I will be at the Fish and Farm Festival in Aurora Saturday, September 9th. Come by and visit if you’re in town and if you want, you can buy a book. Remy’s Dilemma, the final book in the Harrell Family Chronicles is available along with all of my backlist. Come on out and join the fun. Food vendors, crafters, musicians, games, tractor pull and more. I had so much fun last year. I can’t wait.
After the festival, books will be available at the Blue Crab in Aurora, The Next Chapter Books in New Bern, and as soon as I can get there, the Riverwalk Gallery in Washington. If you want a signed copy of any of my books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, $16 per book in continental United States.
If you prefer ebooks, my Harrell Family Chronicles are on sale for $1.99 each, don’t miss your chance to get them for this low price. (Regular price $3.99 each)
Do you like Horror Movies?
Carnival of Darkness starts Friday, September 22nd at Raised in a Barn Farm, and continues through Saturday at the historic Turnage Theater where the Haunted Pamlico will be showing submissions to their Carnival of Darkness film competition. With hundreds of film entries from all around the world, live action entertainment, awards and attractions, the Carnival of Darkness starts the haunting season with a true carnival experience. If you love spooky and things that go bump in the night, you won’t want to miss this event!
In honor of my friends at Haunted Pamlico I’m giving away a free ticket to the Carnival of Darkness weekend to one lucky winner, a $25 value. To get your name in the drawing, all you have to do is post a review of any of my books and email me a link to the review(s). The review has to be current 2023. It can be on Amazon, Goodreads or Bookbub. Each review will get another chance to win.
The drawing will be Wednesday, September 20th. The winner’s name will be given and they will be able to pick up their ticket at the event. Good Luck!
When the steam engine first appeared on the scene it was met with both excitement and trepidation. The steam engine opened up new places, new opportunities, offered new and different jobs, but it also took away from existing jobs. The mail, once delivered by Pony Express could now arrive more quickly and safely by the railroad. Packages, cargo and travelers could also arrive via steam powered trains opening up the need for more coal mines and miners. The sewing machine made it faster to create dresses and suits at home. It even allowed ready-made clothes to be more accessible. But the seamstress and tailors who sewed by hand either had to learn to use the new machines, if they could afford it or compete for the fancy, detail work only handwork could do. Each generation faces challenges in the name of progress from the invention of the automobile and electric lights, to talking films replacing the silent movies, to frozen foods making meat and produce available around the world all year long. Not all of the changes have been bad, some have created new jobs, allowed farmers to sell more product, opened new opportunities.
But with every change there have been challenges and naysayers. The most recent change in our world is AI, artificial intelligence. Now, I’m not a computer geek. I don’t have the latest gadgets, but just like the air fryer and microwave, I appreciate anything that makes my life easier. I believe AI such as Chat GBT has its place. For me, AI is a tool to help me with those things I have trouble doing myself, like marketing. I feed it my ideas and it spits out something usually not something I can use, so I give it more information. The more I tell it, the better it does in giving me what I’m looking for. After a few tries I usually get something that sounds close to what I want. I might take ten suggestions from Chat and kick out two or three to start with, combine two or three deleting anything over the top, and by editing and piecing together come up with something that will work for a blurb, description, or tagline. As far as writing a story, I can’t see using AI to write because that is what I love to do. To give my ideas to Chat and let it do the writing, takes all the fun out of it. But if I’m looking for something that happened at a certain point in history, or fashion information, or even foreign names, this would be a tool I think would save me some time.
How do you feel about AI? Have you tried it? While I still feel we need to be careful about using AI in an ethical manor, I believe it is here to stay. Like the SAG-AFRA strikes in Hollywood, I support the authors and artist who wish to get paid for the use of their works in the creating of AI. I also believe that any whose works were used who choose to not be a part of it should be allowed to have their works and influence pulled from AI’s learning. I am sure that is not easily done and if the bots can search the web on their own (I’m not sure if that’s possible), they can find it and learn it without our knowledge. We need a new way of copyrighting our work and protecting the original creators. It’s a conundrum progress versus ethics, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the outcome doesn’t justify the means.
If you are interested in learning more about AI and Writing, check out the Heart of Carolina’s online program coming Saturday, August 12th from 1-3 pm via Zoom with author, Elizabeth Ann West.
