Posted in Creekside Cafe

A Holiday Visitor to Creekside Cafe

Welcome Lisa Maloney to Creekside Café

Author: Lisa Maloney

Novel: The Twelve Dares of Christmas 

Release date: November 22, 2023

Author bio:

Lisa Maloney is an author based in Chicago, Illinois where she lives with Albert, a tiny lion masquerading as a cat. An attorney by day, she spends her evenings and weekends reading, writing, baking, and making book-themed pottery. After a lifetime of making up elaborate tales and telling stories, she finally wrote one down. Lisa has always loved the cozy feel of a holiday story, but has always wished that they didn’t have to revolve solely around finding a romantic partner. She figures that if you can’t find it, write it.

Book blurb: 

When Haley’s parents left on a last-minute trip to a tropical island for Christmas, they knowingly left something important at home: their daughter.

Faced with the reality of her first holiday alone, Haley and her roommate lose themselves in a wine-fueled movie marathon. Next thing they know, there are empty bottles on the coffee table along with a list of dares that turn the twelve days leading up to Christmas into a series of hilarious, festive challenges. Suddenly it’s all silly games, new friends, and run-ins with security guards—there might even be a bit of romance brewing.

A new spin on a Christmas classic, The Twelve Dares of Christmas is perfect for those who savor the holidays, seek out opportunities to make memories, and cherish friendships, new and old. 

Sherri: Hi Lisa, welcome to my virtual café. It’s a dream of mine to have a coffee shop where I can sell books, coffee or tea and talk with my friends about books and writing. Until I win the lottery, I have to be happy with my online Creekside Café. What would you do if you won the lottery?

Lisa: So many things! I’d imagine you go through waves of adapting to the financial freedom and time you suddenly have, and realistically the first week or two I’d likely just sleep, read, cook elaborate meals, and let myself have time to fully relax. My parents live across the country from me, so I’d go visit them for a while before heading abroad to travel for at least a few months. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I love taking classes and workshops, and first on my list would be heading to Italy to take a cooking class for the local specialties in every region. I’ve always liked the idea of writing one of my future books in a small cottage in Ireland overlooking the ocean, so maybe I’d spend a month exploring somewhere there too. Eventually, I’m sure I’d find a home base and balance traveling, spending time with friends and family, writing, and making pottery (something I’ve been doing for a few years now). I’m an attorney by day, so I’d also love to be in the position to work part time offering pro bono services for small businesses and new authors navigating the legal world surrounding the writing and publishing process.

Sherri: I’m reading your novel now and I’m loving it. It is so much fun. What was the inspiration for The Twelve Dares of Christmas?

Lisa: I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! It still feels surreal that it’s being read by people out in the world. I wonder if that ever goes away sometimes, and I sort of hope that it doesn’t. I wanted to write a book about having fun during the holidays. I’m a big fan of the cheesiest of cheesy holiday movies, but they’re usually centered on a romance, often with the romance being a “fix” that the main character needs to figure out what they want in life or just stop feeling lonely. I firmly believe that you can be happy and whole and have so much fun without a partner (even if you also would like a partner!), and I wanted to write a story that had characters prioritizing friendship and embracing silliness. There is some romance brewing throughout the book between the main character, Haley, and someone she meets as a result of the dares, but I tried to make it secondary to the main focus of the story and the character’s growth. I’m hoping that readers appreciate that while Haley is excited about her potential romantic partner, he’s not going to become her whole world overnight.

Sherri: Haley and Anna have a wonderful relationship. They are each other’s family. I have some great gal pals that I know I can call when life goes crazy. Do you have anyone like that in your life? 

Lisa: I have a handful of friends like that, a few of which live in different states and one of which lives in a different country. Between the distance and how busy all of our lives are, you really have to make conscious effort and take time to nourish friendships, and I think that’s why I love Haley and Anna’s friendship—they really look out for each other and support each other. 

Sherri: I am assuming that Christmas is your favorite holiday, but is it? What is your favorite part of the holiday?

