March 31, 2011

Beta Readers: Nakedness, Babysitters and Narcissism

I’m standing naked on a stage right now. I’ll wait while you poke your eyes out with sharp sticks. Back? Oops, now you can’t read ’cause you poked your eyes out. *note to self: don’t recommend poking out eyes in future posts* At this point, you’re saying to yourself– What the heck is she talking about? Beta readers. Understand now? Beta readers are essential. A big fat, DUH, right? But while we know how essential they are, it’s still extremely scary to take your precious baby that you’ve coddled for months (or years) and hand it over to the babysitters (aka beta readers.) Sure,your crit partners have seen your  manuscript, but they are often people you know and damn well better be people you trust. We’ll consider them the aunts and uncles of your baby manuscript. Often, they’ve watched it gestate and grow and become the bouncing baby manuscript about to toddle off to the be wide world. Sure they reprimand it (critique,) but they know it. Aunts and uncles love their nieces and nephews even when their diapers are  full of poo.  If they’re really good aunts and uncles, they’ll let you know to change its diaper.  And wash […]
March 29, 2011


I’m editing. I’ve been editing for over a month and the end is in sight. I’ve done  revisions, sentence restructuring and tried to remove as many *I*s as possible. I’ve embedded deep POV, taken out unnecessary lines (even if I love them,) and found repetitive words. I’ve read this manuscript so many times I can practically recite passages word for word. I have favorite lines. Favorite scenes. I start reading the find myself swept up in the story that’s lived in my head for months, clawing at my brain to find itself on a page.  I love this story more than I’ve loved any of the other four before it, which says a lot. Julia is a character more close to my heart than any other my other characters (which feels oddly, or not so oddly, like picking a favorite child.) As the story progresses, my heart aches for her loss. I can only hope readers ache for her too. But I’m approaching the point where my manuscript feels like a game of Jenga. You know the game. You have a stack of wooden blocks and you take them out one by one until the tower topples over. Every time […]
March 28, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Only in my world could a phrase so ridiculous sound pretentious. Last fall I entered The Beacon, a writing contest for unpublished authors that’s sponsored by First Coast Romance Writers. I entered CHOSEN, my paranormal thriller (Paranormal)  and TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES, my soft mystery with a touch of paranormal (Mainstream.)  Toward the end of November, I found out that both manuscripts (judges read the first two chapters) had both finaled in their categories. The judges for the contest offered exceptional feedback and allowed me a week to make any changes and send back for the final judges. On Friday, I received an email telling me that I won in my category. Which one? I won both. *falls down and dies* You have to understand, when I entered the contest, I did it for feedback.  I hoped to get some unbiased opinions on my manuscripts For the feedback from the first round judges alone, the comments were worth every penny of the thirty dollar entrance fee.* CHOSEN had few suggestions but positive feedback (especially when the judge has no idea who you are) is an ego booster. It’s also uplifting for someone like me who has critique partners who write beautifully […]
March 14, 2011

Blog Par-Tay Giveaway!

I love Twitter. Anyone who knows me, knows this, but one of the main reasons I love Twitter is the AMAZING people that I meet. One of those people is Carolina Valdez Miller. Honestly, I can’t remember the first time I “met” Carol, but one of my first memories of her is from a blogfest someone hosted.  I think it was a fight scene. I read her story, which she claimed to have started around midnight and finished a few hours later, and I was blown away. Blown away. I emailed my friend Trisha Leigh and said “I want to write like Carolina when I grow up.”* *true story So Carol became this person I talked to on Twitter, but also someone I admired. Then last September I went to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference in Denver. It turned out to be a Twitter hook up (not that kind) and I had the honor, pleasure and delight to meet Carol in person. She turned out to be just as nice in person as she is on Twitter, no scratch that, she turned out to be nicer. Carol’s one of those people that is so genuinely sweet you can’t help but […]
February 4, 2011

Pseudo Cover for TORN

My thirteen year old daughter read the first draft for my YA Science Fiction novel, TORN. I’m thrilled that she loved it, but I was completely surprised when she asked if she could make a book cover to use in the binder she keeps the printed out pages in. Together we picked out a photo on Dreamstime and then she got to work with her Picnik program. The result is amazingly similar to what I envisioned. After sixteen year-old Julia survives an accident with false memories of her death, she unknowingly agrees to go to another world with a boy who is not who he appears to be.
February 2, 2011