This workshop is designed to provide authors with a comprehensive understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential applications in the realm of creative writing. Led by renowned indie author and AI enthusiast Elizabeth Ann West, this workshop will equip participants with basic knowledge and tools to leverage AI as a valuable assistant in their writing journey.During the workshop, participants will delve into the fundamental concepts of AI and explore its capabilities in aiding various aspects of the writing process. Through a combination of a presentation and an interactive Q&A discussion, attendees will gain practical insights into harnessing AI technologies to enhance their creativity, productivity, and storytelling prowess.General Topics Covered:
Introduction to AI: Understanding the basic principles and terminology of Artificial Intelligence.
AI in Writing: Exploring the intersection of AI and creative writing and how it can benefit authors.
Natural Language Processing (NLP): Explaining the concept of NLP and its relevance to AI-based writing applications.
Text Generation Models: Exploring state-of-the-art language models such as GPT-3 and its applications in generating story ideas, character development, and dialogue.
Ethical Considerations: Discuss the ethical implications of using AI in writing and understand the limitations of AI-generated content.
Incorporating AI into Workflow: Practical tips and strategies for seamlessly integrating AI tools into an author’s writing process and workflow.
By the end of the workshop, participants will have an excellent beginner’s understanding of AI, its applications in the field of writing, and how to effectively utilize AI tools as assistants in their own creative endeavors. Join Elizabeth Ann West for this enlightening workshop and unlock the potential of AI in transforming your writing journey. This event is online only. A handout will be provided, and a recording will be available for one week. Chapter members: Free. No registration required. Nonmembers: $12.50. Register: https://hcrw-2023-08.eventbrite.com
Speaker bio: Elizabeth Ann West is an author of over 20 novels and novellas and CEO of Future Fiction Academy. She has used generative AI as part of her writing process since November of 2021, helped create the prompting structure for Sudo write’s Story Engine, and now works as an AI Author educator, advocate, prompt engineer, and consultant to AI software startups. Her chief concern is making sure AI is not only something big publishers have access to and understand how to harness, but that every writer has access to these incredible advancements on technologies we’ve been using for over a decade in other applications. Plus, it’s so much fun to play with, she loses sleep over it regularly. She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Leadership Studies, of all things, so she is a firm believer that if she can figure out the technology, she can help others, too.
Jed suggested taking 5 minutes to answer these questions:
1. What am I going to write today?
2. How does this move the plot?
3. How does this develop my character?
4. Why would this be someone’s favorite scene?
Other authors suggest writing a brief sketch of the scene before you write it. Answer questions like:
1. What does this scene do?
2. Is this information used in another scene?
3. Do I need this scene to make the story work?
My mentor Marni Graff ends her day by writing a note about what she plans for the next scene.
I start my writing day with a scene I’ve imagined in my head. If I can’t get on the computer to write, I will handwrite the scene in a notebook or on my phone.
If I am not sure where this scene will go in the story I might put it in a separate file and add it in when I reach that section.
You do not have to write in a linear fashion. You can start in the middle and sprawl out in both directions or start with the ending and work your way back up to the beginning. The latter works well for mysteries.
Stopping for the day in the middle of the chapter makes picking up where you left off easier.
I don’t outline but fast drafting is similar. You tell yourself the story in the fastest way possible. I do it in simple bullet points. After I have it down I go back in and start adding details.
If you want to know more about my method come join me at The Next Chapter Books and Art store 320 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC Saturday, June 17th, 3-5 pm. Cost is $20 and you must pre-register by emailing email@example.com.
In order to write faster you must first turn off your inner critic. It is difficult to write and edit at the same time. Turn off your editor and just create. Enjoy the process. Be free! Write as if no one is going to read it. Pour everything you think and feel into it with no censor.
You might surprise yourself. You might even frighten yourself. It’s good to be a little bit afraid. Fear shows passion. If you are not a little afraid then what risk have you taken?
Writing in 10-15 minute increments is another way to write faster. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. How many words did you write? Try it for fifteen or twenty minutes. Is your average word count better or worse? Some people write better for longer periods but others do more during the shorter times. I do a variety of times taking breaks in between to keep fresh.
