I slept either on a sofa-sleeper or in the sewing room. A few times, I had to sleep in the same bed with my step-sister. Talk about uncomfortable. I know she resented it despite how I was one of those kids who was taught to not touch anything that isn’t hers, including not to open drawers, cabinets, or closets. So I made sure to place my suitcase in an empty corner and took out what I needed and put it back when I was through. I still place my hands behind my back when I look at something that belongs to someone else.

I’ll never forget one time when my dad and his wife and her kids moved into a new home. She had white shag carpet in the living room and we were told to never walk into there. I remember standing in the foyer and just looking at the room and thinking I never want a room where I worried about messing it up.

On one of my visits, I had been roaming around the yard outside, her kids were usually somewhere else when my brother and I came to stay (maybe their father’s). I was called in for lunch and I washed my hands in the upstairs bathroom (I don’t remember one being downstairs).  After we ate and I helped clear the table, I sat on the couch watching TV with my dad, my step-mom called my name, fury in her voice. “It was you who used my fancy towel. Don’t you ever put your dirty, wet hands on them again.” She chewed on me some more but that’s all I remember. I was so embarrassed. So whenever I went to her house, I wiped my wet hands on my pants. All her towels looked new and fancy.

Even as an adult, and they lived in a big house that had a guest bathroom downstair, she never had a towel in there, not even the fancy kind. Remember, I’ve been taught never to open closets or cabinets in houses that don’t belong to me. And my dad’s house was never my home. I was a guest. It wasn’t until the last couple years before she left my dad did she ever place towels in there.

Funny thing about that is she had a little long haired dog. I wouldn’t ever touch it because I wouldn’t have a towel to dry my hands after washing them and I wouldn’t let my kids touch it either. Occasionally, I would get a paper towel and take it in the bathroom with me for the kids. When she finally did place towels in the bathroom, I would pet her newest dog (the other one had died) and she’d said, “I thought you didn’t like dogs.” I said it was because I had to handle the kids at the same time. Never pointing out, I couldn’t wash my hands because I would have to dry them on my pants more often than I did at the time. I never told her the real reason.  

It may all sound stupid to you. You’re probably wondering why didn’t I ever ask for a towel. Maybe part of it was because I was chewed out about the fancy towel and in the back of my mind I figured all of her towels were fancy.  My mom didn’t have fancy ones. We couldn’t afford them.

By the way, my oldest daughter (she was an adult then) asked for one. I remember being worried my stepmom would jump on my daughter and I would have a fight on my hands. No one spoke ugly to my kids. But my stepmom made a big deal of finding one and then she pulled out a raggedly towel. To think of it, I believe that was when she finally started to have one in the bathroom (probably 85% of the time).

I always wondered what her kids did for one or did they go around with dirty hands? Or maybe they could use the fancy ones.

Stories from Dark to Light

Stories from Dark to Light

Readers are really benefiting from all of the independent publishing. You like dark romance, you have your choice of how dark. Want a romantic comedy? Yep, you bet your sweet bippy they’re out there. How about erotica? What type? BDSM? Of course, sir. Age play? Yes, Papa. Have a fetish? There’s a book out there for you. Historical or paranormal? Or both? Or everything above? Goodness, yes.

I love all kinds of romances, but I’m still old fashioned about one thing. My heroine or hero (read or write) cannot be married to another when the relationship is starting up or going on. Oh, yes, there are romances out there like that. Crazy, heh?

CircleofDesire mm cI love marriages of convenience (historical or contemporary), male – female spy teams, cowboys (historical or contemporary), and reverse roles (like my book Circle of Desire, the heroine was the dangerous assassin). Most of my reading and writing is dark, though I do enjoy reading romantic comedy on occasion. But the hero or heroine cannot be or act stupid. Bad or dumb luck is okay.

As I like to do every once in a while, here are some recommendations.

Lucas: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel  By Sawyer Bennett:  I do love this series. This book is one of her best. Such an unusual heroine. She has issues I can relate to. A great guy hero. Sweet story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hot. Just lots of feels.

Alien Slave Master series by Samantha Cayto (The Captain’s Pet, The Rebellious Pet, The Untamed Pet, The Captive Pet, The Inconvenient Pet, The Undercover Pet.) Now be aware, these are not for everyone. So go with caution. Be sure to read the excerpts the on-line booksellers provide. The author did a great job on the emotions, and there was a wide spectrum.

I’m presently listening to the audio of Louise Bay’s The Empire State Series: A Week in New York, Autumn in London, and New Year in Manhattan. Lots of sex, but it doesn’t get monotonous. Good narrators and just an enjoyable story. Ms. Bay continues to make me happy.