Lisa: Picking a favorite holiday is so tricky because I like them all for different reasons. I love seeing people intensely concentrate on trying to pick between different bouquets and chocolates for their sweetie on Valentine’s Day, I love when people go all-out with incredible costumes and makeup on Halloween, and I love that Christmas is a whole season with lots of activities. Spending a Saturday baking cookies and then strolling around looking at lights and decorations with a warm drink in hand? Sign me up! Soft blankets inside and catching snowflakes on your mittens outside? Yup, I’ll be doing that too. The best part, though, is that I get to spend time with my family. I get a week with my parents (and some years my brothers when they can make it) where we take their dog for walks, play games, walk along the beach, and make great food. The best food is what we call “The Feast” which takes place on Christmas Eve—seafood, steak, and potatoes—that we look forward all year. I felt a real kinship with Haley while writing the book because I’ve never had to spend Christmas without my family, and I really felt for what she was going through.  

Sherri: My favorite genre is romance and I’m rooting for Haley and Anna to get their guys, but I also like the fact that this story isn’t just about the romance. It is a refreshing take on the holiday comedy. What are some of your favorite holiday books or movies?

Lisa: I re-watch The Nine Lives of Christmas each year—you really can’t go wrong with a vet student and a begrudging new cat owner falling in love but pretending it’s just their cats that like each other. During the holidays I love any books with the grumpy-sunshine trope and it’s also the time of the year I’m most likely to read any kind of romance happening in a castle or with royalty. I’ve been building up a holiday TBR that I’m really excited about—the first two books on the list for this season are Witchy Coffee by Erin Ritch and Making Spirits Bright by Carly Greer.

Sherri: I like wine but know very little about it. I drink Riesling or something sweet and fruity. What would be a good wine for Christmas? Do you make mulled wine? 

Lisa: I actually don’t like mulled wine much, which is a shame because there’s a great Christmas market in Chicago that serves it, and I always want to like it when I visit. I love cider, though, and it definitely works well with a boozy kick. For wine, I really like lambrusco for winter holidays and hosting. It’s sweet and sparkling, two of my favorite things!

Sherri: Are you planning other holiday books or some more adventures for Haley and Anna? 

Lisa: I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it a series, but I can’t get Anna out of my head. She deserves her own book. During one of the dares in this book she ends up at a nursing home, and I knew the moment I wrote her stepping through the door that she’d volunteer there after the conclusion of this book. Her story is going to take place as she’s planning an event for the residents—maybe it should be a Valentine’s Day dance!

Sherri: This is your debut novel, what was the hardest part of getting this book from idea to production?

Lisa: Two things stick out. The first is that writing is so mentally and creatively exhausting, especially at first. The first draft of this book started in January of this year, and at first writing a few hundred words felt like a mental marathon. Once I developed more consistent habits around writing that eased, but it never fully went away. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never get to the end of the draft if you aren’t taking breaks and letting your imagination rest. The other thing that was really, really difficult was that I was on such a tight deadline. Because a holiday book doesn’t have the same flexibility with respect to its release date, I knew that I either had to not just write the book but also get a cover, edit and get an editor, format, and do the dozens of other tasks required to publish in time for this holiday season or I’d be forced to wait a full year. Because I’m independently publishing, that meant that I didn’t have a publisher providing the resources and experts I needed, but rather that I needed to learn all of those things and source all of the contributors myself. I definitely would have been less stressed if I’d waited until next year to publish, but something kept pushing me to do whatever I could to get this story out into the world. I like to think that someone is going to read it this season that really needed it.   

Sherri: If you could give advice to another debut author, what would you tell them? Or what would you tell yourself if you could go back before you started this book?

Lisa: The best thing I did for myself during the writing process and the best advice I could give to new and aspiring authors is to make sure that, as you try to build habits around writing, you never frame making less progress than you’d hoped as a failure. I gave myself a goal of spending fifteen minutes each day focused on my book, but that was a goal, not a requirement. That caveat made it so that the days where I just didn’t have the time or mental/creative energy to spend fifteen minutes on my book were never tinged with feeling bad about myself or my lack of progress. I didn’t want an undercurrent of shame or failure attached to building a writing habit at all. It helped me look at even the smallest amount of progress as a win.  

Sherri: Lisa, thank you for being here at Creekside Café. If you are ever in eastern North Carolina look me up. I’m the one on the riverbank with a book in her hand. Tell our audience where they can find your book and how they can follow you. 

Lisa: Thank you for having me! The book releases on November 22, 2023. The ebook is available for pre-order now, and the paperback will open for ordering on the release date, both on Amazon at:

The Goodreads page is up and running as well at:

Social media: 

Tiktok: for writing, reading, and silly content

Instagram: for my pottery, much of which is book-themed

Posted in Thoughts, Writing tips

Writer’s Block

There are different types of writers’ blocks. Some people don’t believe in writer’s blocks.