Join writing sprints with fellow writers and enjoy the community of writing with others. There are online events and even in person ones. If you can’t find a group, start one.
Join Me at Next Chapter Books and Art Store in New Bern, North Carolina. I will be teaching a class on Fast Drafting Your Novel: The Process of Layering Your Writing.
The art or technique of layering your story is nothing new and neither is fast drafting. There are several versions of both premises. There is even a version of layering that helps with self-editing. So how is my version unique and why should you attend my presentation at Next Chapter Books and Art Store Saturday, June 17th, 3 pm? https://thenextchapternc.com/home/whats-happening/
In trying to find the magic trick that would help me write faster and create more books I have taken several classes, read many books and watched an abundance of videos on writing techniques. Most of them were geared towards plotters. I cringe at the thought of plotting. I have tried to outline and plan my stories. If my brain doesn’t freeze and I actually manage to plan out an outline, I don’t stick to it. It’s a waste of time. Time I could be using to write more books. BUT planning your books helps with the writing process. How can I plan my stories and still be a pantser (or as some people prefer, a discovery writer).
Many of you have heard the story of my first NaNoWriMo. I knew I needed to do something different in order to write fifty-thousand words in a month. My friends Kate Parker and Hannah Meredith gave me a couple of ideas for planning my novel. Kate had a large whiteboard in her house that she used to write plot ideas and when she used the idea, she would check it off. Hannah suggested I do something similar using sticky notes. Author Sarra Cannon uses colorful sticky notes and note cards to plan her books, assigning different colors to each character. While the sticky notes worked well for NaNoWriMo but they aren’t convenient if you don’t write in an office.
I developed my version of fast drafting when I realized I was overwriting and had to cut a lot of my story to make the novel read better. The editing was difficult. The process was even more time-consuming than the original writing. I wanted to be able to write at least two books a year with time to write other projects. I began playing around with different writing styles with different degrees of preparation and success.
Everyone writes differently. Finding your own unique style of prewriting and planning is as important as finding your own writing style. The layering plays a huge role in my fast drafting. While writing faster happens organically with practice, with layering the writing is cleaner and thus getting to the finished product is quicker. If you are interested in learning more, join me and Michelle Flye at The Next Chapter Books and Art Store Saturday, June 17th, 3 pm until 5 pm. You must preregister.
Recently I was asked if there was an author whom I admired and why. Well, there are several authors who have inspired me. Many who have personally helped me with my writing and my publishing career. But one author I’ve yet to meet, Jayne Ann Krentz is on my bucket list. JAK has inspired me not just because of her success but also because of her failures. When her sci-fi romances didn’t sell under the penname Jayne Castle, Jayne tried another penname and began writing historical romances. When they didn’t sell, she tried writing contemporary romances. Suddenly all of her books under three different pennames started selling and she became an overnight success with several years’ experience. I say that as a joke, because when we find a new author and think wow, they’ve made it. We don’t always see the years and hard work it took to get there. Now, Ms. Krentz is traditionally published so her story is a bit different than others who have gone the indie route, though I see her and others using the indie methods of marketing to be proactive especially since Covid.
As an indie author we have to wear many hats. We have to be creator, planner and marketer, as well as seller. If you are a creative, whether you are a crafter or a builder, a mechanic or painter, if you are your own boss, you have to wear many hats. It takes different personalities to handle each aspect of the business of being an entrepreneur. For most of us, we would like to just be the creators. We like to make things and that is where we excel. To set up a business plan and figure out how to sell your wares isn’t the same mindset or personality as the person who created the work. You have to put on a new hat and think differently. For many of us we have to train ourselves to do this.
How do you learn to be a businessperson? For an indie author and publisher, we are learning two sometimes three businesses. We want to write the best possible stories, so we learn the craft and business of writing. We want to sell those stories, so we have to learn to market them. If you are looking for a business loan you need to be able to show what your expected growth is. There are several resources but there are also scammers. Who do you trust? This is why I joined RWA: Romance Writers of America and my local chapter, The Heart of Carolina. It’s what I hope to give to my writer’s group in Washington, the Pamlico Writers’ Group and it’s the resource I am so thankful I receive from ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors.