I have mixed feelings about the dark romance (audio) Echo: A Dark Billionaire Romance (Bleeding Hearts Book 1)  by A. Zavarelli. In one of my earlier recommendations, I mentioned some of her books. (Love Ghost.)  This one . . . I liked but it went off in left field a few times. Still I enjoy this author’s unusual characters. I might get the second book’s audio. Still debating.

Her book, The Beast, no. It was too much of everything — too dark — and I read some crazy stuff. If you decide to check it out, be aware the male lead rapes the female. Multiple times. I just can’t call him a hero. Then again that might be your thing. You’ve been warned. I feel this is one of her older books she released after some/a lot success from her newer ones. Then again, what do I know. By the way, I listened to the audio and wasn’t too happy with the narrator.

Speaking of the narrator, for the last two books mentioned, she had a lilt at the end of every sentence. Bug the crap out of me. I guess I’ll stick to reading A. Zavarelli’s books, instead of listening to them.

The Beast Inside

I’m screaming inside right now.

That’s what happens when you hear news you don’t want. As a reasonable human being with manners, you know you should never scare the people around you. You should grin and bear it. Never let people see you cry or be upset. Otherwise, you’ll have to explain what happened. When you explain, you relive the devastating reality. Then people give you platitudes you can live without. Usually, they say those things because they believe it’s the proper thing to do. So in other words, they say the words to make themselves feel better.

All you can tolerant is someone who will talk about the nice weather. So you keep your mouth shut and manage a faint grin.

Most people do not understand how I feel, so I rather not hear their opinion or receive their sympathy. I keep the screaming inside until I’m numb and can come to terms with the person I am, not the one who I thought I was.

Yet I move on.

What Did You Say?

Beautiful Woman Enjoys CoffeeSo you’re planning to speak to a group of writers. Most guest speakers will give a little spiel about themselves.  All good. Be sure to tell the things that have relevance to what you’re going to talk about. Sure, you can include a short little story about that time you climbed a mountain, but make sure it’s funny or interesting. Otherwise, drop it.

So you want to enlighten your audience on how your company or organization came to be? Or how the industry changed over the last few years. Be sure to keep it short. Chances are you’re telling your audience what they already know.

I have found that I rarely hear a speech that inspires me. When I do, it is usually because they have told me something I didn’t know, and/or I find it to be of use.

If I can read your slide(s), and they follow along with what you’re saying without adding anything, then they are defeating the purpose. You’ll bore your audience.

You’re probably asking, what should I do?  Of course, follow the major key points on the slides, but colored in between the areas with more information or explanations in your speech. In other words, be sure to explain (in an interesting way) publicwhy those key points are important.

Include “real life” points. That’s when I love hearing about the speaker’s life and their experiences. Or maybe their friend’s or information about a stranger’s experience that’s been verified. Or a funny or emotional, fictional the-moral-to-the-story point. If you’re not funny (personally, I’m sarcastic, not funny), place unexpected pictures or comics in the middle of your slides. It will wake your audience up. Be sure to keep it relevant, borderline relevant is okay.

Be sure to keep your pace steady, but take a couple seconds in between points. Breathe. Do not over explain. Modulate your voice. NO!  Not into a monotone. More into a good rhythm. Stopping and going in a middle of a sentence will make the audience wonder if you know what you’re talking about. UNLESS, you’re using it to make a point or draw attention. Do be sure to practice the presentation. And it’s okay to be excited at times about what you’re talking about. Try to smile though most of the speech. It will come through in your tone.

picture
(Don’t be a dinosaur)

Do you stand behind the podium? Do you stay in a chair? NO! Get up. Move around. Use your hands. Wave them around on occasion. Like everything in life, do not overdo. Spread the love in various ways.

The most important thing to remember is DO NOT READ YOUR SPEECH.  🙂  Print out an outline of the key points you want to tell the audience. If you’re near to being blind like me, blow up the print. And again, practice your speech.

Researching Mundane Words

photo meThe things you learn when you double check something you’ve never really thought about such as the difference between button-down and button-up shirts. I’ve always called a dress shirt (besides dress shirt) a button-up shirt. Well, it turns out that’s wrong. A button-down shirt includes the button on each collar to hold it in place (that’s the button-down part). The button-up does not. AND a dress shirt will always have the buttons on the collar. Thus always a button-down shirt. The things authors have to know.

By the way, my mom would always correct me as a kid when I referred to my top as a shirt. She said boys wore shirts, girls wore blouses. I can see that except when it’s a t-shirt. (Of course, the spelling of t-shirt is another argument. ) HA!