Writer’s Block: When your imaginary friends aren’t talking to you.

Writer’s block is no joking matter. We’ve all heard of it and most of us have experienced it at least once in our lives. My writer’s block lasted a couple of years and I worried I’d never write again. It was caused by stress. We lost our home to fire one January and my father died the next January, followed by the loss of my mom’s home due to hurricane flooding and then she fell and broke her hip. That was a really f-ed up couple of years and writing well, it took a backseat. My brain couldn’t even function.

Illness, stress, overloaded with work, family obligations or other things that stretch us too far, can impact our writing. Is this writer’s block? It’s probably a lot more than just writer’s block but for a creative who is unable to create whether it’s writing, painting, or crafting, that feeling of being stopped up and fuzzy, not ourselves is a very real problem. It’s how we express ourselves and when we’re dealing with extra stuff being able to express ourselves is often how we cope. Take away our best coping mechanism and well, shit happens. It’s like being on an infinite loop. We can’t create because we’re stressed, we want to create to relieve stress and become more stressed because we can’t create. Yeah, that’s not an eruption ready to explode.

Writer’s Block can feel like your brain is in a traffic jam. Stuck with no place to go but wait.

This type of writer’s block may require more than a few simple steps. If you can’t solve this on your own by taking a break, changing your creative outlet, or asking others to take on some of the work, then you may need to seek professional assistance like a counselor or doctor. There is no shame in asking for help. If you need to see someone for a mental or physical health problem, please do so. I cannot say this enough, you cannot take care of others until you first take care of yourself.

There could be too many ideas swirling in your head or not sure which direction to go.

If your writer’s block isn’t health related or due to stress, then it must be about the writing.

If you are just beginning your project and you are having trouble getting started. Have you really thought about your story? As a pantser much of my story is worked out in my head but each story is different. Some I start with a scene in my head, and I need to understand it. Some I have a character and I need to put them in a situation. Other stories I have pieces I need to string together, and some come to me whole cloth and just need to be stitched together. If you are a plotter or planner, perhaps you can’t get started because you’ve not planned enough. If you are a pantser or someone who visualizes their story, perhaps you’ve not thought about it enough and got a complete picture. What can you do to get excited about writing this story? Maybe it’s not the right time to write this story. Maybe you need some more research. Maybe you need a picture of your characters or your setting to jump start your story.

If you’re in the middle of your story and suddenly everything comes to a screeching stop, you may have written yourself into a hole you can’t dig out of. Back up. Read what you wrote before. Go back to the last place you felt was moving along well and read from there on. Usually, once you go back you can see where you’ve gone off the rails and get back on track. If not, ask what needs to happen in order to get to the ending you imagine. How will they have they reach their goal? Or if you want to keep them from achieving their goal, what needs to happen to keep them from getting what they want? Keep asking questions until you find the answers to set your story back on track.

If you are at the end and you’re stalled for how to bring it all to a close. Imagine the final scene. What do you want the reader to feel when they close this book? Are we going to have a happy ending? Or maybe, we’ll have an ambiguous ending. When you decide on the final page of the story. Write it backwards to where you are stuck and then edit. If you’re not sure how you want to end it, try a couple of different ways. Save the other endings for your newsletter or website as alternative endings.

I hope this helps. As we continue to plod our way through NaNoWriMo and other deadlines, remember to stay hydrated, take a few breaks and stretch not only your muscles but your mind as well, and keep on writing. Happy writing, y’all!

Posted in writing inspiration

Author Sunday with the Dynamic Sarah Maury Swan

Sarah Maury Swan and her books.

Author Sunday, Interview with Sarah by Sherri Lupton Hollister

I am so excited to be a part of Sarah Maury Swan’s author friends’ group. We are getting ready for our next Author Sunday, October 29th at the New Bern Farmers Market 1 to 4 pm. 

If you have been around New Bern, you may have seen a little lady on a trike or one of those rolling walkers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is your average little old lady. Sarah Maury Swan is timeless. She is an adventurous soul from her days in the Peace Corps to raising horses, Sarah doesn’t balk at any challenge. I want to be her when I grow up. 

Sarah, how many of these Author Sundays have you put together at the New Bern Farmers Market so far?

Sarah: This is my third.