I will be speaking at the Carteret Writers’ Conference in April on Why ALLi and I’ll be giving a brief talk March 28th to the Pamlico Writers’ Group via Zoom on ALLi as a practice run. If you are interested in learning more about what ALLi has to offer or joining Pamlico Writers’ Group or attending the Carteret Writers’ 40th Anniversary Conference, I have provided links below.
Bio: A lifelong freelancer, Phil Bowie earned his chops selling 300 articles and short stories to magazines. One article, about deaf Hollywood stunt woman Kitty O’neal, came out in The Saturday Evening Post and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, reaching 26 million readers in 23 languages. Several of his short stories have won awards, including a first-place contest winner, “The Cat From Hell,” a yarn begun by Stephen King.
Phil began writing novels in the 2,000s. His debut, GUNS, about the world black-market weapons trade, earned Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival among 400 entries, and was endorsed by Lee Child, number one NY Times international best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series. (One hundred million copies sold to date.) Three more novels in Phil’s suspense series have followed: Diamondback, about a lost Great Smokies Cherokee gold mine, KLLRS, featuring a deadly outlaw motorcycle gang, and Deathsman, set against the illegal synthetic drugs trade.
Phil also has two stand-alone thrillers: Killing Ground, about African elephant poaching, and Dawn Light, starring a yacht delivery captain and his rebellious teenage mentee aboard a boat carrying a lethal secret in her belly.
Phil has been a pilot with his own Cessna, a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain, a draftsman, co-owner of a graphics business, a fiddler, an inventor, and a motorcycle rider. He lives with his partner, Naomi, and their cat, McKenzie, in a cottage he restored on a shore of the Neuse River.
Sherri: Welcome Phil, it’s great to have you on my virtual café. I wish it was a real place we could hang out and have a drink, talk books and writing but maybe someday that will happen. It sounds like you have had a fun and interesting life so far and I’m excited to learn more. In your bio you said you were a lifelong freelancer; did you make your living as a writer? How did you get started writing? Have you always written? Was there a point in your life when you said, this is what I’m going to do or did you just kind of fall into it?
Phil: Thanks for having me, Sherri. I like your café atmosphere.
It’s been a somewhat checkered life, some would say, but yes, fun and most interesting. I went to a rural high school in the Berkshire village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. There were only 22 in my class, so we got spoiled. My English teacher, Lulu Smith, I guess saw a spark in me and offered lots of encouragement. My mother, Edith, an excellent newspaper reporter who once interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, instilled in me the power and beauty of the language. At Clemson, I was fortunate to have a tough creative writing professor we called Flunking Felder, who got my first short story published in the college literary magazine, and I’ve been writing on and off since, most often as a sideline to a variety of bills-paying jobs.
Sherri: In your article about Kitty O’Neil, did you get to interview her? What is your process for writing articles and how does that differ from writing novels?
Phil: I’d long been interested in the World Land Speed Record, so in the late seventies, when I heard of an upcoming record attempt at Bonneville in a three-wheeled rocket vehicle, I raided my meager savings, grabbed my photo gear, and, on pure speculation, drove a borrowed tin-can Fiat 2,400 miles to cover it. I was the only journalist there, because historically most attempts had failed, and nobody else was going to cover it until it looked like a record might actually be broken as the hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car built up speed in ever-faster trial runs over several days. Kitty was going for the female record and stunt man Hall Needham (who wrote the Smokey and the Bandit script), a buddy of actor Burt Reynolds, was driving for the male record.
Although she was deaf, Kitty had already been an Olympic diver and a motorcycle racer and had set several records like water skiing at 104 miles per hour. She’d stunted as Wonder Woman and in several other movies. She was part Cherokee, beautiful, and fearless, the first woman admitted into the Hollywood Stunts Unlimited organization. I interviewed and photographed her at length and wrote a piece for the Post, which was reprinted in Reader’s Digest. I like to think I gave her career a modest boost. No record was set during that attempt for technical reasons, but she did later set the female record at five hundred and twelve miles an hour on a dry lakebed in Oregon. They eventually did a movie about her called Silent Victory. She’s gone now, but it’s no coincidence that the love interest in my suspense series is beautiful, part Cherokee, and named Kitty.
