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.

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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 Magics’ 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

Walks Like A Panther

red-river-wayneHow many times in numerous books have we heard the hero walks like a panther or tiger or some creature on the prowl? They’re cliches, but I understand the concept. He has a smooth step with a determined gaze.

It makes me think of a certain actor named John. No. Not John Travolta. He’s known for his walk going up stairs (Get Shorty) and his moves on the dance floor (Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction). It’s John Wayne who is known for his walk.

With that thought, I went searching for videos of John Wayne’s walk. Of course, I came across the hilarious scene in The Birdcage with Robin Williams trying to instruct Nathan Lane’s character to walk like a man. He’d suggested John Wayne’s walk. Luckily, I found one where it shows both clips (John Wayne’s and Nathan Lane’s) along with the original French film and “the walk.”

Click here to go to YouTube and watch.  It has Spanish subtitles.

One thing to remember, John Wayne was so much more than his walk. The way he held his head and shoulders. He stares straight ahead. He doesn’t look down. The man didn’t worry about tripping over his feet. His sureness in where he was going and what he was going to do next is so obvious. Yes, he’s an actor, but don’t you know part of his own persona shows in that stride.

John Wayne was a man’s man. Lordy! Not many of them anymore.

Here’s another video on how to walk like a “badass.” The guy tells it like it is. Click here and enjoy.  LOL!

Love My Shirt

img_1260For those who don’t know, I love hockey. See the jersey my husband’s cousin and his wife got me? I LOVE IT! I promise, Dan, I’ll get hubby to take my picture when I wear it. I’ve worn it at home a couple times already.

I have three favorite hockey players on the Nashville Predator’s team: Forsberg, Johansen, and Arvidisson. So I cherish my Forsberg jersey. It’s fantastic! I have tickets for a game this month and will be wearing it proudly.

If you don’t know, my love of hockey blossomed only a little over a year ago. Hey, I am a southern girl and most people in the South do not watch it, but I have to point out it’s becoming more popular each year down here. What with the Nashville Predators (Go Preds!) and the two teams in Florida. But people ask me all the time, why?

Think about it, college football is king in the South, but football has never caught my interest. I swear I’ve tried.

I love NASCAR (I haven’t turned in my Southern Belle card yet) and 48 Jimmie Johnson (yum), but the fast cars no longer hold my attention like when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was alive.

Truthfully, I could tell you all the things that led me to it, but mainly, I’ve found that I enjoy it for many reasons.

The fast pace:  The NHL players hit speeds of 20 to 30 miles an hour during 60 minutes of play, broken up in 20 minute periods. Each player will be on the ice for spurts of one to two minutes. Usually adding up to 15 to 20 minutes of play during the whole game. That doesn’t sound like much? Let me see you run with anywhere 15 to 25 pounds of equipment for that long. And that’s with someone chasing and slamming into you.

The strategy:  Think of it, they have to figure out how to get that little puck around that huge goalie and into the net while everyone else is wanting to take it from you. Teamwork is a major part of winning. Of course, that’s all true of any team sport.

The athletic stamina:  Re-read what I said in “fast pace” above.  OMG! Those big men on thin blades, falling or being pushed down or into the boards (the sides of the rink) and then jumping up as if nothing happened. They freaking amaze me.

The fights: Of course, I do get a little excited — no matter how sick it sounds — when a good fight breaks out, even if they are only shoving at each other. Men will be men, and I love celebrating that, especially since it is in a controlled environment. (Though I don’t care for boxing if you’re wondering.) Besides, next year, those same men could be traded to the same team and be best buds. I swear, that’s one of the things I love about men. They know how to prioritize.

And I’m not a violent woman, though I write about violent men all the time in my books. Maybe there’s something deep inside I’ve never been aware of until I got older. Neither here or there.

Graceful, healthy men:   Yes, all things come down to men in my interests. I’ve come to terms with my hang up, so everyone needs to get over it.  *smirk*

Let me enjoy my sport. I’m proud that I finally picked one, and I personally think it’s the best.

Letter to Realtors

our-house

Picture of our house years ago

In the next six months, hubby and I plan to sell our house of 23 years and move closer to the grandkids and our moms.  Presently, we’re around an hour away and the traffic between the families are getting worse each year.

 
So we’re moving into the country on the other side of the city, and we’re a little excited about it. And if you’re wondering, NO, WE ARE NOT DOWNSIZING. Why do people keep asking that? If we lived in a huge house, I could understand it, but we don’t. I had to tell people, if we move into a smaller home, I will have to strangle my hubby.

 
We have already started looking at homes in the areas we’re interested in. I have to say some people have poor taste when it comes to decorating their homes, while others are borderline hoarders. With that being said, hubby and I plan to donate the majority of our attic to the Good Will. We are presently forcing our daughters to take their childhood stuff that was stored in said attic into their homes. Now they are donating all of their precious memories they asked us to keep. HA! I knew it.

Anyway, we’ve already learned a lot about what we can expect for our money. And wow, there is a lot for the realtors to learn about taking pictures of those homes. So here’s my letter to the ladies and gentlemen selling homes (same goes to the “for sale by owner” sellers).

Realtors, when taking pictures of the houses you have for sale, remember the following.

1. Invest in a good digital camera. Heck, even some (expensive) phones have pretty good cameras in them now. Please have your children, niece, nephew, grandchildren show you how to use it correctly. Then the picture won’t be blurred or too dark.

2. I don’t care what the shower curtain looks like, or the beautiful foyer table. Close ups of those will not sale the house. Those items will be going with the original owners, unless the house comes furnished. Then I will throw away the curtain (yuck, germs), and sell most or all of the furnishings.

3. Similar to number two, but reference house fixtures staying there. Don’t take up-close pictures of the commode (double yuck), sink, dishwasher, or light fixtures. It’s amazing how I can tell what they are by looking at a picture of the whole room.

4. Speaking of dark, take the pictures during the day and not a cloudy day or late evening. Open the curtains. Dark rooms are depressing and I don’t want a depressing house. Or invest in a photographer’s light. Check Ebay or Craig’s list. Photographers are selling them all the time to upgrade or get out of the business.

5. Why are you showing pictures of trees and bushes? Be sure the outside of the house is in the picture if you do. One picture will do for that area. Not ten of the same spot from different angles.

6. Diplomatically, ask the owner to take down family pictures. We must imagine living there with our family pictures. This includes their favorite team’s memorabilia to make it look less obsessed. Of course, the same goes for their turtle collection.

7. Two pictures of the same room from different angles are fine, if you must. But please, I don’t need individual pictures of the window, closet, built-in shelves, and overhead light (see #3 above). I’ll come and visit the house if I’m interested and check them out.

What would you add?