How did you come up with the idea for this local author event? 

Sarah: Julie McKeon, who runs the New Bern Farmers’ Market asked me if I would organize a semi-annual “Authors’ Sunday” similar to the one that was held years ago before the market was open every Saturday. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Sunday, October 29th we’re expecting close to forty authors from all over eastern North Carolina. How did you meet all of these authors?

Sarah: Some I knew through local events, but most of them I met thanks to Michelle Garren Flye and her store, Next Chapter Books and Art. When I mentioned the possibility of doing this, she sent out the notice to the authors who sell their books at her store. But I also sent out notices to Carteret Writers, Pamlico Writers and North Carolina Writers Network. We limited the area to eastern Carolina writers as those who live anywhere on the Eastern Raleigh edge. It’s been fun to get to know so many talented people in this area.

You’ve been writing for a number of years, but you’ve only been published a few, tell us a little of your journey to being a published author and why you chose to be indie published.

Sarah: I come from a long line of writers and book readers. So, any chance I had to write, I did. But I didn’t start writing for publication until I was in my sixties. I’m pleased to say I almost immediately got published in magazines. And when I submitted my middle-grade novel, Emily’s Ride to Courage, to the Dutton imprint of what is now part of Penguin/Putnam, the editor I sent it to liked it well enough to send it along the chain of editors until it reached the marketers who said they wouldn’t buy it because they already had a horse series in the works. So I sent it down to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there wrote back to me saying she liked my writing and the premise of the story, but didn’t connect with my main character, Emily. She asked me to rewrite the book and send it her again. Well, when an editor says that, by gum you rewrite the story. The second time I submitted everybody says it was a good book, but the marketers said they had another horse book in the works. I put Emily aside and wrote Terror’s Identity, which I published through Sable Books. By that time, I was in my mid seventies and decided I didn’t have the time to wait around for my books to be published through trade publishers. 

What is your latest book about? 

Sarah: Little Bits: A collection of short stories is a collection of short stories that had previously been published in Michelle Garren Flyes’ Next Chapter Literary Magazine. It came out this past summer. My latest novel, Earthquakes, came out just in time for COVID-19 to shut the world down. 

What are you working on next?

Sarah: My first ever early reader book, Space Junk, is at my editor’s and I am finishing up another young adult novel, Bad Hair Day, about a sixteen-year-old girl who learns that her idea of having things go wrong is nothing compared to what her cousin’s bad hair day means.  I am also in the beginning stages of writing a murder mystery, Serendipity’s Conundrum. Since the main character is a 82-year-old woman who rides a purple tricycle named Gertrude, the story is more a cozy mystery than Sherri’s spicy mysteries. 

We will have a couple of food trucks and coupons for a local restaurant and Next Chapter Books, so come on out and choose a few books for yourself, family and friends, grab a bite to eat and support local businesses.

Sippin’ Sunshine and The Burger Bus!

Sipping Sunshine Lemonade and Tea Truck will be there, along with The Burger Bus a new addition to the food truck scene from Swansboro that is US Veteran owned. 

We will have live readings throughout the day by various authors. 

Sarah will also be speaking at the Pamlico Writers luncheon, Tuesday, October 31st, 11 am to 1 pm at the China Bay Buffet Restaurant Chocowinity, NC. You won’t want to miss either of these events. 

Confirmed author list for October 29th:

1.Sue Anger: Southern Murder Mysteries 

2.Joan Aubele: religious/self-help+ 

3.Phil Bowie: Mystery

4.Dave Brown: Historical Fiction.

5.Lori Closter: Religious Fiction 

6.Rose Cushing: Podcaster/writer

7.Karen Dodd: Eclectic

 + quilter

8.Bill Furney:  swashbuckler/fantasy

9.Beth Garver: Cozy Mystery/Fantasy https://DrunkBeth/

10.Dina Greenberg  

11.Melissa Harrell

12.Evelyn H. Heckhaus: children’s books

13.Allison Hendrix 

14.Chad Hollaman: 

15.Sherri L Hollister: Mystery and Romance

16.Deirdre Kiernan: Picture Books 

17.Jo Anna Kloster: middle-grade fiction  

18.Veronica Krug: eclectic mix

19.Julie Lombard: Eclectic

20.Casper Luna

21.Carol Lunney-Hampson: Children’s Book 

22.Jay Manning: Childrens Books 

23.Nina Makhatadze: Eclectic 

24.Murdina D. MacDonald: nonfiction 

 25.Sue McIntyre: memoir and romance 

26. Mandy Monath: poetry

27.Margaret Pollock: environmental children’s book 

27.Natalie Singletary: Eclectic 

28.Cyrus Spears (a.k.a. Sirius): Fantasy

29.Stanley Trice: Fantasy Fiction 

30.Sarah Maury Swan: Children’s YA & MG

31.Rebecca Weinrich Wheeler: Children’s & YA

32. John Williams: Sci-Fi  

We’re over 40, now!!!

