About Carla Swafford

Published author of action/adventure romantic suspense.

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.

What the heck…

Young Couple Sharing Special Moment and PresentLately, I’ve been struggling with my writing time. So much going on in my life. Nothing bad, just a lot of things and several changes. One is that we’re moving this summer out of our home of twenty-four years. Plus the summers are crazy at the day-job. Lots of overtime. And I need to learn to say no with volunteer work, but I love helping people.

I’m not sure when I’ll finish the book I’m working on. Only ten chapters left before I write the two most beautiful words in an author’s work: THE END. Luckily (oddly), no editor is waiting for it, but my agent wants to see it.

Funny, but I rarely talk about my current manuscripts, not because of superstition. It’s because I don’t want to hear someone say, “Oh, that’s like so-and-so’s book.” That always pisses me off. No one writes a book like I write. Yes. I do understand what they’re saying. The book is similar in a key point of the plot, character(s), or location of the other author’s. I can tell you most authors don’t want to hear that. We all think our books are unique. In one way particularly. Our voice. That is, our word choices and rhythm.

But, here I am writing a blog post, and telling you about a book I listened to. Another time suck, but one I love to do it. Side note: this isn’t a review site, but I love books. That’s why I love to read (or listen) and write them. So I figured when I especially enjoy one, I would pass on a little recommendation.

CAKE by J. Bengtsson   (Audio)

For the blurb, click on the link above. As many current contemporary romance books, the hero and heroine are 23 years old. The girl is sweet and pretty level-headed.  No diva attitude or oversexed heroine. Considering my heroines are very demanding sexually, 51jggA8BjOL._SL300_that’s saying something about the author’s writing. HA! For it held my attention. And if you’re wondering, the hero wasn’t a horn dog. They were very likable. Great sense of humors for both.

Overall, I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys a soft “rock star” book (pun intended). No drug use by main characters, no drinking, or too crazy groupies. Light on the sex. It played with how to have a relationship with a celebrity. How people have certain expectations from those who are famous, including expecting they do not deserve privacy.

A thread in the story included that the hero had a horrible trauma when he was a young, and it comes up throughout the story, but not in a heavy angst-y way.  In fact, I thought the author handled very well.

Only negatives were, their families were near to perfect. If you read any of my books, you know my heroes’ and/or heroines’ families were more like real ones. Neurotic, self-centered, demanding, in general, big pains in the butt. Or is it only my family? Hmm.

By the way, it does not end in a cliff hanger though you will think so at first.  Good twist. I don’t consider that a spoiler. For I freaking hate cliff hangers. I was getting mad, and so I searched on the review site to see if someone talked about it. There wasn’t one, so I continued on and was very happy with the ending.

I checked out the second book in the Cake series. It’s the middle brother (though the blurb mentioned he’s a younger brother).  Looks interesting, but I think I want a hot book next. I can take all the sweetness between the two and their families only so much.  Maybe I’m jealous of the couple.

Almost forgot, the narrators did a great job.  Once again, I was so happy to come across a male narrator who didn’t make a woman sound whiny.

My Latest Recommendations

Woman Reading a DiaryAs I mentioned before, I listen to audio books on my drive to the day job and back. Well, actually anywhere that takes tens minutes or more, such as trips to Nashville (Go Preds!), luncheons, conferences, and writers’ meetings.

This week, I enjoyed Shadow Music: A Novel by Julie Garwood. A story set in the Middle Ages (King John). In the range of my favorite time period. Plus, it reminds me  of why I love Ms. Garwood’s books. The story is captivating, lightly sexy, charming, and well-written. A note about the story: some people may think the heroine is too accommodating to the hero’s dictatorial attitude. But I think it’s perfect for the time period. Besides, the heroine knows when to pick her battles. She’s a sweetheart. The hero gives in when she explains her reasoning. A great balance. Makes you fall in love with both of them.

The icing on the cake is the narrator. Davina Porter is massively talented. I love her Scottish accents. If her name sounds familiar, she was/is the narrator for the Outlander series. Her narration got me through the first three books of that series and thoroughly made me a happy girl with this book.