I’m a writer. I want to be a published author. The last year and a half of my life has been dedicated to making the second statement happen. Sounds good, right? I have the luxury of staying home with my kids so it was relatively easy to announce I was becoming a full time writer. “This is my job,” I told my kids. “I just do it at home. If I work hard enough, one day I will get paid.” And so I worked hard. I worked for hours in the morning, afternoon, evening and into the night. I rarely took a day off. If I went a day without writing or editing I felt guilty. Deep in my gut, I knew this wasn’t good. There were days I could have spent with my kids that I sat in front of a laptop. Times I was invited by non-writing friends to go out for coffee, or lunch and I hesitated to say yes. I stopped watching so much tv, cut the time I spent reading, gave up hobbies, because that’s what writers are told, right? Butt in chair. Nothing happens if our butt isn’t in a chair. And I want […]
February 1, 2011


Welcome to, your peek into the writing life of Denise Grover Swank and her soon to be award winning novels; Chosen, Hunted, and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Kick off your shoes and have fun exploring the new website. Stay tuned for lots of new changes!  
October 31, 2010


In my previous post, I mentioned that I picked up a WIP I had started this summer and temporarily abandoned to write another manuscript, TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES. Last week I revisited HUNTED. Frankly, I expected a complete rewrite with the exception of the first chapter. But when I read, I realized some of the scenes just needed tweaking– cutting things out, changing dialogue, adding things back in. The tone of HUNTED changed, the end point was the same, but instead of taking a Greyhound bus, my characters were taking the Bullet train. And it’s just what it needed. I also posted I had reached the point of running out of old words to use; I’d either used them all or thrown out the rest. It was all blank pages before me. I love me a blank page. I let my imagination loose and scene after scene tumbled in my head and it’s a race for my fingers to get it all down. A burning story is like a new lover– (pft, like I would know…) –you want to be with them constantly. Only real life gets in my way. I have five kids living in the house, four […]
October 29, 2010

Hi, I’m Denise and I’m a Pantser

I’m gonna confess right up front that’s not entirely true. It’s a huge debate, a line drawn in the sand. It’s like a team rivalry — are you a MU or a KU fan? (Sorry, I’m from Kansas City, it’s a HUGE deal here) I’ve noticed the same thing with writers. Which are you? A Pantser or a Plotter? And depending on where you fall, you’ve got an ally or a rival, because one type has trouble understanding how the other functions. I want to know why we have to choose? The truth for me is I am both. Don’t get me wrong, I could never snowflake and an outline seems way too much like eighth grade English class. *shudder* But I don’t sit down at my laptop with one line “It was a dark and stormy night” and expect to get an entire novel out of it. Sure, it takes one idea to get a novel started, and with me one idea can be a combustible tangent– the idea gets started in my head and explodes into a story in days. And I suppose I do plot, in my own way. The flow chart for CHOSEN* *don’t look too […]
August 20, 2010

Theme Song for Rose

When I wrote Chosen, I had songs that related to different chapters and scenes, but with Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, I didn’t have the same experience. I’m sure it’s partially because it just tumbled out so quickly. Or maybe it’s because TEHW is a different kind of book, lighter and quirkier. I listened to a lot of Evans Blue and Death Cab for Cutie while I wrote, but when I edited I discovered Sky Sailing. The lead singer and creator of Sky Sailing is by Adam Young, the lead singer of Owl City. They sound a lot like Owl City but with less electronic key board and more acoustic guitar. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many times my iTunes says I’ve listened to it, but I’ll admit it just broke three digits. Sky Sailing’s CD An Airplane Carried Me to Bed is light, sweet and a little bit wistful. Like Rose. A lot like Rose. So I found that the entire CD is a fitting playlist for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, as weird as that is. But here’s what’s weirder: Rose has a theme song on the CD. The words aren’t necessarily appropriate to her character […]
August 18, 2010

Query for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

Oh, the dreaded query letter, the nemesis of most writers. The one page that can open a door or slam it shut, so much packed into so few words. With Chosen, for some reason I had a hard time boiling my book’s plot down into few paragraphs. With Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, I had a hard time getting the voice, because with this book, the voice is EVERYTHING. I struggled and wrote and rewrote and then I remembered hearing a piece of advice to write the query in character and then switch to third person. (Never, and I mean NEVER send your query as your character in first person. NEVER. EVER. I hope I got my point across.) Okay. So I wrote my query letter as Rose, not hard since I wrote the book in first person anyway. And that right there was the key for me to turn it around. I captured Rose’s voice and then switched all my I’s and me’s to Rose and she’s. The result is what you see below: ————————————– Dear Superstar Agent: For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad enough even before she sees a vision of herself […]
August 17, 2010

An Unexpected Side Effect of Writing