Sunday, October 29th, 1-4 pm
at New Bern Farmers Market
Posted in writing inspiration

Author Sunday October 29th

Sarah Maury Swan is a dynamic personality who has the can-do spirit that allows her to achieve her goals. Becoming an author and connecting with other authors is one of her passions. With the help of her friends Julie McKeon who runs the New Bern Farmers Market and Michelle Garren Flye owner of the Next Chapter Book and Art Store she has put together close to 40 authors and vendors for our third Author Sunday!

Also at this event you will find David Smith, a retired Marine, husband and proud father who converted a 1998 school bus into a food truck. Meet the Burger Bus! Craft burgers and more to delight your palate!

If you’re thirsty try Sippin’ Sunshine with an array of artisan teas and lemonade brought to you by New Bern native Nicole Houston. Nicole is wife, mother and entrepreneur. She has a Master’s in Public Administration but found her calling in making people smile with her tasty drinks. She is right at home at the Author Sunday because she loves to read!

If you’re looking for your next favorite book or a gift for the upcoming holidays, come out to the New Bern Farmers Market Sunday, October 29th, 1 to 4 pm.

I will have handcrafted bookmarks and earrings for sale!

Many authors will have more than just books for sale and some will share excerpts from their books during reading sessions.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview, writing inspiration

Creekside Café Chat with Jessica Lynn-Nacovsky Ferrara

Artist and Author, Jessica Lynn-Nacovsky Ferrara

Welcome Jessica to my Creekside Café. I am excited to get to know you better! From your bio I learned you were a tattoo artist in New York and then backpacked your way around Europe, now that sounds like a few interesting stories right there.

Jessica: Hello Sherri! Thanks for having me on. 

I tattooed for three years, working my way from an apprenticeship to becoming a full-fledged tattoo artist. Ultimately the industry was a bit rough for me, but it was a good learning experience. As for stories, I do have a silly anecdote. One coworker’s young daughter named their dogs Chaos and Discord. They got out occasionally, so passersby would see this big biker guy running down the street shouting, “Chaos! Discord!” which was probably alarming for those not in the know. 

As for backpacking through Europe, that was a lot of fun. I saved for two years to afford the travel expenses and time off work, but it was worth every penny. If you ever want to backpack on a budget, I highly suggest finding opportunities to work for room and board. The WorkAway app connects volunteers with hosts. For half of the trip, my homebase was a hostel in Budapest, where I ran the front desk part time. From there, I could travel to other countries whenever I had a couple of days off. 

Sherri: Your debut novel, Stem & Stone was released in September, and you have another book coming out in January but it’s not a sequel, is that correct? Will you have a sequel to Stem & Stone?

Jessica: You’re right that Light Step, the January 16, 2024 release, is not a sequel to Stem & Stone. They do take place in the same universe though, and I have another novel I’m working on that ties them together. I also have a sequel for Stem & Stoneoutlined but it’s not a project I’m working on at the moment. There are some other manuscripts I’d like to finish revising first. 

Sherri: What inspired this unique story? Tell our audience how this idea came about and why you chose to write young adult fantasy versus adult fiction. Your upcoming novel is adult fiction, we’ll talk about it in a few minutes, but tell us about Stem & Stone.

Jessica: I was reading about J.R.R. Tolkien when I first began conceptualizing the plot of Stem & Stone. He’d set out to write a fable, and that sounded like an interesting project. Stem & Stoneis more my contemporary fairy tale, than a fable though. 

The first draft was for me, and while I researched a great deal to flesh out the characters and setting, I didn’t give any thought to how the story would be marketed, once published. It was several drafts later when I began seriously thinking about getting the story out to a wider audience. While learning about the querying process, and what defines the age brackets novels are marketed to, I realized my story didn’t cleanly fit into any age category. Petra, the protagonist, is eleven, which would indicate this as a middle grade story. However, there were some scenes that parents might deem inappropriate for today’s children. 