In April, I listened to Maya Banks’ The Enforcers series: Mastered, Dominated, and Kept. I will say I would have enjoyed this series better if I had read them. The narrator had an awesome voice, but the female voices and nuances were off.

When it comes to reading, I’ve gone through about six books since my last recommendation with a few DNFs. Only one is worth mentioning, and I’m not finished with it yet. Not that it’s great, it’s kept me reading. The writing is rich with wonderful detail. That can be a catch-22. It can drag down the story. The title is The Warrior’s Game by Denise Doming. Another one set during the King John’s reign. I guess I’m stuck in that era.

Happy reading!

 

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!

Giveaways!

I have two paperback books (six copies of each) in the Goodreads giveaways.  In fact, one of them is actually two novellas. Anyway, check it out. Giveaway ends May 15, 2017.  USA only. naked-heat-coverSorry, but I have to pay the postage.

Click here for the NAKED HEAT: A Brothers of Mayhem novel. The 1circlelast book about the Brothers of Mayhem.  This is Wolf’s story.  His brother was in the first book, HIDDEN HEAT.

Click here for THE CIRCLE NOVELLAS: Circle of Dishonor and Circle of Defiance.  They are the last two books (short ones) from my Circle series about a secret organization of mercenaries. For those who may have noticed, the paperback has a new designed cover.

By the way, I’m planning on autographing them.

Thanks.

 

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.

What Have I Been Reading?

Woman Reading a DiaryIf you’re wondering how I find time to read, what with a full-time demanding job, and writing a novel at the same time. That doesn’t include attending my writing groups’ (two beloved RWA chapters) meetings. On top of all that, I’m a hockey fan, and I watch every game my team plays (GO PREDATORS!), and go to games when I can. And even more important is my family who I love most of all and deserve my attention.

But I’m a book-aholic. So I find time.

How you ask? Well, I read between hockey periods, during commercials, before turning in for the night, at doctor appointments, sitting out in the parking lot before walking into work, during lunches, while cooking or/and eating. E-books are great when it comes to finishing one book, you can immediately start a new one. Feed that addiction. Plus I listen to audio books.  (All of that and writing!)

Now for the recent books I’ve read. Just a reminder, I only mention the ones I enjoyed.

A couple of the books by Zavarelli surprised me with her unusual heroines and unique plot choices. I’m rarely surprised and ended up enjoying them, especially Ghost.
Boston Underworld series by A. Zavarelli
Crow
Reaper
Ghost
Saint

I guess I’m on a criminal kick.  Enjoyed the first one that came in this set.
Romanian Mob Chronicles (series) Books 1- 3 by Kaye Blue
Keep

Here’s one from an old original favorite author, and it’s been several years since I read one of her books. This one I enjoyed because the heroine was hated by so many people, including the hero, but she persevered and won over the hero and many others.
Make Me Love You by Johanna Lindsey

Many others books, I kind of enjoyed, but not enough to recommend here. Some, I couldn’t finish. When I don’t finish a book, it is often because I became bored with the plot or characters or both. Rarely, does it have anything to do with the quality of writing. Amazon’s Look Inside feature helps me check that out before I purchase.

Here are the audio books I enjoyed recently.
Roman: Cold Fury Hockey Series Book 7 by Sawyer Bennett
A Rouge By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
Three, Two, One (A Dark Suspense) 321 by J.A. Huss
The Darkest Night: The Lords of The Underworld Book 1 by Gena Showalter
The Duchess War: The Brothers Sinister Book 1 by Courtney Milan

One series I’d listened to on and off over the last three months or so is Sylvia Day’s Crossfire. I have to say she did a wonderful job layering the personalities of the hero and heroine. She did hook me into listening to all five books. Heck, I couldn’t get further than Outlander’s Voyager. So that has to mean something. But by book three (even after breaking it up with other authors’ books), I became tired of hearing how beautiful they thought each other were. I really wish she had condensed them into three books. If so, they probably would have been one of those I listened to over and over again.