All riveting fiction and non-fiction is based on conflict, and the more intense the conflict, the more interesting the story, real or imagined, will be, so the basic approach for either articles or stories has always been similar for me. I mostly look for subjects with an unusual aspect of adventure or danger or human endeavor against odds. In articles, I’ve covered everything from angling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, to a jet-powered show truck called Shockwave (which I took a 200 mph ride in at Cherry Point) to bottlenose porpoise communication research, to the last builder of wooden Chesapeake Bay sailing Skipjacks, to Dolly Parton and her Dollywood, to how to pilot a plane for skydiving. Short stories have varied widely in a variety of magazines, and a while back I put out a collection of 17 of them called Dagger and other tales.
Sherri: Your debut novel, GUNS, was endorsed by Lee Child? Now that’s impressive. Did you get the opportunity to meet Mr. Child? Do you feel his endorsement has helped your sales? How can an author set themselves up for such an endorsement or other opportunities that would aid in their marketing?
Phil: Yes, the Lee Child endorsement was a nice boost. He’d been an idol of mine, so I sent the raw manuscript to him through his agent. Lee read it, liked it, and got back to me. On their dime, my then-publisher, Medallion, sent me to the Sleuthfest conference in Fort Lauderdale to meet him. He was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the 500 attendees. Like his protagonist, Jack Reacher, Lee is a big guy, six-five. He came up to me and shook my hand, which made my year. That night, we sat out by the Hilton pool talking about life and writing into the small hours.
I’d advise any budding writer to try for best-seller author endorsements through their publishers or literary agents. Nothing to lose by trying. I’ve garnered endorsements from best-sellers Ridley Pearson and Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) using the same approach. The top gun authors I’ve met at conferences like Killer Nashville and Bouchercon in Baltimore have been gracious and friendly. At that same Sleuthfest, for example, I had breakfast with the prolific and enchanting best-seller Heather Graham and her pleasant daughter.
Sherri: Do you read the reviews of your books, if so, do you learn from them, or do they affect your attitude? As creatives, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from our work. On days I feel objective I can read my reviews and say, okay, I need to work on this, or I can see why they said that and it’s fine, it’s how I do things, but there are other days when they can be a boost or a devastation depending on the review.
Phil: Reviews from respected sources like Publishers Weekly, newspapers, magazines, and some of the online bloggers and critics are well worth soliciting, and they’ve certainly helped me by giving me a boost and occasionally by stinging me. A Publishers Weekly review of GUNS, for example, did both. While praising the book warmly overall, the reviewer berated me for including pages of lyrical material that did not advance the plot, so I hung my head and revised an updated version of the novel to tighten it up.
You’re always going to hear from those few who roam the Net putting everything and everybody down while never accomplishing much of anything themselves, so you can’t ever let those people get you down. You’re less likely to hear from those readers who’ve liked your work (except through respectable royalty figures), though it’s always nice to get an email or a website note from somebody who does like your stuff. I admit to keeping a file of those and it’s thick enough to be of some comfort on a dark winter night when doubts assail.
I’ve always just tried to concentrate on researching and writing the absolute best I can, and that seems to have paid off okay over the years.
Sherri: From some of your reviews one of the comments was your political bias showing in your stories, especially GUNS. We as writers often have a difficult time taking our own voice out of the story and letting the characters’ point of view shine. Do your characters represent or echo your own voice, or do they vary in their opinions? When choosing the characters, themes and topics for your novels, how much of real life enters into your work? What influences or inspires your stories?
Phil: You’re right that we should be invisible to readers. The story is always paramount, and the trick is to immerse readers in it thoroughly while staying behind the scenes, much like a movie director.
I suppose some of my political feelings have bled into my fiction at times, but it’s never a good idea to let that happen, because no matter what your views are, you’re going to make enemies.
I do firmly believe it’s important to write what you know, thus much of my work is themed on some conflict or other I’ve been somehow involved in or am at least familiar with, and I’ve drawn on my own sometimes crazy experiences—piloting, parachuting, riding motorcycles, and so on—to lend realism to plots and characters. The protagonist in my suspense series and in one of my stand-alone novels is a pilot, for example. An elderly couple in the series is based largely on my maternal stonemason grandfather (one of my enduring idols) and his good wife, and readers seem to especially like the couple. Other characters in any novel or short story may begin as ethereal figures, but they soon become as real to me as anybody I’ve known, and they can only perform on my stage as who and what I’ve molded them to be.