I altered the story to better fit the middle grade market, but those changes understated the themes. Finally, I ran in the other direction, leaning heavily into the darkness. Due to the inclusion of violence and gore, Stem & Stone is for young adults or older readers. I prefer writing fiction for adults because nothing needs to be softened. 

Sherri: Now, your upcoming novel, Light Step is a bit different, an adult fabulism, (I had to think about the meaning of that for a minute.) Why the change in genres? What are you hoping readers get from Light Step and how does this differ from Stem & Stone other than the reader’s age?

Jessica: I’ve found I don’t have strong preferences regarding the genres I write. I keep a running list of potential plots and delve into whichever seems most promising, until that draft is complete. I have many manuscripts on the backburner, awaiting revisions, and they include paranormal fiction, epistolary horror, an attempt at a family saga, etc. 

Fabulism and magical realism are my favorite genres to read though, and I’ve found that my adult protagonists often have a more contemporary, grounded, setting than my younger protagonists. I read a lot of fantasy when I was growing up so that’s probably a factor. 

Haruki Murakami’s novels have a dreamlike quality and that’s what I hoped to achieve with Light Step, whereas Stem & Stoneshould be unsettling.

Sherri: You are a graphics artist and I see that you and Victoria Moxley worked together to design the cover of Stem & Stone. How was it working with a partner to create your cover? What does the cover convey? How does it help a reader find your book in a sea of other YA dark fantasy books?

Jessica: I went to college for graphic design, and while I enjoy the more illustrative aspects of the industry, I found that the majority of graphic design jobs provide less creative freedom than I desire from a workplace. So I’m more of a commercial artist, and sometimes a fine artist, than a graphics artist nowadays. 

When Victoria and I first discussed the book cover for Stem & Stone, I explained how, because digitally illustrated covers have flooded the marketplace, I have a preference for tangible illustrations. I love paper craft, and provided an inspiration Pinterest folder showcasing book covers using this medium, but stated that I was open to other mediums. I sent her a picture of a paper craft illustration I’d made of the St’Avgull, a magical flower that serves as a portal in Stem & Stone. She found the craft to be of quality and suggested we use it in the cover design. 

Sherri: Have you been to Iceland? What was your experience like? Or why did you choose Iceland for the setting of the beginning of your story?

Jessica: I haven’t been to Iceland yet but it is absolutely a goal! Culturally, they allow for the possibility that elves exist, so it seemed like the perfect setting for a fairy tale. Their government protects sites of supernatural significance so when I eventually visit, I plan to tour some of those.

Sherri: You published your book with Tea With Coffee Media, what was your experience like? If another writer came up to you and asked about publishing with Tea With Coffee, what would you say to them?

Jessica: I’ve had a very positive experience publishing with Tea With Coffee Media. Aside from how (very) professionally they conduct all official business, they also host monthly marketing lessons for authors, which I’ve greatly benefited from. Whenever a writer mentions they’re looking to publish, I suggest they check out Tea With Coffee Media.

Stem and Stone cover designed from original paper art created by Jessica.

Sherri: You are a fantastic artist. Do you design covers for other authors? Does your art factor into your writing? Is there a connecting theme between your writing and your visual art?

Jessica: Thank you! I haven’t designed book covers for other authors but I would be open to the idea, if an author contacted me proposing a project. My art background has factored into some of my writing. One of the back-burnered manuscripts has an artist as the protagonist, but I’ve also found that I tend to be precise when describing colors and textures. And, of course, I enjoy making illustrations to accompany my writing. 

Sherri: How long have you been writing and when did you know you wanted to be a published author?

Jessica: I always wanted to be part of the literary world, but growing up, I didn’t think I had the stamina to finish writing a book. With a passion for art, I went into graphic design planning to become a book cover designer after graduating—which didn’t exactlypan out. I was living in Albany NY, which isn’t quite a publishing hotspot, and as a non-driver, I was very limited in where I could work. 

I wrote my first novel in the summer of 2012, when I was working at a resort, right before entering my senior year at the College of Saint Rose. The story was a mess but it proved to me I could at least meet the word count. From then on, I had the idea that I might one day publish but I wasn’t actively looking into how to go about doing that. I wrote Stem & Stone in 2018, as my NaNoWriMo project, and I began seriously querying it in 2020. It was the third novel I’d written.