I do need to stay away from series that have the same main hero and heroine throughout. I have a tendency of getting fed up with the characters and story. Totally my hangup there.

A Scene From My Next Book

Coming Soon Arrow

I hope

Over five years ago, I started on the book I’m about to reveal a scene from, but I put it to the side to write two novellas (self published) and three full novels (two for Loveswept and one self published) along with three partials (a tale for another time). But I can’t get the characters out of my mind, and I need to finish it. At the rate I’m going, it will probably be my longest book.

So far, the book doesn’t have a title. Well, it did, but I don’t like it anymore. For now I call it my Southern Crime Family book. If you read my books, you might recognize the hero’s last name and the county.

It’s unedited and raw.  Here you go.

~~~

“I hope you rot in hell, old man.”

Jake Whitfield leaned over the grave and spit as his father’s casket slowly disappeared into the blackness. When a violent shudder brought the crank to an abrupt stop, he shot a sideways glare at the cemetery worker.

The man wiped a sweaty forehead on the upper sleeve of his faded gray uniform and kicked the contraption. “Stupid old thing,” he muttered as he avoided Jake’s gaze.

With a painful screech, the device started up again, rattling and jumping, and finally a solid thud came from the hole as it reached the bottom. If he believed in ghosts, he’d swear the hateful bastard wanted out to kill him. 

Jake’s attention fell on the mourners surrounding the gravesite.

Their jackets flapped in the hot wind like vultures settling around a carcass as most of the men stared at the ground beneath their feet. No one looked into his face. Though the minister shook his head at Jake’s disrespect, he, like the others, didn’t say a word. They understood his hatred. Everyone who attended would love to do the same, if they had the backbone. All were business associates and most came not so much to grieve for the man’s death, but to receive assurance that his dad had died.

Many of the people in Sand County owed Dick Whitfield their livelihood and endured his heavy-handed manipulations, but none suffered like the Whitfield brothers. The old man had reveled in tormenting his bastard sons more than he did his associates. Besides their last names, the old man refused to give the boys anything without a deal or concession involved. Then again, maybe an agreement had been made when they were born, a bargain with the devil for their souls.

Releasing a snarl, Jake turned and nodded at his brothers. Townsend, Sen as he was known, and Ethan fell in step beside him as they headed toward the old man’s white limo idling next to the curb. No one said a word.

Another gust of wind tugged at their jackets. A bouquet of dead flowers blew across their path to become stuck between an urn and headstone.

Behind dark sunglasses, Jake scanned the area. Tension from the funeral and a gut feeling warned that danger lurked. Nothing appeared strange or out of place. But life with the old man had taught him to be extremely cautious whenever emotions ran high. With new leadership at Whitfield Industries taking over, many of the smaller players wanted a part of the business and conspired to oust the brothers. He knew without a doubt, no one would take one brick or dollar without a fight. After years of being under the old man’s rule, they deserved every piece of his ill-gotten money and property. They each had worked hard and often for pennies compared to others who worked for the old man and did far less.

He glanced around again without being obvious. The old cemetery covered acres of well-tended plots that held numerous large memorials and oak trees. Several people headed toward their cars while others remained near the burial site, talking and gesturing toward the grave being filled. In the distance, he heard traffic swooshing by, but strangely the birds stopped chirping in the swaying limbs.

Steps away from the limo with the chauffeur waiting inside, Jake passed a life-size marble statue. The head exploded, spraying chunks of the white stuff. The confirming snap of gunfire sent everyone running for cover. Screams and shouts of concern punctuated by more shots echoed around him as he scrambled for the other side of the limo, its bulletproof body offering better protection than a tree or headstone. He motioned for his brothers to follow. In no time they hunkered down with guns in hands.

“Damn! Who do you think it is? Some asshole out to get Jake for sleeping with his girlfriend?” Ethan sat on the ground with his back near to the car’s engine, watching for anyone coming from behind.