Enough is Enough

1pic for blog[Reprint of post from Romance Magicians’ blog May 29, 2011]

This still applies and maybe will help others to understand the need to continue and be dedicated in becoming published with a traditional publisher or in finishing a novel and becoming self-published.  

When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one. This delivery was a hell of lot longer.

I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice and learning how to pitch to editors and agents. I practiced writing query letters, talking to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness, no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. Being at my RWA chapter meetings helped and encouraged me to keep trying.

One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room, and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.

Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.

So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?

I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood or the made-up scary ones. Then that’s enough.

I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.

This post was written just after I had gotten my first call from HarperCollins. Now it has been three books with HC and two books with Random House (Loveswept). So see, hard work pays off. Keep trying and decide what you want and be willing to change.  Goodness knows, the publishing world changes often, and as an author you need to be willing to do that too.

The Emerald City

wizard-of-oz-quoteBeing a published author is like being Dorthy going to the Emerald City. You want to get to that beautiful, magical place of where your wonderful story will be presented to the world. But you have to go through trials and detours. Scary things like flying monkeys trying to hold you back and witches trying to stop you, but when you finally arrive, it takes your breath away. It’s more than you ever imagined. You’re fascinated by all of the exciting activity, and how everyone wants to make your story pretty as possible.

And then you go to see the wizard (booksellers and reviewers).  Still a little scary, but you know this is what you want and you’re determined to show how brave you are. Then with a lot of clanging and smoke billowing, you find out the truth.

It’s what is in you that makes you successful. Not all the hoopla or even the polishing, your writing is all that counts and will bring you to where you should be. So simple, yet so difficult.

[As you can tell, I quite often relate writing to movies. My post is from the one I did for the Romance Magicians’ blog on January 15, 2016, but changed a little.]

 

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
Facebook: CarlaSwafford, Author
Amazon: Carla Swafford Books
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Ten Things I Hate About Writing

!FB memeIf you follow me here or on Facebook, you know that I love lists. This is one I did at the Romance Magicians’ blog back on August 14, 2009.

10. I hate how I have to wait months and months (I’m a slow writer) before I can find out how my own book ends.

9. I hate how I fall in love with my hero and then have to give him up. He belongs to the heroine.

8. I hate how I have to concentrate on one book at a time. I have two hands, two sides of one brain (the logical side to set the plot, the creative side to make a love scene believable). Why can’t I write two books simulaneously?

7. I hate how I can’t save children from predators and kick butt like my heroines.

6. I hate how my love life isn’t as exciting as my heroines’. Oops! Did I just type that?

5. I hate how I have to write a synopsis to sell my book. How do you say CliffsNotes?

4. I hate writing the synopsis.

3. I hate how I get a bug-eyed look from non-writers when I talk about writing.

2. I hate how I can talk about nothing but writing.

And drum roll please….

1. I hate how no one [publisher] has bought any of my books yet.

Since I wrote this, I’ve sold three books to Avon (HarperCollins) and two books to Loveswept (Random House).  And I’ve self-published one novel and two novellas.

For more information about my books, click on one of the following booksellers.

AMAZON

BARNES AND NOBLE

KOBO BOOKS

How Do You Know You’re A Writer?

Surprised WomanYou know you’re a writer when….

10. You have a reputation at your day job of being a workaholic. What other reason would you grumble and talk to yourself as you type on your computer during lunch?

9. You write your child’s excuse for an absence and the teacher begs for the last three chapters. She wants to know how it ends.

8. You stir up trouble wherever you go. A story is only as good as the conflict.

7.You get pulled over for a ticket and the officer finally tells you no more questions.

6. You hear some good juicy gossip and then start thinking of a way to use it in a story. “I swear, your honor, I changed their names.”

5. You keep paper and pen on the nightstand. Did you know your relatives think you have a kinky sex life because of it?

4. You eavesdrop in conversations, swearing it’s research. It has nothing to do with the deep spine-tingling voice or his five-foot wide shoulders.

3. You have problems handling small talk. You’re always looking for motivation in the dialogue.

2. You catch yourself wanting to takes notes while someone chews you out. “She bobbed her head as one hand waved in the air.…”

1.You critique your spouse…in bed. “But, baby, there has to be better reason for us to do it now.”

[reprint of my post from Romance Magicians’ blog 2/2/2011]

Website: www.carlaswafford.com
Twitter:  @carlaswafford
Facebook: CarlaSwafford, Author
Amazon: Carla Swafford Books
Barnes & Noble: Carla Swafford Books