Sherri: What are you working on now? Do you have anything else planned?

Jessica: Right now I’m about to jump back into revising Soul Walker, my paranormal fiction. It’s the story that ties Stem & Stone to Light Step and it’s been in the works since 2016. I’d like to see it completed and out in the world.

Sherri: If you enjoyed my chat with Jessica then you can follow her on social media, the links are below and check out her debut novel, Stem & Stone. If you are looking to publish, promote or for book editors or formatters, check out Tea With Coffee Media.

For your publishing answers, check out TWC!

Thanks Jessica for stopping by my virtual café.

Social Media Links:

Instagram (art):
Instagram (general / author):

Posted in contest, my books, writing inspiration

Crossword Puzzle Game

Are you any good at crossword puzzles? If you have read my books, this one is easy. I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. Fill out the puzzle send it back to me and get your name added to the drawing. I will draw Halloween, October 31st, 2023 and announce the winner November 1st!

Read Remy’s Dilemma for more clues!
Posted in blog post, Thoughts, Writing tips

Almost time for Prep-tober!

Whew, September is almost over, and October is scratching at the window. I am enjoying the cooler weather and the change of the décor to autumnal colors. Fall is my favorite time of year. It is a time for bon fires, family, NaNoWriMo and holidays.

For those of you who want to write, November is a great time to get started. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and people from all over the world come together to support each other and write. I have won a couple of NaNoWriMos completing a fifty-thousand-word manuscript in less than 30 days. It takes discipline and determination. Are you up to it? Well, if you want to write 50 in 30 days, then you need to start planning in October. Here’s how I plan to use October to plan my writing for November.

As a pantser or discovery writer I don’t do outlines. So how do I plan?

Each book is different, but I start by fast drafting. Now some people would say this is the same as an outline and maybe it is, but my brain thinks of it in a different way. I quickly tell myself the story from beginning to end without any details or POV just a vague of idea of where I want to go with the story.

Then I start layering in details. I start with POV, I might write everything from one person’s point of view but then decide I need another perspective, another person’s insight into what is happening that the main character doesn’t know about. I have one lead character, but one or two, sometimes three supporting point of view characters. You can do more but the more you do, the more planning it requires.

A stand-alone story doesn’t require as much planning as a series in some ways, continuity is a factor in series. I need to make sure that what I said about a character in book one, is still relevant in book two, etc. unless there is a reason for the change.

If you have more than one genre in the story like my historical romantic mystery, I have a layer for the history (I usually do this last with lots of fact checking), romance is a layer as is the mystery portion. In my Applegate mystery there is also the family dynamics so that is another layer. For Winnie and Harry, their romance is still just a yearning unfulfilled so while I will bring them together and pull them apart, another layer, I also want to keep their emotions charged.

The purpose of planning ahead isn’t to take away the spontaneity of being a discovery writer but to have an idea of where to go next. Another idea that was given to me by my mentor, cozy mystery author M K Graff, was to make a note at the end of the writing day of where you want to go the next time you write. This is a great to help you get started especially if it’s going to be a couple of days before you have the chance to return to your manuscript.

Mystery author Kate Parker suggested putting ideas on a whiteboard (or other, I used a corkboard or wall) write down a list of ideas you want to go into the story as you use those ideas take them off the board. (I put mine on sticky notes so I could move them to the used pile but also remember to plan for the event or show the results of it.)

You don’t have to be really structured with your planning. You can brainstorm ideas and put them on notecards, shuffle them around and see what comes up. Find a planning method that fits your personality and the personality of your book. Each book is different, and some require more planning than others. Don’t be afraid to try something new or return to an old idea. For some authors, outlining, planning character sheets, knowing everything that is going to happen in their book before they write it is a necessary part of their process and then there are others who sit down at the computer and just pull something from the ether and write. Whatever method you choose, I have found that for me personally, having a little bit of a plan helps but too much structure takes all the joy out of discovering the story.

I hope this helps. What are some of the ways you get ready for NaNoWriMo?

cork board covered with sticky notes
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Last Day of Sale

Only one day left to get the Harrell Family Chronicles for the low price of $1.99 each! You can purchase the ebooks directly from my website or from your favorite ebook retailer.

Remy’s Dilemma

Trent’s Melody

Roxy’s Betrayal

Janie’s Secret

Willow’s Retreat