This week I am honored that my good friend, Denise Grover Swank, has agreed to write a guest blog post. I’d like to congratulate her for her recent achievement, the publishing of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Way to go, Denise!
Honestly, I can’t pinpoint what it is about Denise that I find so intriguing. Perhaps it is because she is a super mom to six children–two THREE who were adopted internationally. (and we all know that is a fascinating subject to me!) or is it the dry humor that is evident in all of her blog posts? (She reminds me of myself) It might have a teensy weensy bit to do with the fact that I laughed out loud when I stumbled across her blog for the first time when she mentioned that she was trick or treating around the neighborhood dressed as her favorite author. (Guess who!!)
Or Seriously, it could even be the fact that she has proven what a strong woman she is; surviving the tragic and unexpected death of her husband and instead of living the life of a victim, has reinvented herself in a way that her hubby is probably looking down and beaming with pride over.
I love to bring ways for you to support each other in the IA Community and this is my latest brag moment. Denise, I’m so proud of you. Now here is a bit from her in her own words. And go buy that book! You can get the Kindle version for only 99 cents right now! Please leave her a comment of congratulations— it is amazing how hard she has worked for this release. For anyone who leaves a comment, I’ll put your name in to win one of my 1st edition Silent Tears books, autographed to whomever you would like to give it to. Drawing to be held Monday, August 1.—-Kay Bratt
A Message from Denise:
I’ve always been a writer ever since the fourth grade when I started a novel in a wide ruled spiral notebook. I didn’t finish it. I made a few attempts at writing a novel in my twenties, never finishing those either. And for a while, I gave up my writing dream, thinking it was foolish. What made me think I could write a book?
In September of 2007, I first started a blog, There’s Always Room for One More. I was preparing to fly to Vietnam to adopt my daughter Emma and I knew a lot of families had blogs to record their journey. I’d also recently discovered the blog of Dawn Meehan, who wrote the blog Because I Said So. After years as a frustrated writer wanna-be, I thought, “Here’s something I could have fun with.”
And I did. For two years the majority of my blog was devoted to our daily family life, the misadventures of a single mother raising six children. I wrote with humor, sarcasm and the bittersweet moments in life. I prided myself in the transparency of my life. If I felt that way, 10:1 odds someone else did too. And while writing my blog posts, I perfected my writing. Plots had always plagued me when I tried to write anything of length. But with my blog posts, I learned the fine art of telling a story, that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. I learned about pacing. Sure that sarcastic comment I just wrote was funny (if only in my own head) but it slows down the story and interferes with the flow.
But while I loved the writing, I found I lived my life through a filter. As a situation occurred, I’d think, “How can I make this a blog post?” and to be honest, it began to bother me. While I loved creating stories, I felt like I lived my life watching my children so I’d have something to write about.
In the fall of 2009, I heard about NaNoWriMo, which occurs every November and stands for National Novel Writing Month. People all over the world sign up to write a novel* in the 30 days of November. (Their definition of a novel is 50,000 words. Most novels are actually 70,000-100,000) If you finish your 50,000 by the 30th you win! (A certificate, LOL) But it was the push I needed and I decided it was now or ever.
So in October, I plotted a book, a romantic suspense about women who died from heart conditions after going to a holistic diet clinic. I started on November 1st, eager and excited. On November 30, I had 69,000 words. I finished on December 10 with 94,000. And when I typed The End. I cried like a baby.
I did it.
Pretty awesome, huh? So why isn’t it published? To put it bluntly, it’s crap. Situations were completely contrived; there were plot holes big enough to drive a semi-truck through. But guess what? That’s okay because I needed to know I could do it. Perhaps I would have been more upset when I realized how bad it really was if I hadn’t already started novel #2—Chosen, my paranormal thriller/urban fantasy that will be out this September. I learned a lot with that first novel, titled So Much to Lose (diet clinic, get it? LOL) and I learned that sometimes things we think are “it” are only stepping-stones to what we’re really supposed to achieve.
But honestly, isn’t that what life is all about? Obstacles fall into our path, that seem so insurmountable at the time, but really steer us the direction we need to go.
When I finished that first novel, I fell in love. HERE was the job I’d been searching for my entire life. So I devoted my heart and soul into it, writing five books over the next year and a half. The third book I wrote, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, a quirky southern mystery with a paranormal twist, was released on July 12. Out of all of my books, Twenty-Eight is most like my blog. Sweet, but not sappy. Humorous, but bittersweet.
The reality is I wouldn’t be in this spot, with a published book, if my husband hadn’t died five years ago. That’s how I became friends with Kay, while I was attempting to write a memoir about my experience. She offered encouragement and support while I floundered. As I reevaluated my life, I realized that life is short and if we have dreams we need to live them now, not put them on hold for “later.” Because sometimes later never comes.
I also learned to take the bad and turn it into something good. I never chose to lose my husband, but the time I used to spend with him I now devote to writing. Life changes and moves on and we need to learn to move on with it.
And so I’m moving on. I have two more books coming out this fall, the first two books of a paranormal thriller/urban fantasy trilogy. And I have at least three more books planned with Rose, the main character of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. My children, who’ve watched me hunched over my keyboard, are now excited and proud, finally seeing the results of Mommy’s late night hours. Hopefully, they’ve learned that life is hard and things don’t always go our way, but sometimes when we work hard, dreams do come true.