In his usual calm manner, Sen checked his Beretta and then edged closer to the taillights. “Probably the girlfriend.”

His brothers loved to rag him about how his last girlfriend had another guy on the side. When he kicked her out of his home, she must have told the other boyfriend a tall tale as the dumbass came at him with a gun. It almost became messy. When the boyfriend realized whose door he had knocked on, the poor dude wanted out of town so fast, he left rubber on the road for a half mile.

Jake shook his head and white dust fell around him. His forehead stung. A light touch came back with blood, just a nick. “Most likely someone who’s wanting to take over the old man’s businesses,” he said as he ignored his brothers’ comments. “Or possibly the person who set the fire.” Leaning over, he ruffled his hair, showering the ground with powder and bits of stone.

He sneered. They’d already received warnings that someone outside the county planned to make a move soon. He hadn’t expected it to be at the cemetery. The old man was barely cold in the ground.

Several more shots zipped by and dug into the asphalt a few yards away.

Damn! They needed to concentrate on stopping the sniper. Normal people ran and kept moving when fired upon, but no, not the Whitfield boys. Maybe he and his brothers were as insane as the bastard they buried.

Sen nodded to where the road looped into the cemetery near the interstate fence. “I think the shots are coming from that direction. See the old rusted-out black van?”

“Yeah.” Ethan peeked over the limo’s hood.

“The sliding door is cracked opened. You think he’s still in there? The smart thing for a shooter to do is leave with the crowd.” Jake referred to the mourners cranking automobiles and screeching tires on their way out.

“I’ll go around and come up on the opposite side.” Without wasting time, Sen stooped low and ran alongside a couple cars parked by the curb.

Jake shook his head. He always wondered if his middle brother had a death wish. “Tick!”

The rotund driver inside the limo rolled down the window, showing only the top of his pale bald head and large blood-shot eyes. “Yeah, boss?”

“Scoot over. I’m coming in.”

“Sure, boss.”

“You get in the back.” Jake nodded at Ethan. With a jab, he returned his gun in its holster beneath his jacket.

“Sure, boss,” his brother said, mimicking Tick.

In seconds, they eased the limo down the lane toward the van. Jake caught a glimpse of Sen dashing behind a tree a few feet away. Then the side door on the van slammed shut, and a figure dressed in black jumped into the driver’s seat. No way would he let the asshole escape. He flatfooted the gas pedal and the old limo t-boned the van.

The crunch of metal and broken glass rang in Jake’s ears as he pushed hard on the door and sprinted to the other side. Two fellows ran for the trees. He tackled the nearest one as Sen sprinted after the faster, smaller one.

“You son of a bitch!” Jake flipped him over. Fist pulled back to slug the sniper, he stopped. “Sally? Sally Tally?”

Light green eyes in the middle of dark liner and eye shadow glared up at him. Chin length ebony hair tipped blood-red stuck to a sweaty pale face. A grimace stretched her crimson lips lined in black as she waited for the downward swing.

He lowered his arm and examined her clothes. No wonder he’d mistaken her for a guy from the back. She wore an ankle length leather coat, thick sole biker boots buckled at her knees with tight black pants tucked in. The only feminine clothing was the stiff red corset holding up plump, creamy white breasts, heaving with each intake of breath.

“No one calls me Sally anymore. Call me Angel.”

The last time he’d heard that husky voice, they had been teenagers, and she’d stolen his wallet. He’d retaliated by turning her over his knee and giving her nearly bare bottom a good sound spanking. During the chastisement, an unexpected dilemma had emerged. He’d enjoyed it way too much.

~~~

A famous author told me one time to never give the first chapter as an example. People will read the first chapter of a new book and think they already have it. So please, if you want to read this make a note to yourself somewhere, “I need to buy this book.” LOL!  If all goes well, I should be finished with it this summer. When it will be published is still up for debate.

Of course, the above is copyrighted.

If you liked it, click like below or go to my Author Page on Facebook and click like there. FB is a good way to keep up with what I’ve released. Or you can come back here to check on it.