I also use story settings that I’ve either spent a lot of time in, like the Great Smokies, or that I’ve researched extensively enough to give me confidence, as in the novel about African elephant poaching.
Sherri: When you are writing, do you plan or plot your books ahead of time or do you just sit down and write? What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it? Where do your ideas come from?
Phil: Each short story or novel begins with a theme that I think has enough inherent conflict to build an engaging story on. GUNS, for example, is about the black-market trade in weapons. I had a friend who’d spent a career in naval intelligence, and he helped fill me in on that.
For a novel, I’ll spend weeks just digging and jotting the occasional plot idea. Copies of all my research materials go into a dedicated file box for easy reference. I’ll sketch out a rough plot longhand on a legal pad (old habit), and then launch into the story on the computer with some intense and vivid scene meant mostly to hook the reader. Then I’ll just forge on, letting my characters guide me. If I get stuck along the way, I’ll often take a long walk, which seems to break up the logjam. I rewrite and revise a lot as I go.
This is a tough, solitary business, as I’m sure you know. Weeks and months of sitting behind the screen trying to fill those blank pages with a hundred-thousand-word story that will engage and reach out and touch a reader. It’s at once a long, long slog and a wonderous and rewarding experience. I’m hopelessly hooked on it.
Sherri: I saw your publisher was listed as Bowker. Are you independently published or is this a small publishing company? What has publishing been like from the first book to the most recent? How have things changed? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Phil: That’s an Amazon glitch I need to fix. Bowker was only the provider of that book’s bar code.
Over the years, much of my article and short story writing has been on pure speculation. I’d write something and then try to sell it. Early on, my work was rejected a lot, but accepted and paid for just enough to keep me plowing onward while learning and honing the craft. That led to working on assignment for several magazines at much better pay and without the marketing hassle.
If I had it to do over, I think I’d have a lot more confidence in myself and would be more aggressive.
Writing has changed in many ways since I began decades ago. I once had to research laboriously through libraries, write on a typewriter, and take photos on several kinds of expensive film with a whole heavy bag full of gear, never knowing what exactly I had until the transparencies came back from the lab. It’s so much easier now to research, write, edit, and correspond on a computer, and my digital Canon camera is amazing.
The advent of the Net, of course, has changed the whole business profoundly. Back in the day, editors filtered submissions, only buying and publishing those books they figured would earn their way. Now millions of books get published on Amazon, and it’s easy for your work to get buried in that constant avalanche. A whole generation of readers expect to get Kindle books dirt cheap or even free. Many out there are lost in Smartphoneland and don’t read books at all.
I sold my first three novels to Medallion Press under traditional advance/royalty contracts. They treated me well, but lack of distribution became an issue, so I finally asked for all rights back, added a fourth novel to the series, and self-published as Proud Eagle Publishing, which comprises me, my best friend, editor, incisive critic, and life companion, Naomi (who is also part Cherokee) and our cat, McKenzie. I write and edit, rewrite, create my own covers, put everything up on Amazon myself, promote myself, and sell through a number of indy stores I’ve set up. The six novels have sold more than 150,000 copies to date in print and Kindle, so people seem to like them.
As long as they do, I’ll keep on writing.
Sherri: Phil, it’s been a pleasure having you at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed our interview you can learn more about Phil from his links below, order his books or come out to our Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm and meet him there. Remember, books make great holiday gifts, and they can even help you survive them. We hope to see you there.
Natalie Singletary is a local author from eastern North Carolina. Aside from writing, she also enjoys multiple other art forms, including stitch work, mixed media, and making handmade and printed journals. She has a love for dance and theatre, always looking for a reason to perform with the silent jukebox in her head. She is published in Down in the Dirt magazine and Scarlet Leaf Review as well as several self-published books in both print and eBook. Natalie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University.
Sherri: Welcome Natalie to my virtual café. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll open a coffee shop on the river where we can sip drinks and talk about books and writing, but until then, I can only dream. As a kid my friend and I played a game while walking down country roads, she’d say something that made me think of a song and I’d start singing and then I’d say something, and she’d start singing. We sang everywhere we went. We even put on shows for our neighbors. You mentioned in your bio the jukebox in your head, do you have a soundtrack for your life? How about for your books?
Natalie: Thank you for having me, and I hope that I can help you in some way move closer to your dream of owning your coffee shop. Its funny that you mention a soundtrack of my life. I actually used to write down my soundtrack every couple of months. Now I have access to streaming services to make playlists. I prefer independent artists and music and have recently been caught up in a band called Nightshift.
I do have a playlist for the Diamond Trilogy posted on my Spotify. I believe there’s a link to it on my website. The book itself started out as a jukebox musical and I replaced the songs with poetry and small blurbs. The chapter titles in the book are actually the titles of the original jukebox songs.
Sherri: Do you make a living with your art? I am always envious of anyone who can do something they love and support themselves. I’m still hopeful that my writing will be part of my retirement plan.
Natalie: I currently do not make a living on my art, but it is a goal within the next 6 months to be a full time author and business owner.
Sherri: I was looking at your website and I saw your essay on vulnerability. Sharing your truth has to be one of the most difficult things you will have to do other than survive. When I see someone like you stand up and take charge of their lives after dealing with trauma, I am inspired. Your daily courage to face each day gives hope to others who are struggling with similar stories. Is the theme of your work about your survival and hope?
Natalie: It is. Even The Diamond Trilogy was a coping mechanism, as well as Dirty Laundry. I wanted to get rid of The Diamond Trilogy, burn the physical copies and delete the typed version, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I didn’t know why. Then, within two weeks, five people in my circle(s) passed away. The Trilogy hits on a good number of hard subjects, including suicide and overdoses, and I knew that it could be a segway to help others to find help.
Sherri: As chairperson of the Pamlico Writers’ Group, one of the things I tell new members is that sharing our work is like standing in the Walmart parking lot naked, yelling “Look at me!” It’s not easy to share our work with others. Especially as a self-published author we have to promote ourselves. What is the most difficult thing for you about self-promotion?
Natalie: Talking about myself, lol. Thankfully, my sister loves talking about me and that helps. She’s my biggest cheerleader, for sure. I’ve been working on getting better with letting people and socials know that I do have art out there and that it is available to be purchased.
Sherri: Your covers are interesting and unique; do you create your own covers? I do my own covers and often have to rethink my ideas to match my genres. Do you have any suggestions for creating eye- catching covers?
Natalie: I appreciate you. I did create them, though Remnants is the first one I drew by hand and put on a cover. The others I actually used Canva.com for most of my covers, outside of The Diamond Trilogy. A good friend of mine took a photo for the Trilogy in my old apartment.
Canva.com is a free service that has plenty of resources to create great backgrounds, invites, and covers. I came across it during my time at Full Sail and I absolutely love it! I would definitely recommend it! they have templates or you can start from scratch, and while they do have elements that you can pay for, there is plenty to use that is free.
Sherri: What was the hardest thing you faced when you first published your books? What would you tell a new writer preparing to publish for the first time?
Natalie: I initially started with a vanity press, and quickly discovered that I didn’t go about it the correct way and ended up canceling my contract. Vanity presses aren’t evil by any means. Many of them are a great investment, as they offer a good number of services that take a lot off of the authors’ plates, including editing and advertising. For myself, I wasn’t the best with my finances at the time, and decided to go about it solo. It was a lot more work, but I didn’t mind, as I did like having control over the editing and the story.
Sherri: What are you working on now?
Natalie: I’m currently working on my first novel, Gemini, the first in a three book series. It is a fantasy about two sisters who were cursed by their parents to be slaves to the sun and the moon. I also just finished up a writing Inktober, a new dual poetry/journal that will be available at the beginning of 2023.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview, you can meet Natalie at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20 th at our upcoming Book Festival.
Natalie: Thank you so much for having me, Ms. Sherri!
The Diamond Trilogy – https://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Trilogy-Dramatic- Mini/dp/B0B3JD37DT/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3STJGKOLGZXT2&keywords=Natalie+Singletar y&qid=1667752443&sprefix=natalie+singletary%2Caps%2C156&sr=8-3